The Freedom of Information Act

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The Freedom of Information Act is may be the most misunderstood of all methods to access public information.

But if used properly, the federal act ensures the public has access to records of federal executive agencies.

People often cite FOIA for public records requests at the state and local level, for which it does not pertain. N.C. Public Records Law governs public records requests at the state, county and local levels of government.

FOIA allows government and records access at the federal level.

The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) makes the following information open to the public. Each federal agency must make the following information available to the public, which is taken directly from a 1996 FOIA amendment:

•Descriptions of its central and field organization and the established places at which, the employees (and in the case of a uniformed service, the members) from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information, make submittals or requests, or obtain decisions;

•Statements of the general course and method by which its functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available;

•Rules of procedure, descriptions of forms available or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the scope and contents of all papers, reports or examinations;

•Substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law, and statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted by the agency; and each amendment, revision, or repeal of the foregoing.

The following information must be made available for public inspection and copying, which is taken directly from the 1996 amendment:

•Final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases;

•Those statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the agency and are not published in the Federal Register; and

•Administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public.

Federal agencies covered by FOIA

•Agency for International Development

•Department of Agriculture

•U.S. Air Force

•U.S. Army

•Central Intelligence Agency

•Civil Aeronautics Board

•Civil Service Commission

•Department of Commerce

•Army Corps of Engineers

•Department of Defense

•Defense Intelligence Agency

•Defense Investigative Services

•Defense Supply Agency

•Department of Energy

•Environmental Protection Agency

•Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

•Export-Import Bank of the U.S.

•Federal Bureau of Investigation

•Federal Communications Commission

•Federal Maritime Commission

•Federal Trade Commission

•Food and Drug Administration

•General Services Administration

•Department of Health and Human Service

•Department of Housing and Urban Development

•Internal Revenue Service

•Interstate Commerce Commission

•Department of the Interior

•Board of Immigration Appeals

•Department of Justice

•Department of Labor

•National Aeronautics and Space Administration

•National Archives

•National Labor Relations Board

•National Science Foundation

•National Security Agency

•National Security Council

•Department of Navy

•Office of Management and Budget

•U.S. Postal Service

•Bureau of Prisons

•Secret Service

•Securities and Exchange Commission

•Selective Service System

•Small Business Administration

•Department of State

•Department of Transportation

•Department of Treasury

•Veterans Administration

Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com