Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
5 U.S.C. § 552
As Amended by Public Law No. 104-231, 110 Stat. 2422

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal statute. FOIA generally provides that any person has a right to request access to federal agency records, except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. There are several points to keep in mind regarding the FOIA.

  • Your request must be made in writing and you must provide a "reasonable description" of the records you are seeking.
  • Agencies have 20 working days to provide an initial response.
  • Agencies and requesters are encouraged to work together to define the scope of the request and the timing of the response.
  • Agencies may establish "multi-track" response systems to facilitate the processing of simpler requests, rather than putting all requests in a single "queue."
  • Please be as specific as possible with your request and expect the possibility of follow up for clarification.
  • Typically, a requestor is responsible for any cost associated with obtaining and furnishing records except exclusions provided by law or regulation. No cost would be attributed to requests when no records are found.
  • More FOIA information can be found here.
  • You can e-mail your request to the Philadelphia District Office of Counsel at

Sample FOIA Letter


Freedom of Information Act Request

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Office of Counsel
ATTN: FOIA Officer

Dear FOIA Officer:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. subsection 552, I am requesting access to [identify the records as clearly and specifically as possible].

If there are any fees for searching for or copying the records, please let me know before you fill my request. [Or, please supply the records without informing me of the cost if the fees do not exceed $______, which I agree to pay.]

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your refusal to release the information and notify me of appeal procedures available under the law. If you have any questions about handling this request, you may telephone me at ___________ (home phone) or at ___________ (office phone).