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FOIA Tip 14: Which Government Agencies can be FOIA’d?

March 30, 2010

All executive branch departments and agencies are subject to the FOIA. A list of these departments and agencies can be found on the Department of Justice’s FOIA Web site.

Congress and the courts are not covered by the FOIA, which means that you cannot send a FOIA request to a court or a congressional office.

The president and his immediate staff also are excluded from the FOIA. Courts have held that components of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) whose primary function is to advise the president, such as the National Security Council, are not subject to the FOIA. However, under the Presidential Records Act (PRA) most presidential documents become available through the FOIA between five and twelve years after the president leaves office.  These include most of the records created by the National Security Counsel and and National Security Adviser.

In general, private entities are not subject to the FOIA. This includes organizations and entities that are funded by the federal government or that enter into contracts to do work for the federal government. Contracts and related records can be requested from the contracting agencies, but you cannot file a request for records belonging to the private contractor, even if they are related to the contract work.  However, documents that are maintained for an agency by a private entity under a records management contract are considered government records subject to the FOIA. To obtain such records, you must file a request with the federal agency, which is required to retrieve them from the contractor.

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