The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): A Legal Overview

Originally enacted in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes a three-part system that requires federal agencies to disclose a large swath of government information to the public. First, FOIA directs agencies to publish substantive and procedural rules, along with certain other important government materials, in the Federal Register. Second, on a proactive basis, agencies must electronically disclose a separate set of information that consists of, among other things, final adjudicative opinions and certain “frequently requested” records. And lastly, FOIA requires agencies to disclose all covered records not made available pursuant to the aforementioned affirmative disclosure provisions to individuals, corporations, and others upon request.

While FOIA’s main purpose is to inform the public of the operations of the federal government, the act’s drafters also sought to protect certain private and governmental interests from the law’s disclosure obligations. FOIA, therefore, contains nine enumerated exemptions from disclosure that permit—but they do not require—agencies to withhold a range of information, including certain classified national security matters, confidential financial information, law enforcement records, and a variety of materials and types of information exempted by other statutes. And FOIA contains three “exclusions” that authorize agencies to treat certain law enforcement records as if they do not fall within FOIA’s coverage.

FOIA also authorizes requesters to seek judicial review of an agency’s decision to withhold records. Federal district courts may “enjoin [an] agency from withholding agency records” and “order the production of any agency records improperly withheld.” Judicial decisions—including Supreme Court decisions—have often informed or provided the impetus for congressional amendments to FOIA.

Although Congress is not subject to FOIA, the act may inform communications between the legislative branch and FOIA-covered entities. Under 5 U.S.C. § 552(d), an agency may not “withhold information from Congress” on the basis that such information is covered by a FOIA exemption (although the provision does not dictate whether another source of law, such as executive privilege, may shield information from disclosure). The executive branch has interpreted this provision to apply to each house of Congress and congressional committees, but generally not to individual Members, whose requests for information are generally treated as subject to the same FOIA rules as requests from the public. This interpretation is not uniformly shared, with at least one federal appellate court interpreting § 552(d) as applying to individual Members acting in their official capacities. In addition, although Congress is under no obligation to disclose its materials pursuant to FOIA, whether a congressional document possessed by an agency is subject to FOIA depends on whether Congress clearly expressed its intention to retain control over the specific document.

Lastly, although FOIA is the primary statutory mechanism by which the public may gain access to federal government records and information, other laws—specifically the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Government in the Sunshine Act, and Privacy Act—also set forth rights and limitations on the public’s access to government information or activities.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): A Legal Overview

February 24, 2020 (R46238)
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Contents

Summary

Originally enacted in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes a three-part system that requires federal agencies to disclose a large swath of government information to the public. First, FOIA directs agencies to publish substantive and procedural rules, along with certain other important government materials, in the Federal Register. Second, on a proactive basis, agencies must electronically disclose a separate set of information that consists of, among other things, final adjudicative opinions and certain "frequently requested" records. And lastly, FOIA requires agencies to disclose all covered records not made available pursuant to the aforementioned affirmative disclosure provisions to individuals, corporations, and others upon request.

While FOIA's main purpose is to inform the public of the operations of the federal government, the act's drafters also sought to protect certain private and governmental interests from the law's disclosure obligations. FOIA, therefore, contains nine enumerated exemptions from disclosure that permit—but they do not require—agencies to withhold a range of information, including certain classified national security matters, confidential financial information, law enforcement records, and a variety of materials and types of information exempted by other statutes. And FOIA contains three "exclusions" that authorize agencies to treat certain law enforcement records as if they do not fall within FOIA's coverage.

FOIA also authorizes requesters to seek judicial review of an agency's decision to withhold records. Federal district courts may "enjoin [an] agency from withholding agency records" and "order the production of any agency records improperly withheld." Judicial decisions—including Supreme Court decisions—have often informed or provided the impetus for congressional amendments to FOIA.

Although Congress is not subject to FOIA, the act may inform communications between the legislative branch and FOIA-covered entities. Under 5 U.S.C. § 552(d), an agency may not "withhold information from Congress" on the basis that such information is covered by a FOIA exemption (although the provision does not dictate whether another source of law, such as executive privilege, may shield information from disclosure). The executive branch has interpreted this provision to apply to each house of Congress and congressional committees, but generally not to individual Members, whose requests for information are generally treated as subject to the same FOIA rules as requests from the public. This interpretation is not uniformly shared, with at least one federal appellate court interpreting § 552(d) as applying to individual Members acting in their official capacities. In addition, although Congress is under no obligation to disclose its materials pursuant to FOIA, whether a congressional document possessed by an agency is subject to FOIA depends on whether Congress clearly expressed its intention to retain control over the specific document.

Lastly, although FOIA is the primary statutory mechanism by which the public may gain access to federal government records and information, other laws—specifically the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Government in the Sunshine Act, and Privacy Act—also set forth rights and limitations on the public's access to government information or activities.


The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)1 confers on the public a right to access federal agency information.2 Before FOIA's enactment, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)3 had required agencies to make certain government information available to the public. But the exceptions to disclosure in the APA's public information section had, in the estimation of FOIA's drafters, "become the major statutory excuse for withholding Government records from public view."4 The exceptions were broad, authorizing agencies, for example, to withhold information if doing so was "in the public interest"5 or—for "matters of official record"—when information was "held confidential for good cause found."6 In addition, the APA's public information section lacked a provision authorizing a person to seek judicial review of an agency's decision to withhold information.7

To rectify the APA's perceived failure to provide the public with adequate access to government information, Congress enacted FOIA in 1966 as an amendment to the APA. In FOIA, Congress sought to establish a statutory scheme that embodied "a broad philosophy of 'freedom of information'" and ensured "the availability of Government information necessary to an informed electorate."8 To effectuate Congress's desire for robust public access to agency information, FOIA establishes a three-part system of disclosure by which agencies must disclose a large swath of records and information.9 First, FOIA directs agencies to publish "substantive rules of general applicability," procedural rules, and specified other important government materials in the Federal Register.10 Second, on a proactive basis, agencies must electronically disclose a separate set of agency information including, among other things, final adjudicative opinions and certain "frequently requested" records.11 And third, FOIA's request-driven system of disclosure requires that, "[e]xcept with respect to the records made available under" the statute's proactive disclosure provisions, agencies disclose covered records to individuals, corporations, and others upon request.12 FOIA's tripartite system of disclosure aims to open up a vast array of federal agency information and records to private individuals, researchers, journalists, corporations, and other parties. In addition, disclosure under FOIA may bring information to Congress's attention that may inform its oversight of FOIA-covered agencies.13 As one court has remarked, "FOIA is the legislative embodiment of Justice Brandeis's famous adage" that "[s]unlight is . . . the best of disinfectants."14

While FOIA's main purpose is to inform the public of the operations of the federal government,15 the act's drafters sought to protect certain private and governmental interests from the new law's disclosure obligations.16 FOIA thus contains nine exemptions from disclosure that authorize, but do not require, agencies to withhold information or records that are otherwise subject to release or availability under the statute.17 Most of FOIA's nine enumerated exemptions are designed to protect against fairly general harms that may arise from disclosure,18 while others concern very specific types of information,19 and one incorporates numerous exemptions contained in other federal statutes.20And along with its nine exemptions, FOIA contains three records "exclusions" that cover certain "especially sensitive law enforcement records."21 If records protected by an exclusion are subject to a FOIA request, an agency may "treat the records as not subject to the requirements of" FOIA.22

Lastly, the statute authorizes requesters to challenge in federal court an agency's decision to withhold requested records.23 Federal district courts may "enjoin [an] agency from withholding agency records" and "order the production of any agency records improperly withheld."24

This report provides an overview of FOIA.25 First, the report examines key terms that dictate the scope of agencies' disclosure obligations under FOIA.26 The report then provides an overview of FOIA's three disclosure requirements.27 Following that discussion, the report reviews each of FOIA's nine exemptions28 and, in a later section, its three records exclusions.29 After an overview of selected issues concerning judicial review of agency decisions to withhold information under FOIA,30 this report discusses two topics of potential interest to Congress: FOIA's "special access" provision—which provides that FOIA does not authorize agencies "to withhold information from Congress"31—and the status of congressional records under FOIA.32 Lastly, this report discusses three other laws that, like FOIA, govern the availability of specific types of government information and constitute significant elements of the federal government's open government and information legal regimes: the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA);33 Government in the Sunshine Act (Sunshine Act);34 and Privacy Act.35

Key Terms

FOIA generally requires each federal "agency" to make "agency records" available to the public and specifically to "any person" who requests them.36 FOIA does not, however, require every federal entity to disclose government information to the public, nor must an agency disclose every piece of information that may be located within a covered entity. And not all persons have a right to receive records under the act. Three key statutory terms inform FOIA's general scope: (1) "agency";37 (2) "agency records";38 and (3) "any person."39 The meaning of each of these terms determines which entities must comply with FOIA, what materials must be disclosed under the act, and to whom FOIA grants the right to request and receive records.

"Agency"

FOIA requires "agencies" to disclose a broad array of information to the public. The APA's general definition section in 5 U.S.C. § 551 defines "agency" as "each authority of the Government of the United States, whether or not it is within or subject to review by another agency."40 FOIA embraces this general definition and provides that, for the act's purposes, the term "includes any executive department, military department, Government corporation, Government controlled corporation, or other establishment in the executive branch of the Government (including the Executive Office of the President), or any independent regulatory agency."41 While this definition includes a large swath of the federal government, it does not encompass the entire federal establishment. For example, FOIA does not apply to Congress, the federal courts, or territorial governments.42

Although FOIA's definition of "agency" includes the Executive Office of the President (EOP),43 courts have determined that several entities within the EOP are nevertheless not subject to the act. In Kissinger v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Supreme Court held that transcripts of Henry Kissinger's telephone conversations from his time as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs were not subject to disclosure under FOIA.44 The Court explained that the term "agency" as used in FOIA does not apply to "the President's immediate personal staff or units in the Executive Office whose sole function is to advise and assist the President."45 Courts have determined that several EOP entities are not FOIA "agencies" by virtue of their solely advisory or operational functions, including the Council of Economic Advisers,46 Office of Administration,47 and National Security Council.48 On the other hand, courts have held that entities within the EOP that "wield[] substantial authority independently of the President,"49 such as the Office of Management and Budget,50 are agencies under FOIA.51

"Agency Records"

Just as only "agencies" are subject to FOIA's disclosure requirements, only "agency records" need be disclosed under the act.52 FOIA, however, does not define "agency records."53 Without a statutory definition, the Supreme Court, in Department of Justice (DOJ) v. Tax Analysts,54 held that materials qualify as agency records if an agency (1) created or obtained the materials and (2) was "in control of the requested materials at the time the FOIA request [was] made."55 An agency comes in control of materials if, per Tax Analysts, "the materials have come into the agency's possession in the legitimate conduct of its official duties."56

As the two-part test makes clear, a record may be subject to disclosure even when an agency did not create the record, as long as the agency obtained and controlled the record when it was requested.57 To determine whether an agency exercises "control" of a record, the D.C. Circuit developed the "Burka test," which considers

  • 1. the intent of the document's creator to retain or relinquish control over the records;
  • 2. the ability of the agency to use and dispose of the record as it sees fit;
  • 3. the extent to which agency personnel have read or relied upon the document; and
  • 4. the degree to which the document was integrated into the agency's record system or files.58

That said, an agency's mere ability to obtain materials, if not exercised, does not establish that such materials are agency records.59 And FOIA does not require an agency to create agency records in response to a FOIA request, only to disclose records it has already received or created and that are already under its control.60

Because FOIA only applies to "agency records," it does not obligate agencies to disclose publicly the "personal records" of agency employees.61 As the Supreme Court in Tax Analysts explained, "the term 'agency records' is not so broad as to include personal materials in an employee's possession, even though the materials may be physically located at the agency."62 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) has employed "a totality of the circumstances test" to assess whether material constitutes an "agency record" subject to FOIA or a "personal record" excluded from the statute's coverage.63 This "test focuses on a variety of factors surrounding the creation, possession, control, and use of the document by an agency."64 In applying the totality of the circumstances test in Consumer Federation of America v. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the D.C. Circuit held that electronic calendars of several USDA officials qualified as "agency records" under FOIA.65 The calendars "were created by agency employees and were located within the [officials'] agency," updated and accessed daily, and maintained on the agency's computer system.66 The court determined, however, that the "creation, possession, and control" factors were "not dispositive in determining whether the calendars [were] 'agency records'" in the case.67 Instead, the court held that the officials' use of the calendars was the "decisive factor."68 Specifically, the court found it significant that the calendars were used to schedule agency operations and were distributed to other agency staff and top officials.69 But the court determined that the electronic calendar of a separate USDA official was not an agency record subject to disclosure under FOIA because the official only shared the calendar with his secretaries and, therefore, no one else within the agency depended on his calendar to conduct agency business.70

Although FOIA does not require the disclosure of personal materials, issues may arise when agency personnel use nonofficial electronic accounts to communicate.71 In Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP),72 the requester sought "all policy/OSTP-related email[s]" contained within the private email account of the director of OSTP.73 A private entity maintained an account that the director used for work-related purposes.74 OSTP denied the request, asserting that the private entity (the director's former employer) controlled the account and that the agency, therefore, could not search it.75 The district court dismissed the suit in favor of the agency.76 However, the D.C. Circuit reversed, explaining that "records do not lose their agency character just because the official who possesses them takes them out the door or because he is the head of the agency."77 Instead, the court wrote, "[i]f the agency head controls what would otherwise be an agency record, then it is still an agency record and still must be searched or produced."78 The D.C. Circuit's decision in Competitive Enterprise Institute, therefore, stands for the proposition that agency records are subject to FOIA even if contained in nongovernmental electronic accounts.79

"Any Person"

Lastly, FOIA directs agencies to disclose nonexempt agency records to "any person" upon request.80 A "person" is defined as "an individual, partnership, corporation, association, or public or private organization other than an agency."81 Courts have therefore held that, along with individuals, organizational entities such as corporations, as well as state and foreign governments, have access rights under FOIA.82 That said, federal agencies have no right to records under FOIA.83

Access to records under FOIA does not hinge on whether an individual is an American citizen; noncitizens are also entitled to records under the act.84 Further, the Supreme Court has explained that the requester's identity generally does not factor into whether records are subject to disclosure, nor is a requester generally required to supply a reason to an agency for his or her request.85

Access to Government Information under FOIA

FOIA sets forth a three-part system for disclosing government information.86 The first two disclosure schemes require agencies to affirmatively disclose specific categories of information to the public, either through publication in the Federal Register or electronic disclosure.87 The third disclosure provision requires that, "[e]xcept with respect to the records made available" pursuant to FOIA's affirmative disclosure requirements, agencies disclose covered records after receiving a request from "any person."88

Affirmative Disclosure

While FOIA may be known predominately for its request-driven system of disclosure,89 the statute also contains affirmative disclosure provisions that require federal agencies to proactively disseminate to the public certain agency records. FOIA imposes two affirmative (also known as mandatory or proactive)90 disclosure obligations. Under the first requirement—codified in subsection (a)(1) of § 552—agencies must publish certain important government materials—including "substantive rules of general applicability" and "rules of procedure"—in the Federal Register.91 The second affirmative disclosure requirement—codified in subsection (a)(2) of § 552—requires agencies to provide electronic access to a separate set of agency materials that consists of, among other things, final agency adjudicative opinions and certain "frequently requested" records.92

Publication in the Federal Register

Under § 552(a)(1), agencies must publish certain information "in the Federal Register for the guidance of the public."93 The provision seeks "to enable the public 'readily to gain access to the information necessary to deal effectively and upon equal footing with the Federal agencies.'"94 It instructs agencies to publish the following:

  • 1. descriptions of agency organization and information regarding how, where, and from whom "the public may obtain information, make submittals or requests, or obtain decisions";95
  • 2. information on how agency "functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available";96
  • 3. (3) procedural rules, descriptions of available agency forms "or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the scope and contents of all papers, reports, or examinations";97
  • 4. (4) "substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law," as well as agency "statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability";98 and
  • 5. (5) every "amendment, revision, or repeal of the foregoing."99

FOIA imposes a penalty for an agency's failure to publish the above information, providing that no person shall "in any manner be required to resort to, or be adversely affected by, a matter required to be published in the Federal Register and not so published."100 In other words, an agency may not enforce any material against an affected party that the agency did not publish in the Federal Register as required under subsection (a)(1), unless the affected party received "actual and timely notice of the terms thereof."101

Courts have held that FOIA authorizes judicial review of an agency's withholding of (a)(1) materials.102 However, available remedies in such cases may be limited. In Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation v. Department of the Interior (DOI), the D.C. Circuit held that FOIA does not authorize reviewing courts, as a remedy, to order an agency to publish materials in the Federal Register.103 The court explained that FOIA's judicial review provision "allows district courts to order 'the production of any agency records improperly withheld from the complainant,' not agency records withheld from the public."104 Whereas, as explained by the court, "[p]roviding documents to the individual fully relieves whatever informational injury may have been suffered by that particular complainant," requiring "publication goes well beyond that need."105 The court explained that the penalty in subsection (a)(1), which provides that materials required to be published in the Federal Register that an agency has not so published generally are unenforceable,106 is "an alternative means for encouraging agencies to fulfill their obligation to publish materials in the Federal Register" and "gives agencies a powerful incentive to publish any [(a)(1) materials] they expect to enforce."107

Electronic Disclosure

FOIA's second affirmative disclosure provision does not require disclosure in a particular publication, as does subsection (a)(1). Instead, subsection (a)(2) of § 552 (often referred to as the "reading-room provision")108 directs agencies to "make available for public inspection in an electronic format" certain information, unless the information is "promptly published and copies [are] offered for sale."109 The following information must be electronically disclosed under FOIA's second affirmative disclosure provision:

  • 1. (1) "final opinions . . ., as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases";110
  • 2. (2) policy statements and interpretations not appearing in the Federal Register;111
  • 3. (3) "administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public";112
  • 4. (4) copies of records that had been released in response to a FOIA request and that (a) "the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records" due to the nature of the records' subject or (b) "have been requested 3 or more times";113 and
  • 5. (5) indexes of such previously released records.114

The 1966 House report underlying FOIA explained that this provision was intended to open up to the public the "thousands of orders, opinions, statements, and instructions issued by hundreds of agencies," information that the report described as constituting "the bureaucracy['s] . . . own form of case law."115 In that vein, the Supreme Court has explained that FOIA's second affirmative disclosure provision "represents a strong congressional aversion to 'secret [agency] law.'"116 Materials subject to subsection (a)(2) are now generally made accessible on agency websites.117

In addition to public dissemination of the above materials, subsection (a)(2) requires that agencies "maintain and make available for public inspection in an electronic format" indexes of (a)(2) material.118 And an agency may not rely on, use, or cite as precedent a "final order, opinion, statement of policy, interpretation, or staff manual or instruction that affects a member of the public" unless the agency has (1) indexed the material and published or made it available, or (2) given the affected party "actual and timely notice of the terms" of such material.119

As with (a)(1) materials,120 FOIA authorizes judicial review of challenges to the availability of materials subject to disclosure under subsection (a)(2).121 Courts do not appear to agree, however, whether they have authority under FOIA to order agencies to make (a)(2) records available in agency reading rooms, or whether their authority under the statute is limited to ordering the production of records to individual complainants.122

Request-Driven Disclosure

Under the two affirmative disclosure provisions discussed above, agencies must proactively disclose specific types of information.123 By contrast, under FOIA's third system of disclosure, agencies disclose covered records not "made available under" the affirmative disclosure provisions on a case-by-case basis after receiving a request.124 As discussed below, FOIA imposes certain procedural requirements on requesters and agencies in making and responding to requests for records.125 And, also as discussed below, the act allows requesters to internally appeal agency decisions to withhold records, a process requesters generally must take advantage of prior to seeking review in federal court.126

Section 552(a)(3)(A) of title 5 of the U.S. Code governs the production of records requested under FOIA. Under that section, "each agency . . . shall make . . . records promptly available to any person" after receiving a FOIA request.127 An agency must respond to a request that satisfies two requirements. First, a request must "reasonably describe[]" the records sought.128 The House committee report underlying the 1974 amendments to FOIA states that a "'description' of a requested document would be sufficient if it enabled a professional employee of the agency who was familiar with the subject area of the request to locate the record with a reasonable amount of effort."129 Second, a FOIA request must comply with the agency's "published rules stating the time, place, fees (if any), and procedures to be followed."130

If a requester submits a valid request, an agency must execute an "adequate" or "reasonable" search.131 This standard requires that an agency conduct a search that is "reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents."132 The D.C. Circuit has explained that "[t]he issue is not whether any further documents might conceivably exist but rather whether the government's search for responsive documents was adequate."133 FOIA also states that agencies must "make reasonable efforts to search for . . . records in electronic form or format," unless doing so "would significantly interfere with the operation of the agency's automated information system."134 DOJ guidance provides that this latter requirement "promotes electronic database searches and encourages agencies to expend new efforts in order to comply with the electronic search requirements of particular FOIA requests."135

To facilitate its disclosure mandate, FOIA requires agencies to respond within certain timeframes and authorizes administrative review of unfavorable agency decisions.136 Once it receives a valid FOIA request, an agency has twenty business days to "determine . . . whether to comply with [the] request" and "shall immediately notify the" requester of its "determination and the reasons therefor," as well as of the requester's right to appeal an "adverse determination" within the agency.137 In "unusual circumstances"—as defined by the statute—an agency may extend the twenty-day period by ten additional days.138 In Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission,139 the D.C. Circuit, in an opinion authored by then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh, held that to make a proper "determination," an "agency must at least indicate within the relevant time period the scope of the documents it will produce and the exemptions it will claim with respect to any withheld documents."140 The court explained that an agency need not produce requested records when it makes its initial determination, determining that it may fulfill its responsibility under § 552(a)(3)(A) to "make . . . records promptly available" after it indicates the scope of the records it will disclose and the exemptions it will invoke.141

A requester who receives an adverse determination may appeal the determination within the agency.142 Upon receiving an administrative appeal, an agency has twenty business days to make a determination, although, as in the context of initial determinations, it may extend this timeline by ten days for unusual circumstances.143 If the agency—in whole or in part—upholds its adverse determination, it must inform the requester of FOIA's provisions governing judicial review of agency withholding decisions.144 Judicial review can proceed if the requester remains dissatisfied.145

Before challenging an agency's nondisclosure decision in federal court, a requester typically must exhaust any remedies that an agency affords the requester.146 Plaintiffs will fail to exhaust administrative remedies if they did not submit a valid FOIA request to the agency or did not internally appeal the agency's adverse decision.147 However, if the agency does not adhere to the response timeframes FOIA imposes on agencies, a requester "shall be deemed to have exhausted his administrative remedies."148 If this occurs, the requester is viewed as having constructively exhausted administrative remedies and may seek review in federal court.149 However, if an agency belatedly responds to a request before the requester files suit, the requester must still internally appeal the agency's adverse determination before seeking recourse in the federal courts.150

Exemptions

As explained above, FOIA establishes a statutory right of public access to a wide array of government information. However, FOIA's drafters also desired to protect certain private and governmental interests from the law's broad disclosure mandate.151 FOIA reflects this desire by exempting a variety of records and information from mandatory disclosure pursuant to nine enumerated exemptions.152 Information protected by FOIA's exemptions ranges from certain classified national security information to geological information pertaining to wells.153 Together, the statute's policy of otherwise maximum disclosure and its exemptions seek to strike a "balance between the right of the public to know and the need of the Government to keep information in confidence to the extent necessary without permitting indiscriminate secrecy."154

FOIA's exemptions are codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). Table 1 lists each exemption. All nine exemptions are explained more fully below.

Table 1. FOIA Exemptions

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1)-(9)

Exemptions

Text of Exemptions

Exemption 1: National Security (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1))

Matters that are . . . (A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order

Exemption 2: Personnel Rules and Practices (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2))

Matters that are . . . related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency

Exemption 3: Matter Exempted by Other Statutes (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3))

Matters that are . . . specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (other than section 552b of this title), if that statute-

(A)(i) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue; or

(ii) establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld; and

(B) if enacted after the date of enactment of the OPEN FOIA Act of 2009, specifically cites to this paragraph

Exemption 4: Trade Secrets and Commercial or Financial Information (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4))

Matters that are . . . trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential

Exemption 5: Inter- or Intra-Agency Materials (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5))

Matters that are . . . inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters that would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency, provided that the deliberative process privilege shall not apply to records created 25 years or more before the date on which the records were requested

Exemption 6: Personal Privacy (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6))

Matters that are . . . personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy

Exemption 7: Law Enforcement (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7))

Matters that are . . . records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual

Exemption 8: Financial Institution Reports (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(8))

Matters that are . . . contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions

Exemption 9: Wells (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(9))

Matters that are . . . geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells

Source: 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1)-(9).

Despite the scope afforded to agencies to withhold certain records by FOIA's exemptions, the statute is fundamentally a disclosure statute.155 In that vein, the Supreme Court has directed that FOIA's exemptions should "be narrowly construed."156 The statute reflects FOIA's presumption in favor of disclosure by explicitly requiring that agencies "take reasonable steps necessary to segregate and release nonexempt information"157 and disclose "[a]ny reasonably segregable portion of a record" that has been requested "after deletion of the portions which are exempt."158 More fundamentally, FOIA's exemptions do not impose mandatory withholding obligations on agencies, and pursuant to the 2016 amendments to FOIA,159 an agency may not withhold government information protected by an exemption unless it "reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption," or if disclosing the information is legally prohibited.160 Such limitations on the potential breadth of FOIA's exemptions may aid in the implementation of the statute's prodisclosure mandate.

The Supreme Court has instructed that, due to the "exclusivity" of FOIA's exemptions, the act does not authorize an agency to withhold a covered record or information that is not protected by an applicable exemption.161 And in American Immigration Lawyers Association v. Executive Office for Immigration Review,162 the D.C. Circuit held that, when disclosing a record under FOIA, an agency may not redact information from that record on the basis that the information is "non-responsive," but instead is limited by FOIA's nine exemptions in the types of information it may redact.163 The court explained that, although an agency may apply a FOIA exemption to withhold matter from a record, "once an agency identifies a record it deems responsive to a FOIA request, the statute compels disclosure of the responsive record . . . as a unit."164 Thus, per the court, although "the focus of the FOIA is information, not documents" when the agency is deciding whether to exempt matter from a record, "outside of that context, FOIA calls for disclosure of a responsive record, not disclosure of responsive information within a record."165

An agency may be prohibited by another source of law from disclosing material that is exempt under FOIA.166 For example, under FOIA's Exemption 3, certain statutes that prohibit or place limits on agencies' disclosure of information may serve as bases under FOIA for withholding covered information.167 An agency's disclosure of information protected by an Exemption 3 withholding statute, therefore, could, depending on the statute's terms, violate that particular statute. As another example, although FOIA's Exemption 4 authorizes an agency to withhold certain confidential "commercial or financial information" and trade secrets,168 the Trade Secrets Act (TSA)169 imposes criminal penalties for disclosing certain confidential materials if disclosure is not "authorized by law."170 Thus, while Exemption 4 grants agencies discretion to withhold information covered by both the exemption and the TSA, the TSA would prohibit the unauthorized disclosure of the information.171 Ultimately, however, if records within FOIA's coverage are not exempt under FOIA or prohibited from being disclosed by another law, an agency must disclose such records upon request.172

Under certain circumstances, an agency may be held to have waived its ability to apply an exemption to a requested record due to its prior disclosure of information. For example, the D.C. Circuit has "held . . . that the government cannot rely on an otherwise valid exemption claim to justify withholding information that has been 'officially acknowledged' or is in the 'public domain.'"173 Courts often have held that an agency's prior disclosure of information to Congress has not foreclosed application of an exemption in response to a subsequent FOIA request.174 However, whether an agency has waived an exemption is necessarily dependent on "the specific nature and circumstances of the prior disclosure."175

Exemption 1: National Defense or Foreign Policy

The first FOIA exemption authorizes agencies to withhold certain matters that pertain to "national defense or foreign policy."176 Specifically, Exemption 1 allows an agency to withhold information that is "(A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) [which is] in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order."177 This exemption reflects Congress's interest in maintaining the confidentiality of information implicating national defense and security.178 However, as the text makes clear, not all national-security-related information may be withheld under Exemption 1. Instead, only those national defense or foreign policy matters that have been properly classified through an applicable executive order are covered.179

At present, Executive Order 13526 primarily governs the classification of national security information by the executive branch.180 The executive order prescribes the procedures for classifying national security information and lists the categories of information to which the order applies, which include "military plans, weapons systems, or operations"; "scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security"; and "United States Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities."181 Information that an agency seeks to withhold from disclosure under Exemption 1 must satisfy the substantive and procedural requirements contained in Executive Order 13526.182

Exemption 2: Internal Personnel Rules and Practices

FOIA's second exemption applies to records that are comparatively more "routine" and generally prone to less public interest than the national-security-related matters agencies may withhold under Exemption 1.183 Exemption 2 authorizes agencies to exempt from disclosure information that is "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency."184 The Supreme Court has held that "personnel rules and practices" under Exemption 2 are those that address "employee relations or human resources."185 This exemption covers rules and practices pertaining to "hiring and firing, work rules and discipline, [and] compensation and benefits."186 To fall under Exemption 2, information must pertain "exclusively or only" to personnel rules and practices,187 and, as the Supreme Court has explained, an "agency must typically keep [such] records to itself for its own use."188

For years, many courts interpreted this provision to cover not only the employee relations and humans resources information described above, but also records that were predominantly internal and whose release would "significantly risk[] circumvention of agency regulations or statutes."189 But in Milner v. Department of the Navy, the Supreme Court held that this broad view of Exemption 2 contravened the ordinary meaning of "personnel rules and practices"—which the Court read as applying only to employee relations and human resources records190—and impermissibly incorporated an extrastatutory "circumvention requirement" into the exemption.191 After Milner, agencies wishing to withhold information that would have previously qualified as High 2 information must locate possible alternatives to Exemption 2 in other FOIA exemptions.192

Exemption 3: Matters Exempted by Other Statutes

With the exceptions of Exemptions 8 and 9, exemptions for information on a particularly specific subject or issue tend to be governed by FOIA's third exemption.193 Exemption 3 generally allows agencies to withhold information if it is "specifically exempted from disclosure by" a non-FOIA statute.194 In other words, disclosure under Exemption 3 is determined not by the category of information at issue, but rather by the information's protection by another statute.195 Congress has enacted a variety of statutes that prohibit or place limitations on the disclosure of information by the government. These statutory confidentiality requirements cover a wide range of information, including such diverse categories as information pertaining to visa determinations,196 drug pricing data,197 patent applications,198 and tax returns,199 to name but a few.

Congress, however, did not intend for Exemption 3 to apply to every statute that authorizes or requires the withholding of information.200 Congress limited the exemption's coverage to two particular categories of statutes "to assure," as the D.C. Circuit has written, "that basic policy decisions on governmental secrecy be made by the Legislative rather than the Executive branch."201 The first category of laws that Exemption 3 covers are statutes that direct agencies to withhold information "from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue."202 The second embraces statutes that "establish[] particular criteria for withholding or refer[] to particular types of matters to be withheld."203 In American Jewish Congress v. Kreps, the D.C. Circuit explained that the first category "embraces only those statutes incorporating a congressional mandate of confidentiality that, however general, is absolute and without exception."204 The second category, however, "does leave room for administrative discretion";205 statutes embraced by that category cabin or direct an agency's discretion by specific standards or criteria.206 A record must fall within the terms of a statute embraced by either category to fall under Exemption 3.207

Exemption 3 limits the universe of statutes subject to its coverage in one additional way. Any statute enacted after the date of the OPEN FOIA Act of 2009208 must "specifically cite[] to" the exemption to qualify as an Exemption 3 withholding statute.209 Courts, accordingly, have held that statutes enacted after October 28, 2009, that fail to cite to Exemption 3 do not qualify as an exemption statute under FOIA, even if they would otherwise fall within the first two categories described above.210

Exemption 4: Trade Secrets and Commercial or Financial Information

Third parties regularly submit an enormous amount of sensitive proprietary information to the federal government, including in such varied situations as military and other government contracts;211 settlement negotiations with agencies;212 and applications for drug approvals by the Food and Drug Administration.213 FOIA's Exemption 4 authorizes agencies to exempt from disclosure many types of sensitive information that individuals and entities from outside the federal government transmit to the government. Specifically, the exemption protects (1) "trade secrets" and (2) "commercial or financial information obtained from a person . . . [that is] privileged or confidential."214

The D.C. Circuit defines a "trade secret" for purposes of Exemption 4 as any

secret, commercially valuable plan, formula, process, or device that is used for the making, preparing, compounding, or processing of trade commodities and that can be said to be the end product of either innovation or substantial effort.215

Courts have interpreted the exemption to embrace a broad range of information, allowing, for example, agencies to exempt as trade secrets "documents contain[ing] information consisting of drug product manufacturing information, including manufacturing processes or drug chemical composition and specifications,"216 as well as "information regarding the quantities of menthol contained in cigarettes by brand and by quantity in each brand and subbrand."217

Most Exemption 4 litigation, however, does not concern trade secrets, but rather information potentially exempt under the "commercial or financial information" prong of Exemption 4.218 Under that prong, materials may be withheld under FOIA if they (1) constitute "commercial or financial information,"219 (2) have been supplied to an agency by a "person,"220 and (3) are "privileged or confidential."221 While each element of the prong must be satisfied for information other than a trade secret to qualify as exempt, a particularly significant question courts face in Exemption 4 litigation is whether commercial or financial information is "confidential" within the meaning of Exemption 4.222

Prior to 2019, the leading test for determining the meaning of "confidential" under the exemption was developed by the D.C. Circuit in National Parks & Conservation Association v. Morton. Under the National Parks test, commercial or financial information was deemed confidential "if disclosure of the information [was] likely . . . (1) to impair the Government's ability to obtain necessary information in the future; or (2) to cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom the information was obtained."223 Under National Parks, therefore, the courts looked to the effect of disclosing commercial or financial information on the federal government or submitter of information.224

But in Food Marketing Institute (FMI) v. Argus Leader Media, the Supreme Court rejected the D.C. Circuit's test and instead held that "[a]t least where commercial or financial information is both [1] customarily and actually treated as private by its owner and [2] provided to the government under an assurance of privacy, the information is 'confidential' within the meaning of Exemption 4."225 This definition is broader than the National Parks test and permits agencies to withhold a larger category of information from FOIA's disclosure mandate.226 But the Supreme Court did not define the precise boundaries of its new test in FMI; although the Court determined that "[a]t least the first condition" must be present for information to qualify as confidential, it did not decide whether the government must always provide assurances that information will be kept private in order for information to fall within Exemption 4's coverage.227

Exemption 5: Inter- or Intra-Agency Memoranda or Letters

Exemption 5 applies to "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters that would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency."228 The 1966 House report accompanying the FOIA legislation indicates that the exemption was drafted with the intention of ensuring the "full and frank exchange of opinions" within the executive branch and based on the proposition that requiring an agency to release information prior to finalizing an action or decision will hinder its ability to effectively function.229 To fall within Exemption 5's coverage, a document must both (1) qualify as an "inter-agency or intra-agency" document and (2) "fall within the ambit of a privilege against discovery under judicial standards that would govern litigation against the agency that holds it."230

Material is "inter-agency or intra agency" if it originates from an "agency," as that term is defined by FOIA.231 Some courts have also recognized what is known as the "consultant corollary," under which Exemption 5 protects certain materials that have been supplied to an agency by external consultants.232 Nonetheless, Exemption 5 does not protect all such communications. In DOI v. Klamath Water Users Protective Association, for example, the Supreme Court held that information submitted to DOI by certain American Indian tribes concerning the allocation of water rights did not constitute "intra-agency" records because the tribes had "communicate[d] with the [agency] with their own, albeit entirely legitimate, interests in mind" and sought "a Government benefit at the expense of other applicants."233

An inter- or -intra-agency document will only qualify as exempt if, in the context of pretrial discovery, it would not "be routinely or normally disclosed upon a showing of relevance" in litigation against the agency.234 Accordingly, agency materials that would be routinely or normally disclosed in such contexts are not covered by the exemption.235 That a record must be disclosed in discovery upon a sufficient showing of need does not remove the record from Exemption 5's protection, as records subject to disclosure in such circumstances "are . . . not 'routinely' or 'normally' available to parties in litigation."236

The Court has explained that Exemption 5 "incorporates the privileges which the Government enjoys under the relevant statutory and case law in the pretrial discovery context."237 The exemption has been construed to embrace privileges mentioned in FOIA's legislative history, but privileges not mentioned may also be incorporated.238 However, a privilege not expressly listed in the legislative history and considered "novel" or having "less than universal acceptance" would be less likely to fall within Exemption 5's scope.239

Both the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have identified several privileges that Exemption 5 embraces and that may, therefore, serve as bases for withholding agency documents, including the privileges discussed below.

Deliberative Process Privilege. The deliberative process privilege is recognized as a component of the more general "executive privilege."240 The Supreme Court has explained that the deliberative process privilege applies to agency "advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated."241 The privilege protects agency records that are "predecisional"242 (i.e., they predate an agency decision)243 and "deliberative" (i.e., they reflect "the give-and-take of the consultative process").244 Factual material is generally not protected by the exemption.245 Notably, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016246 amended Exemption 5 to exclude application of the privilege to documents that were "created 25 years or more before the date on which [they] were requested."247

Presidential Communications Privilege. The presidential communications privilege is also a component of executive privilege and has been recognized as applicable in the Exemption 5 context.248 The Supreme Court has held that the privilege protects from mandatory disclosure "communications in performance of [a President's] responsibilities, of his office, and made in the process of shaping policies and making decisions."249 The D.C. Circuit has held that the privilege also protects "communications authored or received in response to . . . solicitation[s] by" senior White House advisers "in the course of gathering information and preparing recommendations on official matters for presentation to the President,"250 as well as records "authored or solicited and received by . . . members of an immediate White House adviser's staff who have broad and significant responsibility for investigating and formulating the advice to be given to the President on a particular matter."251 Unlike the deliberative process privilege, the presidential communications privilege "applies to documents in their entirety, and covers final and post-decisional materials as well as pre-deliberative ones."252

Attorney-Client Privilege. Exemption 5 also incorporates the attorney-client privilege.253 The attorney-client privilege generally protects "communication[s] made between privileged persons in confidence for the purpose of obtaining or providing legal assistance for the client."254 Exemption 5 incorporates the privilege as it exists for government attorneys, where, as explained by the D.C. Circuit, "the 'client' may be the agency and the attorney may be an agency lawyer."255 The privilege does not cover information "adopted as, or incorporated by reference into, an agency's policy."256

Attorney Work-Product Privilege. In the context of Exemption 5, the attorney work-product privilege embraces "materials prepared in anticipation of litigation" by an agency.257 The privilege serves to protect and maintain an effective adversarial litigation system.258 While records must have been prepared in anticipation of litigation to be protected by the exemption, in Federal Trade Commission v. Grolier, the Supreme Court held that materials may be withheld under Exemption 5 even if the litigation for which the materials were prepared has since ended.259 The Court's decision was based on its interpretation of Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which is the source of the work-product doctrine for pretrial discovery in federal civil litigation.260 It was also based on the fact that, generally, federal judicial decisions regarding "Rule 26[] had determined that work-product materials retained their immunity from discovery after termination of the litigation for which the documents were prepared, without regard to whether other related litigation is pending or is contemplated."261 The court explained that, because "Exemption 5 incorporates the privileges which the Government enjoys under the relevant statutory and case law in the pretrial discovery context," materials protected by the work-product privilege were not "'routinely' available in subsequent litigation."262

Other Privileges. The Supreme Court and lower courts have determined that other privileges are embraced by Exemption 5. For example, in United States v. Weber Aircraft Corp., the Supreme Court held that the privilege protecting "[c]onfidential statements made to air crash safety inspectors," known as the Machin privilege,263 was incorporated by the exemption.264 The Court has also held that Exemption 5 applies to "confidential commercial information, at least to the extent that this information is generated by the Government itself in the process leading up to awarding a contract."265

Exemption 6: Personnel, Medical, and Similar Files

Exemption 6 exempts from disclosure "personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."266 Federal agencies maintain a large amount of information about individuals, such as health and medical records,267 criminal records,268 home addresses,269 social security numbers,270 and a variety of other types of personal information.271 Exemption 6 helps shield "individuals from the injury and embarrassment" that may stem from the disclosure of personal information maintained by the government.272 The exemption applies to citizens and noncitizens alike,273 but courts have not extended its protections to corporations.274

As an initial manner, an agency may only withhold information for impermissibly invading an individual's privacy if it is a personnel, medical, or "similar" file.275 FOIA does not contain a definition of these terms, but, as some courts have explained, personnel and medical files "generally contain a variety of information about a person, such as place of birth, date of birth, date of marriage, employment history, and comparable data."276 And the Supreme Court has held that the term "similar files" broadly embraces any "information which applies to a particular individual."277 Courts have identified a variety of information types that qualify as "files" under Exemption 6, including, for example, the names and addresses of federal annuitants;278 individuals' citizenship information;279 information associated with asylum requests;280 and "information regarding marital status, legitimacy of children, identity of fathers of children, medical condition, welfare payments, alcoholic consumption, family fights, [and] reputation."281

Information is not exempt from disclosure under FOIA, however, merely because it qualifies as a personnel, medical, or similar file. Such files must still be disclosed upon request unless release "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."282 To determine whether disclosure would rise to such a level, agencies and courts balance the privacy interest283 associated with the requested information against "the public interest in disclosure."284 Courts typically require that an agency assert a privacy interest that is "substantial" (or more than "de minimis") to justify withholding the information.285 And the Supreme Court has held that "the only relevant public interest in disclosure . . . is the extent to which disclosure would serve the core purpose of FOIA, which is contributing significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government."286 If the asserted privacy interest outweighs the public interest in disclosure, the information is exempt.287

Exemption 7: Law Enforcement Records or Information

FOIA's seventh exemption applies to "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes," but only where disclosure of such agency records "would" or "could reasonably be expected to" result in certain harms specified by the exemption (and discussed below).288 As the Supreme Court has explained, Exemption 7 stemmed from Congress's belief "that law enforcement agencies had legitimate needs to keep certain records confidential, lest the agencies be hindered in their investigations or placed at a disadvantage when it came time to present their cases."289

To qualify as exempt under Exemption 7, a record must have been "compiled" for law enforcement purposes.290 This criterion may be satisfied even if the record was not originally compiled for law enforcement purposes, as the Supreme Court has held that this exemption also applies if material was subsequently gathered for law enforcement purposes, prior to the agency's response to the FOIA request.291 Further, the Court has held that material that was originally compiled "for law enforcement purposes continues to meet the threshold requirements of Exemption 7 where [it] is reproduced or summarized in a new document prepared for a non-law-enforcement purpose."292 As explained by the D.C. Circuit, "the term 'compiled' in Exemption 7 requires that a document be created, gathered, or used by an agency for law enforcement purposes at some time before the agency invokes the exemption."293

Courts have applied Exemption 7 to records compiled for criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement, as well as to materials associated with agencies' national and homeland security functions.294 Further, the exemption not only applies to agencies that primarily engage in law enforcement, but also to agencies that possess both administrative and law enforcement responsibilities ("mixed-function agencies").295 Although, on judicial review, an agency must establish that materials withheld under Exemption 7 are compiled for purposes of law enforcement to properly invoke the exemption, agencies whose primary function is criminal law enforcement are often subject to comparatively relaxed standards of proof on this question than are mixed-function agencies.296

Exemption 7 only applies to certain statutorily specified types of law enforcement records.297 Therefore, establishing that material has been compiled for law enforcement purposes is insufficient to exempt it from disclosure under FOIA; even if a withheld record was compiled for such purposes, it may only be exempted from disclosure if disclosure may or will lead to one of the harms identified in subexemptions (A) through (F).298

Exemption 7(A) authorizes the withholding of law enforcement records where disclosure "could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings."299 Courts have held that Exemption 7(A) applies in the context of a "pending or prospective" enforcement proceeding and where disclosure "could reasonably be expected to cause some articulable harm" to those proceedings,300 such as by obstructing an agency's investigation or placing an agency "at a disadvantage when it came time to present [its] case[]."301 However, courts have established limits to Exemption 7(A)'s application. For example, many courts have held that agencies must satisfy a high burden in proving that harm will occur from "the release of information that the targets of the investigation already possess."302

Exemption 7(B) applies where disclosure "would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication."303 The D.C. Circuit has explained "that a trial or adjudication [must be] pending or truly imminent" in order to trigger Exemption 7(B), and "that it [must be] more probable than not that disclosure . . . would seriously interfere with the fairness of those proceedings."304And the D.C. Circuit has held that, as to disclosure's effect on the fairness of proceedings, courts must examine "the significance of any alleged unfairness in light of its effect . . . on the proceedings as a whole," and not simply whether disclosure would bestow "a slight advantage . . . on a party in a single phase of a case."305

Exemption 7(C) authorizes the withholding of records where disclosure "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."306 Like Exemption 6,307 Exemption 7(C) was designed to protect personal privacy interests. However, as the Supreme Court has explained, the latter exemption provides more protection for materials under its coverage than does the former.308 Exemption 6 only applies to disclosures that "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."309 Exemption 7(C), however, is more encompassing: it does not include the word "clearly," and it protects against disclosures that merely "could reasonably be expected to" effect an unwarranted intrusion into personal privacy.310 Despite these differences, however, both exemptions are guided by many of the same privacy principles discussed above in relation to Exemption 6.311 For example, courts determining the availability of Exemption 7(C) often engage in the same type of case-by-case balancing of the private interests at stake and the public interest in disclosure as they do in the Exemption 6 context.312

Exemption 7(D) applies to disclosures which "could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source," as well as to "information furnished by a confidential source" where "records or information [were] compiled by criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation."313 A source is "confidential" if the government expressly pledges to keep information supplied by the source in confidence or if "such an assurance could be reasonably inferred" from the circumstances.314 According to the Supreme Court's decision in DOJ v. Landano, "[a] source should be deemed confidential if the source furnished information with the understanding that the [agency] would not divulge the communication except to the extent [it] thought necessary for law enforcement purposes."315 While the Court in Landano rejected the government's argument that confidentiality is generally presumed simply because a source has worked with the FBI during a criminal investigation, it did hold that such a presumption may exist where "circumstances such as the nature of the crime investigated and the witness' relation to it support an inference of confidentiality."316

Exemption 7(E) provides that records may be withheld where disclosure "would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law."317 As can be seen from the text, this subexemption applies to two different types of investigation and prosecution materials: "techniques and procedures" and "guidelines." Courts are split as to whether the exemption applies to the disclosure of both types of materials or only to the "guidelines" described in the subexemption's second clause.318

Exemption 7(F) authorizes withholding where disclosure "could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual."319 Prior to 1986, this subexemption only protected against disclosures that could endanger law enforcement personnel.320 However, the 1986 amendments to FOIA expanded Exemption 7(F)'s coverage by substituting "any individual" for "law enforcement personnel."321

Exemption 8: Financial Institution Reports

Exemption 8 protects matters "contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions."322 The Senate report underlying the original law explains that, by limiting the availability of the covered financial reports to the agencies tasked with overseeing financial institutions, the exemption was intended to protect such institutions' security.323 Courts have also opined that Exemption 8 was intended "to safeguard the relationship between the banks and their supervising agencies."324

Exemption 9: Geological and Geophysical Information and Data Concerning Wells

Exemption 9 exempts from disclosure "geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells."325 Courts have not had many opportunities to interpret this exemption, as agencies do not often invoke it.326

Exclusions

In addition to its nine exemptions, FOIA also contains three records exclusions. FOIA's exclusions allow an agency, in response to a request for certain law enforcement records, to "treat the records as not subject to the requirements of" FOIA.327 As the Attorney General's Memorandum on the 1986 Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act explains, when an agency receives a request for records that fall within the coverage of an exclusion, the agency is authorized to withhold the records and "respond to the request as if the excluded records d[o] not exist."328 FOIA's exclusions, in other words, allow agencies to "withhold documents without comment."329 Conversely, when an agency invokes a FOIA exemption in response to a request for records, it is required to "reveal the fact of and grounds for any withholdings" to the requester.330 FOIA's exclusions, therefore, are designed to allow agencies to better avoid disclosure of the narrow categories of records to which they apply.331 Each of FOIA's three exclusions is codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(c).

Exclusion (c)(1). The first exclusion covers records protected by Exemption 7(A) (i.e., records whose disclosure "could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings"),332 but only if

  • the relevant law enforcement proceeding or investigation concerns a "possible" criminal violation;333 and
  • the agency has "reason to believe" both that
  • the pendency of the proceeding or investigation is unknown to the subject of the proceeding or investigation, and
  • revealing the records' existence "could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings."334

The exclusion was intended to prevent an agency from "tipping off" an individual about the existence of an investigation of which he or she is a subject by stating, in response to a FOIA request, that requested records are exempt from disclosure under Exemption 7(A).335 While agencies can rely on this exclusion to prevent such an outcome, by its terms, Exclusion (c)(1) is only available to an agency while the conditions described in its text continue.336 Accordingly, once the investigation becomes public, this exclusion no longer applies.337

Exclusion (c)(2). The second exclusion applies to records that are "maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency under an informant's name or personal identifier."338 When a third party requests such records "according to the informant's name or personal identifier," Exclusion (c)(2) authorizes the agency to "treat the records as not subject to the requirements of" FOIA.339 The Attorney General's memorandum on the 1986 amendments to FOIA describes FOIA's second exclusion as contemplating "the situation in which a sophisticated requester could try to ferret out an informant in his organization by forcing a law enforcement agency" to invoke FOIA's exemption for records relating to a confidential source (Exemption 7(D)), an action that would likely corroborate the requester's suspicion that the individual subject to the request is a confidential informant.340 The memorandum cites as an example the situation in which a criminal organization that suspects one of its members is a criminal informant either requires that the suspected informant request law enforcement records about himself or herself, or else compels the individual to submit a privacy waiver to allow a member of the organization to make such a request.341 Exclusion (c)(2) authorizes law enforcement agencies to protect against the disclosure of the identities of their confidential informants in such situations. However, like Exclusion (c)(1), an agency's ability to use the second exclusion is subject to an important limitation: an agency may not use the second exclusion if "the informant's status as an informant has been officially confirmed."342

Exclusion (c)(3). FOIA's third exclusion protects a subset of FBI records concerning "foreign intelligence," "counterintelligence," or "international terrorism."343 The FBI may treat such records as excluded from FOIA if "the existence of the records is classified information as provided in" Exemption 1.344 Exclusion (c)(3) seeks to prevent the harm that may occur from an agency's publicly claiming the protection of Exemption 1 in response to a request and, therefore, admitting that such sensitive records do indeed exist.345 Like the other exclusions, however, the third exclusion's protective ambit is limited—an agency may only use Exclusion (c)(3) for such time "as the existence of [such] records remains classified information."346

FOIA-Related Litigation: Selected Issues

FOIA not only established a statutory right of access to agency records, but also provided a means for requesters to enforce that right through judicial review of agency decisions to withhold records.347 Conversely, parties may initiate legal actions to prevent agencies from disclosing information requested under FOIA in certain situations. These aspects of FOIA and FOIA-related litigation—judicial review of agencies' withholding decisions and so-called reverse-FOIA litigation—are discussed below.

Judicial Review of Agency Withholding Decisions

Under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B), federal district courts have "jurisdiction to enjoin [an] agency from withholding agency records and to order the production of any agency records improperly withheld from the complainant."348 The Supreme Court, accordingly, has explained that a court has jurisdiction under § 552(a)(4)(B) if it can be shown "that an agency has (1) improperly; (2) withheld; (3) agency records."349 In DOJ v. Tax Analysts, the Court held that, because FOIA's exemptions are "exclusive," agency records are "improperly" withheld when an agency refuses to disclose requested records that are not protected by an applicable exemption.350 Yet the Court has also held that an agency's decision to withhold a record is not "improper" if a court order prohibits the agency from disclosing the record.351 Further, in Kissinger v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Court held that records are not "withheld" under § 552(a)(4)(B) if, before a request was filed, the records were "removed from the possession of the agency."352 The Court did not answer whether an agency "withholds" a record when it "purposefully route[s] a document out of agency possession in order to circumvent a FOIA request."353 However, as one court has explained, "an agency's FOIA obligations might extend to documents that are not in the agency's immediate custody or control . . . when there is evidence to suggest that the requested records are outside of the agency's control precisely because the agency has attempted to shield its records from search or disclosure under the FOIA."354

An improper withholding is not limited to those situations in which an agency explicitly rejects a FOIA request or fails to respond to a request. For example, an inadequate search for responsive records is also an improper withholding.355 (The requirement that an agency conduct an adequate search is discussed above.356)

FOIA instructs courts to review appeals from agency withholding decisions "de novo."357 Under this standard of review, a court accords no deference to the agency's decision below.358 That said, courts will sometimes defer to an agency's judgment in some aspects of FOIA litigation. For example, courts in FOIA disputes generally accord "some measure of deference to the executive in cases implicating national security."359 The scope and standard of review in FOIA cases may differ in other instances, as well.360 For instance, while judicial review of an agency's decision regarding fee waivers is de novo, FOIA states that review "shall be limited to the record before the agency."361

The agency has the burden of proving that it properly withheld information under a FOIA exemption.362 Agencies defending withholding decisions in federal court often supply what is known as a "Vaughn Index" to aid in justifying their decisions.363 In FOIA lawsuits, the plaintiff generally does not know with any specificity the contents of the requested records, which the D.C. Circuit has declared can "seriously distort[] the traditional adversary nature of our legal system's form of dispute resolution."364 A Vaughn Index, which is akin to a privilege log, is a response to this informational asymmetry.365 The D.C. Circuit has held that a proper Vaughn Index "provide[s] a relatively detailed justification [for withholdings], specifically identifying the reasons why a particular exemption is relevant and correlating those claims with the particular part of a withheld document to which they apply."366 Agencies can also justify nondisclosure decisions through the submission of affidavits of agency officials that, per the D.C. Circuit, "describe the justifications for nondisclosure with reasonably specific detail, demonstrate that the information withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, and are not controverted by either contrary evidence in the record nor by evidence of agency bad faith."367

FOIA also authorizes courts to review records in camera (i.e., privately and outside of the plaintiffs' view) to determine whether the records have been appropriately withheld.368 Courts often conduct in camera inspection of withheld information when an agency has not "provide[d] a sufficiently detailed explanation to enable the . . . court to make a de novo determination of the agency's claims of exemption."369 Courts retain discretion whether to conduct in camera review, but generally only do so in "exceptional" cases.370 In certain situations, courts may authorize agencies to submit in camera agency affidavits; however, as opposed to in camera inspection of withheld records, "use of in camera affidavits has generally been disfavored."371

Reverse-FOIA Litigation

While requesters may seek judicial review of an agency's decision to withhold information under FOIA, in some circumstances parties may pursue judicial action to prevent an agency's disclosure of information in response to a FOIA request.372 These actions are often called reverse-FOIA lawsuits.373 An entity ordinarily institutes a reverse-FOIA action to prevent an agency from disclosing sensitive information, often concerning commercial or financial matters, that the entity had previously submitted to the agency.374 In Chrysler Corporation v. Brown, the Supreme Court held that neither the FOIA statute nor the TSA authorizes a private right of action to enjoin an agency from disclosing information in violation of the TSA.375 However, the Court held that judicial review of such actions is available under the APA.376 In reverse-FOIA suits, courts generally review an agency's decision to disclose information under § 706(2)(A) of the APA, which provides that courts are to "hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions" that are "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law."377 The burden of proof in a reverse-FOIA action is on the plaintiff.378

Under Executive Order 12600, an agency is required, in certain circumstances, to provide notice to those who submitted "records containing confidential commercial information" if the agency has concluded that the records may need to be disclosed in response to a FOIA request.379 Agency procedures generally must allow applicable submitters to object to disclosure and provide that the agency, in the event it disagrees with the submitter's objection, supply the submitter with the reasons for its disagreement.380 The executive order defines "confidential commercial information" as information submitted to an agency "that arguably contain[s] material exempt from release under Exemption 4 . . . because disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause substantial competitive harm."381 Notably,382 the Supreme Court abrogated the "substantial competitive harm" test for Exemption 4 in FMI v. Argus Leader Media.383 In response, DOJ has advised agencies to use the broader definition of "confidential" declared in FMI in their predisclosure notification procedures.384

Selected Issues of Potential Interest for Congress

While Congress is not subject to FOIA, the act raises questions of particular relevance to the legislative branch. For example, per the act, an agency may not "withhold information from Congress" on the basis that such information is exempt under FOIA.385 There are different views, however, about what "Congress" means in this instance—in particular, whether this withholding prohibition applies to requests from individual Members of Congress, or whether the provision is limited to access requests from each house of Congress or congressional committees. In addition, although Congress is under no obligation to disclose its own materials under FOIA, whether a congressional document possessed by an agency is subject to FOIA depends on whether or not Congress clearly expressed its determination to retain control over the document.386

Although this section only discusses the two topics just mentioned, FOIA implicates congressional interests in many other ways. For example, Congress has often expressed its interest in the frequency with which agencies use exemptions to withhold information from requesters, as well as the general backlog of FOIA requests.387 Further, FOIA evidences Congress's general interest in executive branch transparency, and Congress has amended FOIA several times since its 1965 enactment, often due or in response to judicial interpretations of the act or agencies' administration thereof.388

Congressional Access to Agency Information: FOIA's "Special Access" Provision

FOIA's "special access"389 provision—codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(d)—states that FOIA "is not authority to withhold information from Congress."390 The Senate report underlying the original act explained that this provision is intended to clarify "that, because [FOIA] only refers to the public's right to know, it cannot . . . be backhandedly construed as authorizing the withholding of information from the Congress, the collective representative of the public."391 While this provision undoubtedly prohibits agencies from withholding information from Congress based on a FOIA exemption, there is some dispute over whether subsection (d) affords individual Members of Congress access to otherwise exempt records under FOIA, or, on the other hand, whether the provision is limited to access requests from the broader arms of Congress (i.e., either house of Congress and congressional committees).392

The Department of Justice has long maintained that the special access provision does not generally apply to records requests from individual Members of Congress, meaning that agencies generally can invoke relevant exemptions to withhold materials in response to individual Member requests.393 DOJ distinguishes between requests for information from (1) "a House of Congress as a whole (including through its committee structure)" and (2) individual Members.394 In DOJ's view, requests from the former benefit from subsection (d)'s withholding prohibition; however, requests from the latter generally do not, no matter—as DOJ has explained—if the individual Member is "clearly acting in a completely official capacity" in making the request.395 Under DOJ's interpretation, a request by an individual Member in his or her official capacity is only covered by the special access provision if the request is from the chair of a committee or subcommittee or authorized by a committee or subcommittee.396 That said, individual Members of Congress can submit FOIA requests to the same extent as other persons.397

But DOJ's interpretation of the special access provision has been criticized by some as too narrow. This criticism finds support in language from the D.C. Circuit's decision in Murphy v. Department of the Army,398 which interpreted the special access provision as applying to individual Members acting in their official capacities.399 The court held that the Army had not waived Exemption 5 protection for an internal agency memorandum by sharing it with an individual Member of Congress.400 The court based its holding on an interpretation of the special access provision, concluding that agencies will not waive the exemption in such circumstances "to the extent that Congress has reserved to itself in section 552([d]) the right to receive information not available to the general public."401 In responding to the requester's argument that the special access provision was limited to Congress as a whole (and not its component parts—including individual Members), the court wrote

All Members have a constitutionally recognized status entitling them to share in general congressional powers and responsibilities, many of them requiring access to executive information. It would be an inappropriate intrusion into the legislative sphere for the courts to decide without congressional direction that, for example, only the chairman of a committee shall be regarded as the official voice of the Congress for purposes of receiving such information, as distinguished from its ranking minority member, other committee members, or other members of the Congress. Each of them participates in the law-making process; each has a voice and a vote in that process; and each is entitled to request such information from the executive agencies as will enable him to carry out the responsibilities of a legislator.402

Instead, the court opined that the special access rule applies when a Member's request is made in his or her official—as opposed to "purely private or personal"—capacity.403 Members of Congress from both major political parties have cited Murphy in support of individual Members' right to access information from the executive branch.404

DOJ's more narrow interpretation, discussed above, was a reaction to Murphy's reading of FOIA's application to Members, which it views as being inconsistent with the act's text and legislative history.405 DOJ has argued, for example, that interpreting "Congress" to include individual Members conflicts with Article I, § 1 of the Constitution, which provides that Congress "consist[s] of a Senate and a House of Representatives," but does not mention the individuals who serve in those chambers.406 DOJ also asserts its position finds support in the 1966 House report for FOIA. In discussing the special access provision, the report states that "Members of Congress have all of the rights of access guaranteed to 'any person' by [FOIA], and the Congress has additional rights of access to all Government information which it deems necessary to carry out its functions."407 DOJ has also maintained that the D.C. Circuit's discussion of FOIA's application to individual Members "was not indispensable to the [Murphy] decision" and therefore does not constitute a binding rule.408 But while the D.C. Circuit has not had opportunity to revisit Murphy on the question of FOIA's application to agency communications with individual Members, later appellate panel and lower court decisions within the circuit have appeared to treat Murphy's interpretation as controlling.409

Congressional Records

As discussed above, FOIA requires federal agencies to disclose "agency records" after receiving a valid request.410 But Congress is not an "agency" under FOIA.411 Congress, accordingly, is not obligated to respond to FOIA requests for documents in its possession.412 But Congress's exemption from FOIA extends beyond requests directed specifically at it. Crucially, the D.C. Circuit has held that a document that an agency obtains from Congress or creates in response to a congressional request qualifies as a congressional record exempt from FOIA if "Congress manifested a clear intent to control the document."413

Congress is not required to provide "contemporaneous instructions when forwarding" documents to agencies to manifest its intent to control a document.414 In American Civil Liberties Union v. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the D.C. Circuit determined that a confidential report authored by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was a congressional record and, therefore, not subject to FOIA.415 The case concerned the committee's evaluation of a CIA program on detention and interrogation.416 In 2014, the committee completed a final report based on its review.417 Although the committee did not publicly release the final report, it distributed copies to the President and other executive branch officials.418 In 2009, before beginning its review, the committee's chair and vice chair sent a letter to the CIA memorializing an agreement concerning the committee's examination of CIA documents at a secure electronic CIA reading room.419 The letter provided the following conditions:

Any documents generated on the network drive referenced in paragraph 5, as well as any other notes, documents, draft and final recommendations, reports or other materials generated by Committee staff or Members, are the property of the Committee and will be kept at the Reading Room solely for secure safekeeping and ease of reference. These documents remain congressional records in their entirety and disposition and control over these records, even after the completion of the Committee's review, lies exclusively with the Committee. As such, these records are not CIA records under [FOIA] or any other law . . . . If the CIA receives any request or demand for access to these records from outside the CIA under [FOIA] or any other authority, the CIA will immediately notify the Committee and will respond to the request or demand based upon the understanding that these are congressional, not CIA, records.420

The D.C. Circuit reasoned that these conditions made "it plain that the Senate Committee intended to control any and all of its work product, including the [resulting 2014 final report], emanating from its oversight investigation of the CIA."421 The committee's subsequent transmission of the report to executive branch officials, with the instruction to the CIA and other agencies to use the report "as broadly as appropriate" both to ensure that the practices the report criticized were never repeated and to help in the development of CIA programs and executive branch guidelines, did not erase "the Senate Committee's clear intent to maintain control of the" final report.422

Whether Congress's manifestation of intent to control extends to a particular record depends on the language used in Congress's directive to the agency. In United We Stand America v. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the D.C. Circuit held that a letter sent from the chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation to the IRS requesting information in connection with a committee investigation did not fully protect the IRS's response.423 The request stated

This document is a Congressional record and is entrusted to the [IRS] for your use only. This document may not be disclosed without the prior approval of the Joint Committee.424

The IRS transmitted documents in response to the committee's request (of which the agency retained a copy).425 In litigation arising from a FOIA request for the committee's request and the agency's response thereto, the court held that, although the language from the committee's request quoted above—which referred to "[t]his document"—conveyed a sufficient manifestation of intent to control the committee's request, that manifestation of intent did not extend to the IRS's response, save for "those portions of the IRS response that would effectively disclose th[e] [committee's] request."426 As the court explained, "[if] the Joint Committee intended to keep confidential not just 'this document' but also the IRS response, it could have done so by referring to 'this document and all IRS documents created in response to it.'"427 Accordingly, the court of appeals remanded the case to the district court to conclude whether information in the response that would reveal the committee's request could be redacted and to direct the agency to "release any segregable portions that are not otherwise protected by one of FOIA's nine exemptions."428

The D.C. Circuit has articulated other principles helpful for determining whether Congress has manifested sufficient intent to control a particular record. For example, courts have found that "post-hoc objections" to disclosure raised by Congress "long after the . . . record[s'] creation" and "in response to the FOIA litigation" do not convey sufficient manifestations of intent to control.429 Nor are proper manifestations of intent contained in expressions that are "too general and sweeping."430 In Paisley v. CIA, for example, the court acknowledged that letters sent by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to the CIA "indicate[d] the Committee's desire to prevent release without its approval of any documents generated by the Committee or by an intelligence agency in response to a Committee inquiry."431 However, the court held that the letters did not alone manifest sufficient congressional intent to control the documents at issue because "there [was] no discussion of any particular documents or of any particular criteria by which to evaluate and limit the breadth of [the Committee's] interdiction."432

Whether Congress has sufficiently manifested intent to control a document ultimately depends on the circumstances underlying each case.433 For example, in United We Stand (discussed above), the D.C. Circuit specifically underscored that the manifestation of intent to control at issue in that case was contained "in a letter written by the Joint Committee's chief of staff as part of an investigation authorized by the chairman, vice-chairman, and ranking members of the Joint Committee," as well as that an IRS document that the committee relied on "expressly recognize[d] the confidentiality of Joint Committee requests."434 On the other hand, in American Oversight, Inc. v. Department of Health & Human Services, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not explicitly emphasize the level of formality of the congressional manifestation of assent in reaching its decision that the materials at issue were not agency records subject to disclosure under FOIA.435 Instead, the court relied on its reading of language contained in email messages between staff of the House Committee on Ways and Means and executive branch personnel addressing "health care reform" to find that Congress had manifested its intent to retain control over the messages.436

Related Open Government and Information Laws: FACA, the Sunshine Act, and the Privacy Act

FOIA is the primary statutory mechanism by which the public may gain access to federal government records and information. But other laws—specifically FACA, the Sunshine Act, and the Privacy Act—also set forth rights and limitations on the public's access to government information or activities. FACA governs the establishment and operation of certain advisory committees created to supply advice and recommendations to federal agencies or the President.437 Among other things, the statute generally mandates the public availability of an advisory committee's "records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents,"438 and members of the public are authorized under FACA to attend and participate in advisory committee meetings.439 The availability of an advisory committee's papers is subject to FOIA's exemptions.440

Another general open government statute, the Sunshine Act, imposes transparency obligations on the meetings of certain multimember boards and commissions.441 The statute requires that covered agencies allow the public to attend their meetings442 and have access to relevant information.443 Meetings and information required to be disclosed under the act are subject to ten exemptions that resemble FOIA's.444

Lastly, the Privacy Act governs the "collection, maintenance, use and dissemination" of agency records that contain individually identifiable information about U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.445 The act forbids the disclosure of covered records without the written consent or request of the individual identified by the record, subject to twelve exceptions.446 One Privacy Act exception covers records for which disclosure is "required" by FOIA.447 Under this exception, an agency record subject to the Privacy Act that is not protected by any of FOIA's exemptions—and which therefore must be disclosed under FOIA upon request—is not prohibited from being disclosed by the Privacy Act.448 The Privacy Act also permits individuals to request access to records that pertain to them and to seek the amendment of such records, subject to exemptions.449

Author Contact Information

Daniel J. Sheffner, Legislative Attorney ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Footnotes

1.

5 U.S.C. § 552.

2.

See Pratt v. Webster, 673 F.2d 408, 413 (D.C. Cir. 1982) ("[FOIA] was enacted by Congress . . . in order to provide a statutory right of public access to documents and records held by agencies of the federal government.").

3.

5 U.S.C. §§ 551-59, 701-06.

4.

H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 3 (1966); see also S. Rep. No. 813, at 5 (1965) (explaining that the APA's public information section allowed agencies to "withhold almost anything from any citizen under [its] vague standards").

5.

5 U.S.C. § 1002 (amended by Pub. L. No. 89-487, 80 Stat. 150 (1966)).

6.

Id. § 1002(c); see also, e.g., id. (limiting the availability of matters of official record "to persons properly and directly concerned"). See H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 5-6 (1966) (discussing agencies' abuse of the APA's public information section).

7.

S. Rep. No. 813, at 5 (1965).

8.

Id. at 3; H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 12 (1966).

9.

See Fed. Open Mkt. Comm. of Fed. Reserve Sys. v. Merrill, 443 U.S. 340, 352 (1979).

10.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1); id. § 552(a)(1)(C), (D).

11.

Id. § 552(a)(2); id. § 552(a)(2)(A), (D).

12.

Id. § 552(a)(3); see id. § 552(a)(4)(B) (providing that federal district courts have "jurisdiction to enjoin [agencies] from withholding agency records and to order the production of any agency records improperly withheld").

13.

See, e.g., Letter to Donald J. Trump, President, from Representative Don Beyer, et al., at 2 (Apr. 6, 2018), https://beyer.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=815 (describing information revealed by a FOIA request about the activities of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) task force in letter urging the President to request the EPA Administrator's resignation).

14.

N.H. Right to Life v. HHS, 778 F.3d 43, 48-49 (1st Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original) (quoting Louis D. Brandeis, Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It 92 (Frederick A. Stokes Co. ed. 1914)).

15.

DOD v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. 487, 495 (1994) (explaining that "the core purpose of FOIA . . . is contributing significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government" (emphasis and internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting DOJ v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749, 777 (1989))).

16.

S. Rep. No. 813, at 3 (1965); FBI v. Abramson, 456 U.S. 615, 621 (1982).

17.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1)-(9).

18.

See, e.g., id. § 552(b)(1) (appropriately classified national security matters); (b)(4) (trade secrets or certain commercial or financial information submitted to the government by a third party); (b)(7) (certain law enforcement records).

19.

See id. § 552(b)(8) (certain financial institution reports), (b)(9) (geological and geophysical information concerning wells).

20.

Id. § 552(b)(3).

21.

Id. § 552(c); Edwin Meese III, Attorney General's Memorandum on the 1986 Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, at 2 (Dec. 1987) [hereinafter Meese Memorandum], https://www.justice.gov/archive/oip/86agmemo.htm.

22.

5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1)-(3).

23.

Id. § 552(a)(4)(B).

24.

Id.

25.

This report is not intended to provide an exhaustive account of all topics related to FOIA. Sources that analyze FOIA in greater detail include James T. O'Reilly, Federal Information Disclosure (2019 ed.) and DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act (last updated Oct. 4, 2019), https://www.justice.gov/oip/doj-guide-freedom-information-act-0. An examination of agencies' administration of FOIA can be found in CRS Report R41933, The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Background, Legislation, and Policy Issues, by Meghan M. Stuessy.

26.

See infra "Key Terms."

27.

See infra "Access to Government Information under FOIA."

28.

See infra "Exemptions."

29.

See infra "Exclusions."

30.

See infra "FOIA-Related Litigation: Selected Issues."

31.

5 U.S.C. § 552(d).

32.

See infra "Selected Issues of Potential Interest for Congress."

33.

5 U.S.C. app. 2.

34.

Id. § 552b.

35.

Id. § 552a; see infra "Related Open Government and Information Laws: FACA, the Sunshine Act, and the Privacy Act."

36.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A), (4)(B).

37.

See id. §§ 551(1), 552(f)(2); see also id. § 552(a)(3)(A) (requiring that "each agency . . . make [requested] records promptly available" upon receiving a proper request).

38.

See id. § 552(a)(4)(B).

39.

See id. § 552(a)(3)(A).

40.

Id. § 551(1). Several entities are explicitly excepted from this definition. See, e.g., id. § 551(1)(A) (Congress), (B) (federal courts).

41.

Id. § 552(f)(1).

42.

Id. § 551(1) (providing that the definition of "agency" in the APA does not apply to, inter alia, "(A) the Congress; (B) the courts of the United States; [or] (C) the governments of the territories or possessions of the United States"). Courts have clarified that FOIA does not apply to the entirety of the legislative and judicial branches, including their subcomponents. See, e.g., Mayo v. GPO, 9 F.3d 1450, 1451 (9th Cir. 1993) (recognizing that the Government Publishing Office, as a legislative branch entity, was not covered by FOIA); Andrade v. U.S. Sentencing Comm'n, 989 F.2d 308, 309-10 (9th Cir. 1993) (ruling that FOIA does not apply to the Sentencing Commission as it is a judicial branch entity). See also Mayo, 9 F.3d at 451 (explaining that "[j]ust as [FOIA] in excluding 'the courts of the United States,' 5 U.S.C. § 551(1)(B), excludes not only the courts themselves but the entire judicial branch, so the entire legislative branch has been exempted from [FOIA]"); Cause of Action v. Nat'l Archives & Records Admin., 753 F.3d 210, 212 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (explaining that "FOIA does not cover congressional documents, or documents of legislative branch agencies") (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, many entities that are not subject to FOIA nonetheless authorize public access to many of their records. See, e.g., 4 C.F.R. pt. 81 (Government Accountability Office). And some entities that fall outside FOIA's coverage are nonetheless required to provide access to records under non-FOIA statutes. See, e.g., 2 U.S.C. § 603 (Congressional Budget Office).

Further, FOIA's disclosure obligations do not apply to nonfederal entities such as state and local government entities, see, e.g., Grand Cent. Partnership, Inc. v. Cuomo, 166 F.3d 473, 484 (2d Cir. 1999); Foley v. Vill. of Weston, No. 06-C-350-C, 2006 WL 3449414, at *5 (W.D. Wis. Nov. 28, 2006), or private recipients of federal grants that are not subject to "extensive, detailed, and virtually day-to-day supervision" by a covered agency, Forsham v. Harris, 445 U.S. 169, 178-80 (1980). States have enacted their own public records laws. See Daniel J. Solove, Access and Aggregation: Public Records, Privacy and the Constitution, 86 Minn. L. Rev. 1137, 1161 (2002).

43.

See 5 U.S.C. § 552(f)(2).

44.

445 U.S. 136, 156 (1980).

45.

Id. (emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 1380, at 15 (1974) (Conf. Rep.)). The standard set forth by the Court in Kissinger was quoted from the conference report underlying the 1974 amendments to FOIA. Id. That report states that "[t]he term ["Executive Office of the President"] is not to be interpreted as including the President's immediate personal staff or units in the Executive Office whose sole function is to advise and assist the President." H.R. Rep. No. 1380, at 15 (1974) (Conf. Rep.). Immediately before announcing this standard, the report provides that "[w]ith respect to the meaning of the term 'Executive Office of the President' the conferees intend the result reached in Soucie v. David, 448 F.2d 1067 (C.A.D.C. 1971)." In Soucie, the D.C. Circuit held that the Office of Science and Technology (OST) was an agency under FOIA. Id. at 1075. The court arrived at that result after concluding that "the APA apparently confers agency status on any administrative unit with substantial independent authority in the exercise of specific functions." Id. at 1073. While the court observed that OST exercised substantial independent authority, it acknowledged that if the office's "sole function were to advise and assist the President, that might be taken as an indication that [it] is part of the President's staff and not a separate agency." Id. at 1075. The Soucie decision and the conference report's adoption thereof suggest that the D.C Circuit and Congress "wished to avoid the serious separation-of-powers questions that too expansive a reading of FOIA would engender." Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Secret Service, 726 F.3d 208, 227 (D.C. Cir. 2013).

46.

Rushforth v. Council of Econ. Advisers, 762 F.2d 1038, 1042-43 (D.C. Cir. 1985).

47.

Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Wash. (CREW) v. Office of Admin., 566 F.3d 219, 226 (D.C. Cir. 2009).

48.

Main St. Legal Servs. v. Nat'l Sec. Council, 811 F.3d 542, 566 (2d Cir. 2016); Armstrong v. Exec. Office of the President, 90 F.3d 553, 565 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Cf. Sweetland v. Walters, 60 F.3d 852, 854 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (holding "that the staff of the Executive Residence is not an agency as defined in FOIA"). The 1974 House committee report, which preceded the conference report relied on by the Supreme Court in Kissinger, stated that the "Executive Office of the President" term included the National Security Council (NSC). H.R. Rep. No. 876 (1974), reprinted in Freedom of Information Act and Amendments of 1974 (P.L. 93-502), Source Book: Legislative History, Texts, and Other Documents, at 121, 128 (Joint Comm. Print 1975). And the Court in Kissinger, in response to the argument that some of the requested notes from Kissinger's time as presidential adviser may have been NSC records, referred to the committee report's conclusion that NSC records were subject to FOIA. See 445 U.S. at 136 (writing that the committee report "indicat[es] that the [NSC] is an executive agency to which the FOIA applies"). But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Main Street Legal Services explained that the Kissinger Court's "assumption that the NSC was an agency was made only arguendo in concluding . . . that the plaintiffs in that case had failed properly to make a FOIA request for any NSC records" and that "[s]uch an assumption is not even dictum." 811 F.3d at 552; see Rushforth, 762 F.2d at 1040 ("Where . . . the specific mention of the [Council of Economic Advisers] in the House Report was dropped and a specific, judicially formulated test was adopted by the Conference Committee for determining the FOIA status of such entities, the House Report is entitled to little weight in this respect. Manifestly, the Conference elected to embrace a test to be substituted for a listing of the entities to be included; the outcome of the case before us should, accordingly, turn on an examination of Soucie and the sole-function test enunciated in that case.").

49.

CREW, 566 F.3d at 222-23 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Sweetland, 60 F.3d at 854). This test is derived from Soucie decision, discussed supra note 45.

50.

CREW, 566 F.3d at 223 (citing Sierra Club v. Andrus, 581 F.2d 895, 901-02 (D.C. Cir. 1978)).

51.

See id.

52.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) (providing that federal district courts have "jurisdiction to enjoin [agencies] from improperly withholding agency records and to order the production of any agency records improperly withheld") (emphasis added).

53.

Forsham v. Harris, 445 U.S. 169, 178 (1980). FOIA does define "record" (unmodified by "agency"). See 5 U.S.C. § 552(f)(2). However, that definition does not provide insight into the meaning of "agency record." See id. (providing that "record" refers to "(A) any information that would be an agency record subject to the requirements of this section when maintained by an agency in any format, including an electronic format; and (B) any information described under subparagraph (A) that is maintained for an agency by an entity under Government contract, for the purposes of records management").

54.

492 U.S. 136 (1989).

55.

Id. at 144-45 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

56.

Id. at 145.

57.

See id. at 144 (writing that, "[i]n performing their official duties, agencies routinely avail themselves of studies, trade journal reports, and other materials produced outside the agencies both by private and governmental organizations" and that "[t]o restrict the term 'agency records' to materials generated internally would frustrate Congress' desire to put within public reach the information available to an agency in its decision-making processes").

58.

Burka v. HHS, 87 F.3d 508, 515 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (numerical formatting altered).

59.

See Forsham v. Harris, 445 U.S. 169, 186 (1980) (holding, in the context of information generated by a private grantee of federal funds as to which agency had a right to access and obtain custody over, that "FOIA applies to records which have been in fact obtained, and not to records which merely could have been obtained"); cf. Burka, 87 F.3d at 515 (holding that data possessed by third-party were agency records where agency had "constructive control" of the data); but see Bloomberg L.P. v. Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys., 649 F. Supp. 2d 262, 275 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (holding that "[t]he Supreme Court's teachings in Tax Analysts, Forsham, and Kissinger certainly do not compel adoption of the constructive obtainment and control theory, and thus this Court declines to do so under the facts presented here"). Further, the Supreme Court explained in Kissinger v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 445 U.S. 136 (1980), that the fact that materials are physically located in an agency is not sufficient, alone, to render such materials agency records. See id. at 157 ("We simply decline to hold that the physical location of the notes of telephone conversations renders them 'agency records.' The papers were not in the control of the State Department at any time. They were not generated in the State Department. They never entered the State Department's files, and they were not used by the Department for any purpose. If mere physical location of papers and materials could confer status as an 'agency record' Kissinger's personal books, speeches, and all other memorabilia stored in his office would have been agency records subject to disclosure under the FOIA.").

60.

See NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 162 (1975) (writing that FOIA "only requires disclosure of certain documents which the law requires the agency to prepare or which the agency has decided for its own reasons to create"); Kissinger, 445 U.S. at 152 (stating that FOIA "does not obligate agencies to create or retain documents; it only obligates them to provide access to those which it in fact has created and retained").

61.

See Ethyl Corp. v. EPA, 25 F.3d 1241, 1247 (4th Cir. 1994) ("[P]ersonal records of an agency employee are not agency records and are not subject to the FOIA."); DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Procedural Requirements, at 16 (Sept. 4, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Procedural Requirements], https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1199421/download.

62.

Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. at 145 (citing Kissinger, 445 U.S. at 157).

63.

CREW v. DHS, 527 F. Supp. 2d. 76, 88 n.15 (D.D.C. 2007); see DOJ Guide, Procedural Requirements, supra note 61, at 16.

64.

Consumer Fed'n of Am. (CFA) v. USDA, 455 F.3d 283, 288 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks, alterations, and citation omitted).

65.

Id. at 293.

66.

Id. at 288-90.

67.

Id. at 90; see id. at 289 ("As was true of both the daily agendas and the desk calendars in [an earlier case, Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA) v. DOJ, 742 F.2d 1484 (D.C. Cir. 1984)]—and thus insufficient by itself to distinguish between agency and personal records—all six USDA calendars were created by agency employees and were located within the agency . . . ."); id. at 290 ("[E]ven if the USDA calendars never entered USDA's files, that would not decide the question before us. In [BNA], the court found that neither the desk calendars nor the daily agendas were 'placed into agency files.' Nonetheless, the latter were held to be 'agency records.'" (quoting BNA, 742 F.2d at 1494))).

68.

Id. at 288.

69.

Id. at 291. See Edelman v. SEC, 172 F. Supp. 3d 133, 153 (D.D.C. 2016) (explaining that the court found the "distribution" aspect of the "use" factor in CFA and BNA, important because "distribution served as evidence that [the records] 'were created for the purpose of conducting agency business.'" (emphasis omitted) (quoting BNA, 742 F.2d at 1496)).

70.

CFA, 455 F.3d at 293.

71.

Congress was aware of the practice of federal employees conducting government business on private electronic accounts when it passed the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014, Pub. L. No. 113-187, 128 Stat. 2003. That act, in part, prohibits employees of "executive agencies" from "creat[ing] or send[ing] a record using a non-official electronic messaging account unless" they copy their official account when creating or sending the record or "forward[] a complete copy of the record to [their] official electronic messaging account" within twenty days. Id. § 10(a), 128 Stat. at 2014 (codified at 44 U.S.C. § 2911(a)(1)-(2)). An individual's intentional violation of this requirement, "as determined by the appropriate supervisor, shall be a basis for disciplinary action in accordance with subchapter I, II, or V of chapter 75 of title 5, as the case may be." Id. (codified at 44 U.S.C. § 2911(b)).

72.

827 F.3d 145 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

73.

Id. at 146 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

74.

Competitive Enter. Inst. (CEI) v. OSTP, 241 F. Supp. 3d 14, 18 (D.D.C. 2017).

75.

See CEI v. OSTP, 82 F. Supp. 3d 228, 232-34 (D.D.C. 2015), rev'd, 827 F.3d 145; CEI, 827 F.3d at 146-47.

76.

CEI, 82 F. Supp. 3d at 237.

77.

CEI, 827 F.3d at 507.

78.

Id. On remand, the district court held that OSTP was not required to disclose the work-related emails in the director's private email account. CEI, 241 F. Supp. 3d at 21, 24. The court determined that the government had successfully shown that the director had complied with OSTP's policy that employees must forward work-related emails on private accounts to their official OSTP accounts and that, therefore, "any work-related emails in [his private account] are duplicates of emails located in his OSTP account." Id. at 21, 22. "FOIA," the court explained, "does not require agencies to produce duplicate records"; therefore, the government needed only to disclose responsive records contained in the director's official OSTP email account. Id. at 22-23. Further, the court determined that OSTP conducted an adequate search of the director's official email account. Id. at 23, 24 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

79.

See CEI, 827 F.3d at 146 ("[A]n agency cannot shield its records from search or disclosure under FOIA by the expedient of storing them in a private email account controlled by the agency head . . . ."); Claudia Polsky, Open Records, Shuttered Labs: Ending Political Harassment of Public University Researchers, 66 UCLA L. Rev. 208, 271 n.199 (2019) (explaining that the Competitive Enterprise Institute court "held . . . that the federal FOIA can reach private email accounts where those accounts contain agency records") (citing CEI, 827 F.3d at 146).

80.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A). See infra "Request-Driven Disclosure."

81.

5 U.S.C. § 551(2). Cf. Bloomberg L.P. v. Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys., 649 F. Supp. 2d 262, 277 n.12 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (stating that "the only way the FRBNY [Federal Reserve Bank of New York] could qualify as a person is if this Court determined that the FRBNY does not qualify as an agency because FOIA defines 'person' as an 'individual, partnership, corporation, association, or public or private organization other than an agency'" (emphasis omitted) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 551(2))), aff'd, 601 F.3d 143 (2d Cir. 2010).

82.

See, e.g., Judicial Watch of Fla., Inc. v. DOJ, 102 F. Supp. 2d 6, 10 (D.D.C. 2000) (noting 5 U.S.C. § 551(1)'s definition of "person" and explaining that "[a] corporation is a person entitled to make FOIA requests"); Texas v. Interstate Commerce Comm., 935 F.2d 728, 729, 734 (5th Cir. 1991) (denying attorney's fees in action brought by state-requester); Neal-Cooper Grain Co. v. Kissinger, 385 F. Supp. 769, 776 (D.D.C. 1974) ("A foreign government or instrumentality thereof would appear to be a 'public or private organization' within the terms of [FOIA]."). Cf. Tembec, Inc. v. United States, 441 F. Supp. 2d 1302, 1322 (Ct. Int'l Trade 2006) (writing that "[i]n cases litigating [FOIA] requests filed by foreign agencies and sovereigns, courts have generally assumed that such entities are 'persons' within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. § 551"). However, as to foreign governments, FOIA prohibits "element[s] of the intelligence community (as that term is defined in section 3(4) of the National Security Act of 1947)" from disclosing agency records to foreign governmental entities or representatives thereof. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(E) (citation omitted); see All Party Parliamentary Grp. on Extraordinary Rendition v. DOD, 754 F.3d 1047, 1053 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (holding that "FOIA requesters who have authority to file requests on behalf of foreign government entities are 'representatives' of such entities [under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(E)] when they file requests of the sort they have authority to file").

83.

See 5 U.S.C. § 551(2) (defining "person" under the APA as "an individual, partnership, corporation, association, or public or private organization other than an agency") (emphasis added); cf. Ebling v. DOJ, 796 F. Supp. 2d 52, 63 (D.D.C. 2011) ("Congress deliberately conferred the right to make a FOIA request upon 'any person,' a term that is defined broadly to include any individual or organization other than a federal agency" (internal citations omitted) (quoting 5 U.S.C. §§ 551(2), 552(a)(3)(A))).

84.

See, e.g., Doherty v. DOJ, 596 F. Supp. 423, 428 (S.D.N.Y. 1984) (holding that resident alien who entered country under a fraudulent passport was able to request records under FOIA); see also De Laurentiis v. Haig, 528 F. Supp. 601 (E.D. Penn. 1981) (plaintiff in FOIA lawsuit was a foreign citizen residing in country of citizenship). But, under the "fugitive disentitlement doctrine," some courts have rejected FOIA claims asserted by fugitives where there was a sufficient relationship between the individual's status as a fugitive and his FOIA lawsuit. See Maydack v. DOE, 150 F. App'x 136 (3d Cir. 2005) (affirming district court's dismissal of fugitive's FOIA lawsuit under the fugitive disentitlement doctrine); see also Lazaridis v. DOJ, 713 F. Supp. 2d 64, 69, 70 (D.D.C. 2010) (explaining that "[u]nder the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, a court, in its discretion, may dismiss a civil action if the plaintiff is a fugitive, his fugitive status has a connection to the present proceedings, and dismissal 'is necessary to effectuate the concerns underlying the . . . doctrine,'" but denying DOJ's motion to dismiss fugitive's FOIA lawsuit "[i]n the absence of a demonstrable connection between [the requester's] fugitive status and these FOIA proceedings" (ellipses in original) (citations omitted) (quoting Magluta v. Samples, 162 F.3d 662, 664 (11th Cir. 1998))). See DOJ Guide, Procedural Requirements, supra note 61, at 19 & n.90.

85.

See Nat'l Archives & Records Admin. v. Favish, 541 U.S. 157, 170 (2004) ("As a general rule, withholding information under FOIA cannot be predicated on the identity of the requester."); id. at 172 ("[A]s a general rule, when documents are within FOIA's disclosure provisions, citizens should not be required to explain why they seek the information. A person requesting the information needs no preconceived idea of the uses the data might serve. The information belongs to citizens to do with as they choose. Furthermore, as we have noted, the disclosure does not depend on the identity of the requester. As a general rule, if the information is subject to disclosure, it belongs to all."); see also NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 143 n.10 (1975) (explaining that a requester's "rights under [FOIA] are neither increased nor decreased by reason of the fact that it claims an interest in [records] greater than that shared by the average member of the public"). See DOJ Guide, Procedural Requirements, supra note 61, at 21-22.

The identity of a requester does factor, however, in the assessment of fees under FOIA. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii). For information on FOIA fees, see CRS In Focus IF11272, Freedom of Information Act Fees for Government Information, by Meghan M. Stuessy.

86.

Fed. Open Mkt. Comm. of Fed. Reserve Sys. v. Merrill, 443 U.S. 340, 352 (1979) (noting that FOIA "makes available to any person all agency records, which it divides into three categories: [1] some must be currently published in the Federal Register; [2] others must be promptly [published] or made publicly available and indexed; and [3] all others must be promptly furnished on request") (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (third alteration in original).

87.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1)-(2).

88.

Id. § 552(a)(3)(A), 4(B). See supra "'Agency Records'" & "'Any Person.'"

89.

See CREW v. DOJ, 846 F.3d 1235, 1240 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (stating that provision governing agencies' response-driven obligation under FOIA is FOIA's "most familiar provision").

90.

See DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Proactive Disclosures, at 1 (April 11, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Proactive Disclosures], https://www.justice.gov/oip/foia-guide/proactive_disclosures/download.

91.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1); id. § 552(a)(1)(C), (D).

92.

Id. § 552(a)(2); id. § 552(a)(2)(A), (D).

93.

Id. § 552(a)(1).

94.

Ramsey Clark, Attorney General's Memorandum on the Public Information Section of the Administrative Procedure Act (1967), in 20 Admin. L. Rev. 263, 271 (1968) (quoting S. Rep. No. 1219, at 3 (1964)).

95.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1)(A).

96.

Id. § 552(a)(1)(B).

97.

Id. § 552(a)(1)(C).

98.

Id. § 552(a)(1)(D).

99.

Id. § 552(a)(1)(E). See generally DOJ Guide, Proactive Disclosures, supra note 90, at 2.

100.

Id. § 552(a)(1). See S. Rep. No. 813, at 6 (1965) (stating that "[t]he new sanction imposed for failure to publish the matters enumerated in" the Federal Register publication provision "gives added incentive to the agencies to publish the required material"); H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 7 (1966) (writing that the sanction is "[a]n added incentive for agencies to publish necessary details about their official activities in the Federal Register").

101.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1); Emily S. Bremer, American and European Perspectives on Private Standards in Public Law, 91 Tul. L. Rev. 325, 346 (2016) (explaining that, "[i]f an agency does not fulfill the [Federal Register] publication requirement, it will be prevented from enforcing the nonpublished material against any person or entity that did not have actual notice of the material in question"); see Appalachian Power Co. v. Train, 566 F.2d 451, 455-56 (4th Cir. 1977); see also United States v. San Juan Lumber Co., 313 F. Supp. 703, 706-08 (D. Col. 1969) (holding that failure to publish in the Federal Register was not a defense where the defendant had received actual notice of the Federal Trade Commission's resolution authorizing an investigation).

Section 552(a)(1) also states that "matter reasonably available to the class of persons affected thereby is deemed published in the Federal Register when incorporated by reference therein with the approval of the Director of the Federal Register." 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1) (emphasis added). This provision allows agencies to integrate external publications into agency regulations simply by referring to—as opposed to reprinting—the outside material in the Federal Register, as long as the Office of the Federal Register approves of the incorporation and the matter incorporated is "reasonably available." Id. This authorization is intended to effectuate Congress's intent to ensure the Federal Register is "kept down to a manageable size." S. Rep. No. 1219, at 4 (1964); see also S. Rep. No. 813, at 6 (1965) (writing that "there have been few complaints about omission from the Federal Register of necessary official material" and that, "[i]n fact, what complaints there have been have been more on the side of too much publication rather than too little."). For more on incorporation by reference, see Daniel J. Sheffner, Integrating Technical Standards into Federal Regulations: Incorporation by Reference, in 2 The Cambridge Handbook of Technical Standardization Law: Further Intersections of Public and Private Law 108-23 (Jorge Contreras, ed., 2019).

102.

See CREW v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 846 F.3d 1235, 1240 (D.C. Cir. 2017) ("Our precedent makes clear that FOIA's remedial provision . . . governs judicial review of . . . requests for information under section[] 552(a)(1) . . . .") (first ellipses in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 88 F.3d 1191, 1202 (D.C. Cir. 1996)))); Campaign for Accountability v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 278 F. Supp. 3d 303, 307 (D.D.C. 2017) (explaining that "[a] FOIA complaint that seeks judicial review of an agency's withholding of records can allege that the government's withholding violates any one of the statute's . . . disclosure requirements," including the requirement contained in "section[] 552(a)(1)"); see also CREW v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 922 F.3d 480, 486 (D.C. Cir. 2019) ("An agency withholds its records 'improperly' if it fails to comply with one of FOIA's 'mandatory disclosure requirements.'" (quoting U.S. Dep't of Justice v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 150 (1989), and 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B))).

103.

Kennecott, 88 F.3d at 1202-03.

104.

Id. at 1203 (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552(A)(4)(B)) (emphasis in original).

105.

Id.

106.

See supra text accompanying notes 100-101.

107.

Kennecott, 88 F.3d at 1203.

108.

See, e.g., CREW v. DOJ, 922 F.3d 480, 483 (D.C. Cir. 2019). Agencies used to make materials covered by subsection (a)(2) available in physical "reading rooms." Upon enactment of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA Amendments), Pub. L. No. 104-231, 110 Stat. 3048, which required agencies to make subsection (a)(2) materials available "by electronic means," the locations within agency websites housing (a)(2) materials became known as "electronic reading rooms." See Daniel J. Sheffner, Access to Adjudication Materials on Federal Agency Websites, 51 Akron L. Rev. 447, 454-55 (2017); see also DOJ, OIP Guidance: Agency FOIA Websites 2.0 (last updated Nov. 30, 2017) (explaining that the 1996 E-FOIA Amendments "required agencies to use electronic information technology to enhance the public availability of their FOIA 'reading room' records"), https://www.justice.gov/oip/oip-guidance/OIP%20Guidance%3A%20%20Agency%20FOIA%20Websites%202.0. DOJ now refers to such website locations as "FOIA Libraries." See DOJ Guide, Proactive Disclosures, supra note 90, at 6 (explaining that what it now refers to as a "FOIA Library" was "previously referred to as an 'electronic Reading Room'").

109.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2). The provision requires that agencies make covered information available "in accordance with published rules." Id. § 552(a)(2).

110.

Id. § 552(a)(2)(A). This provision provides that "[f]inal opinions" include "concurring and dissenting opinions." Id.

111.

Id. § 552(a)(2)(B).

112.

Id. § 552(a)(2)(C).

113.

Id. § 552(a)(2)(D).

114.

Id. § 552(a)(2)(E). See generally DOJ Guide, Proactive Disclosures, supra note 90, at 2-4. Subsection (a)(2) authorizes agencies to "delete identifying details" from (a)(2) materials in order "to prevent a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." Id. An agency must generally explain its reason for doing so and indicate "the extent of such deletion . . . on the portion of the record which is made available or published." See id. ("[I]n each case the justification for the deletion shall be explained fully in writing, and the extent of such deletion shall be indicated on the portion of the record which is made available or published, unless including that indication would harm an interest protected by the exemption in subsection (b) under which the deletion is made. If technically feasible, the extent of the deletion shall be indicated at the place in the record where the deletion was made.").

115.

H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 7 (1966). In the 1966 act, this provision only governed the disclosure of adjudicative opinions and orders, policy statements and interpretations, and staff manuals and instructions (the first three types of materials listed above). See Pub. L. No. 89-487, 80 Stat. 250, 250-51 (July 4, 1966). The previously-requested-records requirement and the related index requirement pertaining to such records, see 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2)(D)-(E), were added to FOIA in 1996. See E-FOIA Amendments, Pub. L. No. 104-231, § 4, 110 Stat. at 3049. The "requested 3 or more times" prong of § 552(a)(2)(D) was added in 2016. See FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-185, § 2, 130 Stat. 538, 538. See DOJ Guide, Proactive Disclosures, supra note 90, at 4-5.

116.

NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 153 (1975) (alteration in original) (quoting Kenneth Culp Davis, The Information Act: A Preliminary Analysis, 34 U. Chi. L. Rev. 761, 797 (1967)).

117.

See DOJ Guide, Proactive Disclosures, supra note 90, at 6 ("Agencies often accomplish this electronic availability requirement by posting records on their FOIA websites in a designated area known as a 'FOIA Library'. . . ."); see also, e.g., 40 C.F.R. § 2.101(c) ("All records created by [the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)] on or after November 1, 1996, which the FOIA requires an agency to make regularly available for public inspection and copying, will be made available electronically through EPA's website, located at http://www.epa.gov, or, upon request, through other electronic means.").

118.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2) ("Each agency shall . . . maintain and make available for public inspection in an electronic format current indexes providing identifying information for the public as to any matter issued, adopted, or promulgated after July 4, 1967, and required by this paragraph to be made available or published."); see also id. (stating that agencies must "promptly publish. . . and distribute (by sale or otherwise) copies of each index or supplements thereto unless it determines by order published in the Federal Register that the publication would be unnecessary and impracticable, in which case the agency shall nonetheless provide copies of such index on request at a cost not to exceed the direct cost of duplication").

119.

Id.

120.

Id. § 552(a)(1); see supra "Publication in the Federal Register."

121.

See CREW v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 846 F.3d 1235, 1240 (D.C. Cir. 2017) ("Our precedent makes clear that FOIA's remedial provision . . . governs judicial review of . . . requests for information under section[] 552(a). . . (2) . . . .") (first ellipses in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 88 F.3d 1191, 1202 (D.C. Cir. 1996)))).

122.

Compare id. at 124 (holding that "a court has no authority under FOIA to issue an injunction mandating that an agency 'make available for public inspection' documents subject to" § 552(a)(2), but that "nothing in [its precedent] prevents a district court from, consistent with [FOIA's judicial review provision], ordering an agency to provide to the plaintiff documents covered by" § 552(a)(2)) with Animal Legal Def. Fund v. USDA, 935 F.3d 858, 869 (9th Cir. 2019) (holding that FOIA's judicial review "provision cloaks district courts with the authority to order an agency to post records in an online reading room" under § 552(a)(2)).

123.

See supra "Affirmative Disclosure."

124.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A), (a)(4)(B); see CREW v. DOJ, 922 F.3d 480, 484 (D.C. Cir. 2019) ("Unlike its more commonly invoked neighbor—which imposes a 'reactive' duty on agencies[]—the reading-room provision affirmatively obligates agencies to 'make available for public inspection' several categories of documents even absent a specific request." (citation omitted) (quoting CREW v. DOJ, 846 F.3d 1235, 1240 (D.C. Cir. 2017), and 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2))). The meaning of "agency records" under FOIA is discussed above. See supra "'Agency Records.'"

125.

See infra; see generally DOJ Guide, Procedural Requirements, supra note 61.

126.

See infra; see generally DOJ Guide, Procedural Requirements, supra note 61.

127.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A). However, agencies are not required to disclose records covered by one of FOIA's nine exemptions or three exclusions upon receiving a request. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b), (c); see infra "Exemptions" (discussing FOIA's exemptions contained in 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)); "Exclusions" (discussing FOIA's exclusions contained in 5 U.S.C. § 552(c)). And, as indicated above, § 552(a)(3)'s request-based disclosure obligation does not apply to "records made available under" FOIA's affirmative disclosure provisions. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A). FOIA's affirmative disclosure provisions are discussed above. See supra "Affirmative Disclosure."

128.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A)(i).

129.

H.R. Rep. No. 876, at 6 (1974); see Yagman v. Pompeo, 868 F.3d 1075, 1081 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Marks v. United States, 587 F.2d 261, 263 (9th Cir. 1978) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 876, at 6 (1974))) (same). Relatedly, courts have determined that agencies are not compelled to perform "unreasonably burdensome search[es]." Am. Fed'n of Gov't Emp.'s, Local 2782 v. Dep't of Commerce, 907 F.2d 203, 209 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Goland v. CIA 607 F.2d 339, 353 (D.C. Cir. 1978)); see DOJ Guide, Procedural Requirements, supra note 61, at 52 (stating that "courts have held that the FOIA does not require agencies to conduct 'unreasonably burdensome' searches for records").

130.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A)(ii). Many agencies apply special scrutiny to certain sensitive requests that involve review by agency officials or political appointees. See, e.g., Memorandum from Stephen W. Warren, Executive in Charge and Chief Information Officer for Information and Technology, Dep't of Veterans Affairs, to Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and Other Key Officials (Oct. 31, 2013) (declaring that, on a temporary basis, "all responses to FOIA requests by [the Department of Veterans Affairs' central] offices and field components will be reviewed by the designated officials prior to release to the public" for the purpose of making "sensitivity determination[s]").

131.

See Hamdan v. DOJ, 797 F.3d 759, 770 (9th Cir. 2015); Wilbur v. CIA, 355 F.3d 675, 678 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see also Edelman v. SEC, 172 F. Supp. 3d 133, 144 (D.D.C. 2016) ("An agency has an obligation under FOIA to conduct an adequate search for responsive records.").

132.

Hamdan, 797 F.3d at 770 (quotation marks omitted); see Edleman, 172 F. Supp. 3d at 144.

133.

Perry v. Block, 684 F.2d 121, 128 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (per curiam); see also Allen v. U.S. Secret Serv., 335 F. Supp. 2d 95, 99 (D.D.C. 2004) ("While the agency's search must be reasonably calculated to produce the requested information, FOIA does not impose a requirement that every record be found; the issue is not whether any further documents might conceivably exist but rather whether the government's search for responsive documents was adequate.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

134.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(C); cf. id. § 552(a)(3)(B) ("In making any record available to a person under this paragraph, an agency shall provide the record in any form or format requested by the person if the record is readily reproducible by the agency in that form or format.").

135.

DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, FOIA Update: Congress Enacts FOIA Amendments (Jan. 1, 1996), https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/foia-update-congress-enacts-foia-amendments.

136.

See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. DHS, 895 F.3d 770, 774 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (explaining that "[t]o ensure [FOIA's disclosure] mandate did not become a dead letter, Congress," inter alia, "established timetables for agencies to respond to requests" and "provided members of the public whose records requests were denied a right to an administrative appeal"). In addition to the timeframes discussed herein, FOIA also imposes other related requirements on agencies. For example, agencies are required to create a program for assigning and providing to requesters tracking numbers for requests "that will take longer than ten days to process," 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(7), and to develop rules "providing for expedited processing of requests," id. § 552(a)(6)(E). Agencies must also develop regulations governing fees for processing requests, including in regard to "when such fees should be waived or reduced." Id. § 552(a)(4)(A).

137.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i)(I), (III)(aa). An agency must also notify the requester of his or her "right . . . to seek assistance from the FOIA Public Liaison of the agency," as well as "to seek dispute resolution services from the [agency's] FOIA Public Liaison . . . or the Office of Government Information Services." Id. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i)(II)-(III). The twenty-day period does not include Saturdays, Sundays, or public holidays. Id. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i). An agency is authorized to toll this period in certain circumstances. See id. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii)(I) (authorizing agencies to "make one request to the requester for information and toll the 20-day period while it . . . await[s] such information that it has reasonably requested from the requester"); id. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii)(II) (providing that the twenty-day period may be tolled "if necessary to clarify with the requester issues regarding fee assessment").

138.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B)(i). FOIA defines "unusual circumstances" to mean the following—"but only to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular requests":

(I) the need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;

(II) the need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request; or

(III) the need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject-matter interest therein.

Id. § 552(a)(6)(B)(iii).

Relatedly, during litigation challenging an agency's decision to withhold information under FOIA, see infra "FOIA-Related Litigation: Selected Issues," FOIA allows courts to "retain jurisdiction and allow [an] agency additional time to complete its review of [its] records" if "exceptional circumstances exist and . . . the agency is exercising due diligence in responding to the request." 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C)(i) (emphasis added). "Exceptional circumstances" is not a limitless term. FOIA states that the term "does not include a delay that results from a predictable agency workload of requests . . ., unless the agency demonstrates reasonable progress in reducing its backlog of pending requests." Id. § 552(a)(6)(C)(ii). A refusal to reasonably modify a request's scope or processing timeframe is "a factor in determining whether exceptional circumstances exist." Id. § 552(a)(6)(C)(iii). Stays granted under § 552(a)(6)(C) are often called "Open America stays," from the D.C. Circuit's decision in Open America v. Watergate Special Prosecution Force, 547 F.2d 605 (D.C. Cir. 1976). In Open America, the court held that "'exceptional circumstances exist,'" and therefore a stay is warranted under subsection (a)(6)(C), "when an agency . . . is deluged with a volume of requests for information vastly in excess of that anticipated by Congress, when the existing resources are inadequate to deal with the volume of such requests within the time limits of subsection (6)(A), and when the agency can show that it 'is exercising due diligence' in processing the requests." Id. at 616. Open America was decided before subsections (a)(6)(C)(ii) and (ii) were added to FOIA in 1996. See E-FOIA Amendments, Pub. L. 104-231, § 7(c), 110 Stat. at 3051. The legislative history of the E-FOIA Amendments provides that subsection (a)(6)(C)(ii) clarifies "that routine, predictable agency backlogs for FOIA requests do not constitute exceptional circumstances for purposes of" FOIA, and that the provision "is consistent with the holding in Open America." H.R. Rep. No. 795, at 24 (1996); see Democracy Forward Found. v. DOJ, 354 F. Supp. 3d 55, 59 (D.D.C. 2018). Courts have held that "[o]ther circumstances warranting an Open America stay may include an agency's efforts to reduce the number of pending requests, the amount of classified material, [and] the size and complexity of other requests processed by the agency." Clemente v. FBI, 71 F. Supp. 3d 262, 266 (D.D.C. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (alteration in original).

139.

711 F.3d 180 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (Kavanaugh, J.).

140.

Id. at 182-83.

141.

Id. at 188. Cf. Judicial Watch, 895 F.3d at 785 (Pillard, J., concurring) (writing that "FOIA . . . sets a default 20-day deadline for the underlying determination, and simply requires that the ensuing production of records be made to the requester 'promptly' thereafter").

142.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A). Within twenty (or, in the event of unusual circumstances, thirty) days of receiving a proper request, id. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i), (B)(i), an agency must inform the requester of his or her ability to appeal an adverse determination "within a period determined by the head of the agency that is not less than 90 days after the date of such adverse determination," id. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i)(III)(aa).

143.

Id. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii), (B)(i). The same unusual circumstances listed above in relation to initial determinations, see supra note 138, apply in the case of administrative appellate determinations, see id. § 552(a)(6)(B)(i), (iii).

144.

Id. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii).

145.

See infra "FOIA-Related Litigation: Selected Issues."

146.

Oglesby v. Dep't of Army, 920 F.2d 57, 61 (1990).

147.

See Debrew v. Atwood, 792 F.3d 118, 123-24 (D.C. Cir. 2015); Oglesby, 920 F.2d at 61-62. See also DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Litigation Considerations, at 29, 32-33 (Sept. 25, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Litigation Considerations], https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1205066/download.

148.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C)(i) ("Any person making a request to any agency for records under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection shall be deemed to have exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to such request if the agency fails to comply with the applicable time limit provisions of this paragraph."); see DOJ Guide, Litigation Considerations, supra note 147, at 34-35.

149.

See Oglesby, 920 F.2d at 62 ("If the agency has not responded within the statutory time limits, then, under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C), the requester may bring suit.").

150.

See id. at 64 ("The ten-day [now twenty-day] constructive exhaustion under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C) allows immediate recourse to the courts to compel the agency's response to a FOIA request. But once the agency responds to the FOIA request, the requester must exhaust his administrative remedies before seeking judicial review.")

151.

S. Rep. No. 813, at 3 (1965); FBI v. Abramson, 456 U.S. 615, 621 (1982). FOIA's exemptions apply to materials subject to both FOIA's request-driven and affirmative disclosure provisions. See 3 Kristin E. Hickman & Richard J. Pierce, Jr., Administrative Law Treatise § 21.2, at 2185 (6th ed. 2019) [hereinafter 3 Hickman & Pierce, Jr.].

152.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1), (9). In certain circumstances, agencies may issue what is known as a "Glomar response" in response to request for records. Pursuant to the "Glomar doctrine," agencies "may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of records where to answer the FOIA inquiry would cause harm cognizable under a[ ] FOIA" exemption. Wilner v. NSA, 592 F.3d 60, 68 (2d Cir. 2009) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Gardels v. CIA, 689 F.2d 1100, 1103 (D.C. Cir. 1982)). The doctrine "is named for the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a ship used in a classified Central Intelligence Agency project to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean to recover the missiles, codes, and communications equipment onboard for analysis by United States military and intelligence experts." Roth v. DOJ, 642 F.3d 1161, 1171 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Phillippi v. CIA, 655 F.2d 1325, 1327 (D.C. Cir. 1981)). Agencies commonly issue Glomar responses in the national-security context, where acknowledging that certain records do or do not exist "could itself compromise national security." Military Audit Project v. Casey, 656 F.2d 724, 730 (D.C. Cir. 1981).

153.

See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1)-(9); Abramson, 456 U.S. at 621 (remarking that "Congress realized that legitimate governmental and private interests could be harmed by release of certain types of information and provided nine specific exemptions under which disclosure could be refused").

154.

John Doe Agency v. John Doe Corp., 493 U.S. 146, 152 (1989) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 6 (1966)); cf. Richard J. Pierce, Jr., et al., Administrative Law and Process 374 (6th ed. 2014) ("The exemptions are an attempt to balance the benefits of disclosure against the particular disadvantages to the government or the economy if the information were released.").

155.

See Dep't of the Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 372 (1976) (declaring that "the basic purpose of the Freedom of Information Act to open agency action to the light of public scrutiny") (internal quotation marks omitted).

156.

See id. at 361 (stating that FOIA's "exemptions do not obscure the basic policy that disclosure, not secrecy, is the dominant objective of [FOIA]" and that they "must be narrowly construed").

157.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(8)(A)(ii)(II).

158.

Id. § 552(b). See also id. ("The amount of information deleted, and the exemption under which the deletion is made, shall be indicated on the released portion of the record, unless including that indication would harm an interest protected by the exemption . . . under which the deletion is made. If technically feasible, the amount of the information deleted, and the exemption under which the deletion is made, shall be indicated at the place in the record where such deletion is made.").

159.

See FOIA Improvement Act, Pub. L. No. 114-185, 130 Stat. 538 (June 30, 2016).

160.

Id. § 2(1), 130 Stat. at 539 (codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(8)(A)(i)(I)-(II)).

161.

DOJ v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 151 (1989).

162.

830 F.3d 667 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

163.

Id. at 677-78, 679.

164.

Id. at 677.

165.

Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The court explained that "[t]he practical significance of FOIA's command to disclose a responsive record as a unit . . . depends on how one conceives of a 'record.'" Id. at 678. The court wrote, however, that FOIA does not contain a definition of that term, and it did not supply a definition of its own. Id. ("[T]he parties have not addressed the antecedent question of what constitutes a distinct 'record' for FOIA purposes, and we have no cause to examine the issue. Rather, for purposes of this case, we simply take as a given [the agency's] own understanding of what constitutes a responsive 'record,' as indicated by its disclosures in response to [the subject] request"); id. ("Although FOIA includes a definitions section, [5 U.S.C.] § 551, that section provides no definition of the term 'record.' Elsewhere, the statute describes the term 'record' as 'includ[ing] any information that would be an agency record . . . when maintained by an agency in any format, including an electronic format,' id. § 552(f), but that description provides little help in understanding what is a 'record' in the first place.") (second alteration and ellipses in original). The court explained that, in the absence of a definition, "agencies instead in effect define a 'record' when they undertake the process of identifying records that are responsive to a request." Id. Others disagree that FOIA does not define "record." See, e.g., DOJ Guide, Procedural Requirements, supra note 61, at 11 ("As a result of the 1996 amendments to the FOIA, Congress included a definition of the term 'records' in the FOIA, defining it as including 'any information that would be an agency record . . . when maintained by an agency in any format, including an electronic format.'" (ellipses in original) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552(f)(2)(A))).

166.

See DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Waiver and Discretionary Disclosure, at 15-16 (Aug. 28, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Waiver and Discretionary Disclosure], https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1198006/download. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3)(A)(i).

167.

See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3). Exemption 3 is discussed below. See infra "Exemption 3: Matters Exempted by Other Statutes."

168.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4). Exemption 4 is discussed below. See infra "Exemption 4: Trade Secrets and Commercial or Financial Information."

169.

18 U.S.C. § 1905.

170.

Id.

171.

See Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 291-94, 318-19 (1979). Courts have recognized that "the scope of the [TSA] is at least co-extensive with that of Exemption 4." CNA Fin. Corp. v. Donovan, 830 F.2d 1132, 1144 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Some commentators, however, have expressed skepticism over whether this view remains true given the Supreme Court's recent interpretation of Exemption 4's scope in Food Marketing Institute (FMI) v. Argus Leader Media, 139 S. Ct. 2356 (2019). See, e.g., Bernard Bell, Food Marketing Institute: A Preliminary Assessment (Part II), Notice & Comment: Yale J. on Reg. (July 8, 2019), https://www.yalejreg.com/nc/food-marketing-institute-a-preliminary-assessment-part-ii/.

172.

Cf. NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214, 221 (1978) ("Unless the requested material falls within one of these nine statutory exemptions, FOIA requires that records and material in the possession of federal agencies be made available on demand to any member of the general public.").

173.

Davis v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 968 F.2d 1276, 1279 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). See also NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 161 (1975) ("W]e hold that if an agency chooses expressly to adopt or incorporate by reference an intra-agency memorandum previously covered by Exemption 5 in what would otherwise be a final opinion, that memorandum may be withheld only on the ground that it falls within the coverage of some exemption other than Exemption 5."); Shell Oil Co. v. IRS, 772 F. Supp. 202, 209 (D. Del. 1991) ("Where an authorized disclosure is voluntarily made to a non-federal party . . . the government waives any claim that the information is exempt from disclosure under the deliberative process privilege [of FOIA's Exemption 5].").

174.

See, e.g., Fla. House of Representatives v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, 961 F.2d 941, 946 (11th Cir. 1992) (holding that the agency's disclosure of information to Congress did not constitute a waiver because the agency did so "only under the threat of Congress's power of subpoena" and, therefore, the "disclosure was involuntary"); Murphy v. Dep't of Army, 613 F.2d 1151, 1156 (D.C. Cir. 1979) ("[W]e conclude that, to the extent that Congress has reserved to itself in [5 U.S.C. § 552(d)] the right to receive information not available to the general public, and actually does receive such information pursuant to that section (whether in the form of documents or otherwise), no waiver occurs of the privileges and exemptions which are available to the executive branch under the FOIA with respect to the public at large."); see also Rockwell Int'l Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 235 F.3d 598, 604 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (acknowledging "that communications between an agency and Congress would receive protection as intra-agency memoranda [under Exemption 5] if they were 'part and parcel of the agency's deliberative process'" (quoting Dow Jones & Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 917 F.2d 571, 575 (D.C. Cir. 1990)); DOJ Guide, Waiver and Discretionary Disclosure, supra note 166, at 10 ("When an agency shares information with Congress, without making an official disclosure of the information to the public, courts have ruled that this exchange of information does not result in waiver."); but see, e.g., Dow Jones, 917 F.2d at 575 (explaining that, "[i]n the case at bar, [DOJ] had unquestionably ended its consideration as to whether to prosecute, or in any other way proceed against, [a Member of Congress] before it sent the letter to Congress" and, "[f]or that reason, we do not think that [DOJ's] letter to the House Ethics Committee can be withheld under Exemption 5.").

175.

DOJ Guide, Waiver and Discretionary Disclosure, supra note 166, at 1.

176.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1).

177.

Id.

178.

See Clark, supra note 94, at 298 (citing 112 Cong. Rec. 13022 (June 20, 1966) (Statement of Representative Robert Dole)); id. (citing 112 Cong. Rec. 13008 (June 20, 1966) (Statement of Representative John Moss)); Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing S. 1160 (July 4, 1966).

179.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1).

180.

DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exemption 1, at 3 (Aug. 21, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Exemption 1], https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1197091/download.

181.

See, e.g., Exec. Order No. 13,526 §§ 1.4, 1.6, 3 C.F.R. 298 (2010); id. § 1.4(a), (e), (f). Although Exemption 1 only applies to information that has been classified pursuant to an applicable executive order, Executive Order No. 13,526 specifically authorizes agencies to classify or reclassify, as the case may be, previously undisclosed information upon receipt of a FOIA request. Id. § 1.7(d). Such classifications and reclassifications must be made "on a document-by-document basis with the personal participation or under the direction of the agency head" or other senior executive branch official specified in the executive order and comply with the executive order's requirements. Id.

182.

See Shoenman v. FBI, 575 F. Supp. 2d 136, 151-52 (D.D.C. 2008) ("To show that it has properly withheld information under FOIA Exemption 1, the [agency] must show both that the information was classified pursuant to the proper procedures, and that the withheld information substantively falls within the scope of [the governing executive order]."); H.R. Rep. No. 1380, at 11-12 (1974) (Conf. Rep.); S. Rep. No. 1200, at 11-12 (1974) (Conf. Rep.); see also DOJ Guide, Exemption 1, supra note 180, at 1-2.

183.

Dep't of Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 370 (1976); cf. id. at 369 (discussing that, as opposed to the case summaries of Air Force Academy honor and ethics proceedings at issue in that case, "Exemption 2 is not applicable to matters subject to such a genuine and significant public interest"). In Vaughn v. Rosen, 523 F.2d 1136 (D.C. Cir. 1973), quoted in Rose, 425 U.S. at 365, the D.C. Circuit declared that "the [1965] Senate Report" underlying FOIA "indicates that the line sought to be drawn [in Exemption 2] is one between minor or trivial matters"—which are covered by the exemption—"and those more substantial matters which might be the subject of legitimate public interest." 521 F.3d at 1142.

184.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2).

185.

Milner v. Dep't of Navy, 562 U.S. 562, 570 (2011). See also id. at 581 (holding that "Exemption 2, consistent with the plain meaning of the term 'personnel rules and practices,' encompasses only records relating to issues of employee relations and human resources").

186.

Id. at 570.

187.

Id. at 570 n.4 (defining the "related solely" element of Exemption 2).

188.

Id. (defining the "internal" element of Exemption 2).

189.

Milner, 562 U.S. at 567 (explaining that many courts embraced a bifurcated reading of Exemption 2 that protected both "materials concerning human resources and employee relations, and . . . records whose disclosure would risk circumvention of the law"); Crooker v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, 670 F.2d 1051, 1074 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (en banc) (holding "that if a document for which disclosure is sought meets the test of 'predominant internality,' and if disclosure significantly risks circumvention of agency regulations or statutes, then Exemption 2 exempts the material from mandatory disclosure"), abrogated by Milner, 562 U.S. 562. The first category of information was protected by what courts referred to as the "Low 2" component of Exemption 2. See Milner, 562 U.S. at 567 (explaining that "the 'Low 2' exemption" referred to "materials concerning human resources and employee relations"); see also Schiller v. NLRB, 964 F.2d 1205, 1207 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (explaining that "[p]redominantly internal documents that deal with trivial administrative matters fall under the 'low 2' exemption"), abrogated by Milner, 562 U.S. 562. The second was protected by the exemption's so-called High 2 component. See Milner, 562 U.S. at 567; see also Schiller, 964 F.2d at 1207 ("Predominantly internal documents the disclosure of which would risk circumvention of agency statutes and regulations are protected by the so-called 'high 2' exemption."), abrogated by Milner, 562 U.S. 562. See DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exemption 2, at 4-5 (May 7, 2019) https://www.justice.gov/oip/foia-guide/exemption_2/download.

190.

Milner, 562 U.S. at 581 (holding that "Exemption 2, consistent with the plain meaning of the term 'personnel rules and practices,' encompasses only records relating to issues of employee relations and human resources").

191.

Id. at 573 (declaring that "[t]he High 2 test ignores the plain meaning of the adjective 'personnel,' and adopts a circumvention requirement with no basis or referent in Exemption 2's language," and stating that "High 2 is better labeled 'Non 2' (and Low 2 . . . just 2)").

192.

See Stuessy, supra note 25, at 18.

193.

Exemptions 8 and 9 are discussed below. See infra "Exemption 8: Financial Institution Reports" & "Exemption 9: Geological and Geophysical Information and Data Concerning Wells."

194.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3); cf. H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 10 (1966) (writing in regard to the first iteration of Exemption 3 that "[t]here are nearly 100 statutes or parts of statutes which restrict public access to specific Government records. These would not be modified by [FOIA]."). The exemption explicitly states that the Sunshine Act is not an Exemption 3 statute. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3).

195.

Cf. Goland v. CIA, 607 F.2d 339, 350 (D.C. Cir. 1978) ("[T]he sole issue for decision is the existence of a relevant statute and the inclusion of withheld material within that statute's coverage.").

196.

See 8 U.S.C. § 1202(f); see also Medina-Hincapie v. Dep't of State, 700 F.2d 737, 741 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (holding that § 1202(f) is an Exemption 3 withholding statute).

197.

See 42 U.S.C. § 1396r-8(b)(3)(D).

198.

See 35 U.S.C. § 122(a); see also Irons & Sears v. Dann, 606 F.2d 1215, 1220-21 (D.C. Cir. 1979) (holding that § 122 is an Exemption 3 withholding statute).

199.

See 26 U.S.C. § 6103(a); see also Adamowicz v. IRS, 402 F. App'x 648, 652 (2d Cir. 2010) (holding information exempt under Exemption 3 and § 6103(a)).

200.

H.R. Rep. No. 1441, at 14 (1976) (Conf. Rep.).

201.

Am. Jewish Cong. v. Kreps, 574 F.2d 624, 628 (D.C. Cir. 1978). The conference report underlying the 1976 amendments to FOIA, which imposed the limitations to Exemption 3 discussed in this paragraph, see infra text accompanying notes 202-207, explained that the limitations were a response to the Supreme Court's decision in Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) v. Robertson, 422 U.S. 255 (1975). See H.R. Rep. No. 1441, at 14 (1976) (Conf. Rep.). Section 1104 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 provided that the FAA Administrator shall withhold certain information where, in the Administrator's opinion, disclosure "would adversely affect the interests of" a person objecting to its disclosure and would not be "required in the interest of the public." 49 U.S.C. § 1504 (1976) (quoted in Robertson, 422 U.S. at 258 n.4 (emphasis added)). The Robertson Court held that Section 1104, with its broad grant of authority to the FAA Administrator to determine whether disclosure was in the public interest, was a withholding statute under Exemption 3. See 422 U.S. at 266-67. The subsequent 1976 amendment to Exemption 3 was "intend[ed] . . . to overrule the decision of the Supreme Court in . . . Robertson," H.R. Rep. No. 1441, at 14 (1976) (Conf. Rep.), and "exclude from its compass laws . . . which Congress perceived as giving the agency carte blanche to withhold any information [it] pleases," Kreps, 574 F.2d at 628 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 880, pt. I, at 23 (1976)).

202.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3)(A)(i).

203.

Id. § 552(b)(3)(A)(ii). For examples of statutes courts have found qualify under this category, see DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exemption 3, at 15-26 (Aug. 20, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Exemption 3], https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1197096/download.

204.

Kreps, 574 F.2d at 628 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see Baldrige v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345, 352 (1982) (explaining that the first disjunctive prong requires that a "statute afford[] the agency no discretion on disclosure").

205.

Kreps, 574 F.2d at 628; cf. Irons & Sears v. Dann, 606 F.2d 1215, 1220 (D.C. Cir. 1979) (writing that "the mere presence of some residual administrative discretion does not take [the statute under review] out of Exemption 3").

206.

Legal & Safety Emplr. Research Inc. v. Dep't of the Army, No. S-00-1748 WBS/JFM, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26278, at *10 (E.D. Cal. May 7, 2001) (explaining that "[t]o satisfy subsection [(A)(ii)], a statute must limit agency discretion to a particular item or class of items, or it must limit agency discretion by prescribing guidelines for the exercise of that discretion") (citing Long v. IRS, 742 F.2d 1173, 1178 (9th Cir. 1984)); see also 2 O'Reilly, supra note 25, § 13:1, at 350-51 (writing that Exemption 3 "applies to information which is required by statute to be held in confidence; is permitted to be held in confidence by particular statutory criteria; or is permitted to be withheld by the agency upon a statutory reference to one particularly type of information") (emphasis omitted). One court has explained that Exemption 3's second category applies to statutes that "provide a measurable yardstick for [agencies] to use in determining whether disclosure is permissible." Nat'l Western Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 512 F. Supp. 454, 459 (N.D. Tex. 1980). For examples of statutes courts have found qualify under the second category of Exemption 3 statutes, see DOJ Guide, Exemption 3, supra note 203, at 26-44.

207.

Cf. CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159, 167 (1985). Therefore, a court's inquiry under Exemption 3 requires that it determine both that a given statute qualifies as an Exemption 3 withholding statute and that the records that have been requested are protected by the statute. See id.; see also A. Michael's Piano, Inc. v. FTC, 18 F.3d 138, 143 (D.C. Cir. 1994) ("The two threshold criteria needed to obtain exemption 3 exclusion from public disclosure are that (1) the statute invoked qualifies as an exemption 3 withholding statute, and (2) the materials withheld fall within that statute's scope.").

208.

Pub. L. No. 111-83, 123 Stat. 2184 (2009).

209.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3)(B) (providing that Exemption 3 only applies to a statute "enacted after the date of enactment of the OPEN FOIA Act of 2009" if it "specifically cites to this paragraph").

210.

See, e.g., Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund v. BATFE, No. 18-cv-2296 (AJN), 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140108, at *25 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 19, 2019); Long v. ICE, 149 F. Supp. 3d 39, 54 (D.D.C. 2015) (holding that the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014, Pub. L. No. 113-283, 128 Stat. 3073 was not a withholding statute under Exemption 3 because, inter alia, it failed to cite to Exemption 3 despite the fact that it "was enacted after the OPEN FOIA Act of 2009").

211.

See, e.g., McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Dep't of the Air Force, 375 F.3d 1182, 1185 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

212.

See, e.g., M/A-Com Inf. Sys. v. HHS, 656 F. Supp. 691, 692 (D.D.C. 1986).

213.

See 21 U.S.C. § 355.

214.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4).

215.

Pub. Citizen Health Research Grp. v. FDA, 704 F.2d 1280, 1289 (D.C. Cir. 1983); accord Anderson v. HHS, 907 F.2d 936, 943-44 (10th Cir. 1990). In Public Citizen Health Research Group, the D.C. Circuit rejected the argument that FOIA adopted the Restatement (First) of Torts' definition of "trade secret." 704 F.2d at 1288. That definition provides that "[a] trade secret may consist of any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one's business, and which gives him an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it." Restatement (First) of Torts § 757 cmt. b (1939). The court held that "the broad Restatement approach . . . [is] inconsistent with the language of the FOIA and its underlying policies" because (1) FOIA's legislative history offers no evidence in support of such an expansive definition, (2) the definition contained in the Restatement "renders meaningless the second prong of Exemption 4," and (3) the Restatement's definition "is ill-suited for the public law context in which FOIA determinations must be made." Pub. Citizen Health Research Grp., 704 F.2d at 1288-89. Accordingly, the court's basis for finding that the Restatement's definition of "trade secret" would leave the "commercial or financial information" prong of Exemption 4 meaningless was at least partially based on the fact that the term "confidential" under Exemption 4 included, under the test then in use by the D.C. Circuit, information whose disclosure was "likely . . . to cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom [] information was obtained." Nat'l Parks & Conserv. Ass'n v. Morton, 498 F.2d 765, 770 (D.C. Cir. 1974). It is worth noting that, as discussed below, the Supreme Court subsequently rejected that definition of "confidential" for Exemption 4 in FMI v. Argus Leader Media, 139 S. Ct. 2356 (2019). See infra text accompanying notes 223-225.

216.

Appleton v. FDA, 451 F. Supp. 2d 129, 141 (D.D.C. 2006).

217.

Rozema v. HHS, 167 F. Supp. 3d 324, 328, 340-41 (N.D.N.Y. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

218.

DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exemption 4, at 4 (Oct. 9, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Exemption 4], https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1207891/download ("The overwhelming majority of Exemption 4 cases focus on this standard.").

219.

Courts have accorded "the terms 'commercial' and 'financial' in the exemption . . . their ordinary meanings." Pub. Citizen Health Research Grp., 704 F.2d at 1290; see, e.g., Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep't of Treasury, 802 F. Supp. 2d 185, 204 (D.D.C. 2011) ("'Commercial' is defined broadly to include 'records that reveal basic commercial operations or relate to income-producing aspects of a business' as well as situations where the 'provider of the information has a commercial interest in the information submitted to the agency.'" (quoting Baker & Hostetler, LLP v. Dep't of Commerce, 473 F.3d 312, 319, 374 (D.C. Cir. 2006))).

220.

See 5 U.S.C. § 551(2) (defining the word "person" to "include[] an individual, partnership, corporation, association, or public or private organization other than an agency").

221.

Id. § 552(b)(4); Pub. Citizen Health Research Grp., 704 F.2d at 1290 ("Information other than trade secrets falls within the second prong of the exemption if it is shown to be (1) commercial or financial, (2) obtained from a person, and (3) privileged or confidential.").

Though the term "confidential" has been subject to considerable litigation, considerably less litigation has focused on the meaning of "privileged" in Exemption 4. Cf. Jordan v. Dep't of Labor, 273 F. Supp. 3d 214, 231 (D.D.C. 2017) (noting that "case law examining privilege under Exemption 4 is sparse") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The district court in Jordan explained that "'[p]rivileged' information" for purposes of Exemption 4 "is generally understood to be information that falls within recognized constitutional, statutory, or common law privileges." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Courts, for example, have held that commercial or financial records were exempt under Exemption 4 on account of their protection under the attorney-client privilege. See e.g., id. at 231-32; McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. EEOC, 922 F. Supp. 235, 242 (E.D. Mo. 1996). FOIA's legislative history explicitly mentions the attorney-client privilege and other privileges in relation to Exemption 4. See, e.g., H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 31 (1966) (stating that Exemption 4 embraces "information customarily subject to the doctor-patient, lawyer-client, or lender borrower privileges such as technical or financial data submitted by an applicant to a Government lending or loan guarantee agency"); accord S. Rep. No. 813, at 44 (1965). Claims that a record is protected by the attorney-client privilege in the context of communications with a federal government attorney may implicate Exemption 5. See infra "Exemption 5: Inter- or Intra-Agency Memoranda or Letters."

222.

See DOJ Guide, Exemption 4, supra note 218, at 13.

223.

498 F.2d at 770 (footnote omitted). In Critical Mass Energy Project v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 975 F.2d 871 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (en banc), the D.C. Circuit had limited the National Parks test to situations in which entities were obligated to provide commercial or financial information to an agency, id. at 879. If a submitter had voluntarily provided the government with financial or commercial information, the Critical Mass court held that such information "is 'confidential' . . . if it is of a kind that would customarily not be released to the public by the person from whom it was obtained." Id. at 879. Critical Mass was not widely accepted outside of the D.C. Circuit. See Pet. for a Writ of Certiorari at 28, FMI v. Argus Media Leader, No. 18-481 (Oct. 2018) (asserting that, "[t]o date, the voluntary/involuntary Critical Mass test has been adopted by the D.C. and Tenth Circuits").

224.

See, e.g., Charles River Park "A," Inc. v. Dep't of Housing & Urban Dev., 519 F.2d 935, 941 n.4 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (writing that "the National Parks test for confidentiality looks in one instance to the effect of disclosure on the provider of the information").

225.

139 S. Ct. 2356, 2363-66 (2019); see id. at 2367 (Breyer, J., dissenting). As discussed below, see infra "Reverse-FOIA Litigation," the definition of "confidential commercial information" in Executive Order 12,600, which governs agencies' general requirement to notify submitters of information before disclosing certain commercial or confidential information in response to a FOIA response, conflicts with the Supreme Court's definition of "confidential" in FMI. The executive order defines "confidential commercial information" as "records provided to the government by a submitter that arguably contain material exempt from release under Exemption 4 . . . because disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause substantial competitive harm." Exec. Order No. 12,600, § 2(a) (Jan. 1, 1987).

226.

See CRS Legal Sidebar LSB10294, When Does the Government Have to Disclose Private Business Information in its Possession?, by Daniel J. Sheffner, at 1.

227.

FMI, 139 S. Ct. at 2363 ("Contemporary dictionaries [from the time of FOIA's enactment] suggest two conditions that might be required for information communicated to another to be considered confidential. In one sense, information communicated to another remains confidential whenever it is customarily kept private, or at least closely held, by the person imparting it. In another sense, information might be considered confidential only if the party receiving it provides some assurance that it will remain secret.") (citations omitted); id. (explaining that "[a]t least the first condition has to be" present for information to qualify as confidential under Exemption 4, but that it was not necessary to determine whether "privately held information [may] lose its confidential character for purposes of Exemption 4 if it's communicated to the government without assurances that the government will keep it private," because that condition had been satisfied in the case).

228.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5). As discussed below, infra text accompanying note 247, Exemption 5 also provides that the deliberative process privilege—a discovery privilege incorporated by Exemption 5—does "not apply to records created 25 years or more before the date on which the records were requested." 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5).

229.

H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 10 (1966) ("Agency witnesses argued that a full and frank exchange of opinions would be impossible if all internal communications were made public. They contended, and with merit, that advice from staff assistants and the exchange of ideas among agency personnel would not be completely frank if they were forced to 'operate in a fishbowl.' Moreover, a Government agency cannot always operate effectively if it is required to disclose documents or information which it has received or generated before it completes the process of awarding a contract or issuing an order, decision or regulation."); accord S. Rep. No. 813, at 9 (1965).

230.

Dep't of Interior v. Klamath Water Users Protective Ass'n, 532 U.S. 1, 8-9 (2001). In this context, a privilege is a protection from required disclosure that is afforded to information or materials under certain circumstances. See, e.g., Privileged, Black's Law Dictionary 598 (4th pkt. ed. 2011) (defining "privileged" as, inter alia, "[n]ot subject to the usual rules or liabilities; esp., not subject to disclosure during the course of a lawsuit").

231.

See Klamath, 532 U.S. at 9; 5 U.S.C. §§ 551(1), 552(f)(1). See also supra "'Agency.'"

232.

Klamath, 532 U.S. at 9-10. See, e.g., McKinley v. Bd. of Governors of Fed. Reserve Sys., 647 F.3d 331, 336 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (explaining that "[u]nder the 'consultant corollary' to Exemption 5 . . . we interpret 'intra-agency' 'to include agency records containing comments solicited from nongovernmental parties'" (quoting Nat'l Inst. of Military Justice v. DOD, 512 F.3d 677, 680, 682 (D.C. Cir. 2008))).

233.

Klamath, 532 U.S. at 13 & n.4. The Klamath Court considered whether the exemption applied to the communications at issue "on analogy to consultants' reports." Id. at 12. The Court assumed, but did not decide, the existence of such a corollary. Id. & n.4.

234.

FTC v. Grolier, Inc., 462 U.S. 19, 26 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord Klamath, 532 U.S. at 8; EPA v. Mink, 410 U.S. 73, 86 (1973) (Exemption 5 "clearly contemplates that the public is entitled to all such memoranda or letters that a private party could discover in litigation with the agency.").

235.

Cf. NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 148 (1975) ("[I]t is reasonable to construe Exemption 5 to exempt those documents, and only those documents, normally privileged in the civil discovery context."). In DOJ v. Julian, 486 U.S. 1 (1988), the Supreme Court held that Exemption 5 did not authorize the withholding of presentence investigation reports in response to requests made by the subjects of such reports, for while "the courts have typically required some showing of special need before they will allow a third party to obtain a copy of a presentence report," the Court explained that "there is simply no privilege preventing disclosure" of such reports to the subjects thereof, id. at 12-15.

236.

Grolier, 462 U.S. at 27; DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exemption 5, at 2 (Aug. 26, 2019), https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1197816/download.

237.

Renegotiation Bd. v. Grumman Aircraft Eng'g Corp., 421 U.S. 168, 184 (1975).

238.

United States v. Weber Aircraft Corp., 465 U.S. 792, 800 (1984) (explaining that the Court in Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve System v. Merrill, 443 U.S. 340 (1979), held "that a privilege that was mentioned in the legislative history of Exemption 5 is incorporated by the Exemption —not that all privileges not mentioned are excluded").

239.

Id. at 801; see 3 Hickman & Pierce, Jr., supra note 151, § 21.11, at 2219 (explaining that the Weber "Court noted that exemption five is more likely to be held to incorporate 'well-settled' privileges than to incorporate privileges that are 'novel' or that have 'found less than universal acceptance'").

240.

Sears, 421 U.S. at 149 (citing Mink, 410 U.S. at 86-87). For a discussion of executive privilege in the context of congressional oversight, see CRS Report R45653, Congressional Subpoenas: Enforcing Executive Branch Compliance, by Todd Garvey, at 20-25.

241.

Klamath, 532 U.S. at 8 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Sears, 421 U.S. at 150)).

242.

See Sears, 421 U.S. at 151.

243.

See Pub. Citizen v. OMB, 598 F.3d 865, 874 (D.C. Cir. 2009).

244.

Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

245.

See Mead Data Cent., Inc. v. Dep't of Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 256 (D.C. Cir. 1977) (acknowledging that "[m]any exemption five disputes may be able to be decided by application of the simple test that factual material must be disclosed but advisory material, containing opinions and recommendations, may be withheld"); but see, e.g., Wolfe v. HHS, 839 F.2d 768, 774 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (writing that, "[i]n some circumstances, even material that could be characterized as 'factual' would so expose the deliberative process that it must be covered by the privilege"); City of Va. Beach v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, 995 F.2d 1247, 1253 (4th Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) ("[P]urely factual material does not fall within the exemption unless it is inextricably intertwined with policymaking processes such that revelation of the factual material would simultaneously expose protected deliberation.").

246.

Pub. L. No. 114-185, 130 Stat. 538 (June 30, 2016).

247.

Id. § 2(2), 130 Stat. at 540 (codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5)).

248.

See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. DOJ, 365 F.3d 1108, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

249.

Nixon v. Adm'r of Gen. Servs. 433 U.S. 425, 449 (1977) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

250.

In re Sealed Case (Espy), 121 F.3d 729, 757 (D.C. Cir. 1997).

251.

Id.

252.

Judicial Watch, 365 F.3d at 1113-14 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Espy, 121 F.3d at 745).

253.

NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 154 (1975) (writing that "[t]he Senate Report [underlying FOIA] states that Exemption 5 'would include . . . documents which would come within the attorney-client privilege if applied to private parties'" (quoting S. Rep. No. 813, at 2 (1965))).

254.

Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers § 68 (numerical formatting omitted). The Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers defines "privileged persons" as the client or prospective client; the client's attorney; "agents of [the client or attorney] who facilitate communications between them"; and "agents of the lawyer who facilitate the representation." Id. § 70.

255.

Tax Analysts v. IRS, 117 F.3d 607, 618 (D.C. Cir. 1997); see also Confidentiality of the Attorney General's Communications in Counseling the President, 6 Op. O.L.C. 481, 495 (1982) ("Although the attorney-client privilege traditionally has been recognized in the context of private attorney-client relationships, the privilege also functions to protect communications between government attorneys and client agencies or departments, as evidenced by its inclusion in the FOIA, much as it operates to protect attorney-client communications in the private sector.").

256.

Nat'l Council of La Raza v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 411 F.3d 350, 360 (2d Cir. 2005).

257.

Tax Analysts, 117 F.3d at 620 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3)); Pierce, Jr., et al., supra note 154, at 389. Courts have held that records produced in anticipation of administrative litigation are embraced by the privilege. See Schoenman v. FBI, 573 F. Supp. 2d 119, 143 (D.D.C. 2008) ("[C]ourts have found that the attorney work-product privilege extends to documents prepared in anticipation of administrative litigation, partially because 'administrative litigation certainly can beget court litigation and may in many circumstances be expected to do so.'" (quoting Exxon Corp. v. Dep't of Energy, 585 F. Supp. 690, 700 (D.D.C. 1983))).

258.

See Coastal States Gas Corp. v. Dep't of Energy, 617 F.2d 854, 864 (D.C. Cir. 1980) ("The purpose of the privilege . . . is . . . to protect the adversary trial process itself. It is believed that the integrity of our system would suffer if adversaries were entitled to probe each other's thoughts and plans concerning the case."); Jeff A. Anderson et al., The Work Product Doctrine, 68 Cornell L. Rev. 760, 787 (1983) (stating that "the doctrine's central purpose" is the preservation of an "effective adversary behavior for the good of the system").

259.

462 U.S. 19, 26-28 (1983).

260.

See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3).

261.

Grolier, 462 U.S. at 25-26.

262.

Id. at 26-27 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Renegotiation Bd. v. Grunman Aircraft Eng'g Corp., 421 U.S. 168, 184 (1975)).

263.

The privilege is named after the D.C. Circuit's decision in Machin v. Zuckert, 316 F.2d 336 (D.C. Cir. 1963).

264.

United States v. Weber Aircraft Corp., 465 U.S. 792, 796, 799 (1984).

265.

Fed. Open Mkt. Comm. of Fed. Reserve Sys. v. Merrill, 443 U.S. 340, 360 (1979). Confidential commercial information submitted to the federal government by individuals or entities from outside the federal government, however, is the subject of Exemption 4. See supra "Exemption 4: Trade Secrets and Commercial or Financial Information."

266.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6). Exemption 7(C) also exempts certain information in order to protect individuals from unwarranted intrusions into their privacy. See id. § 552(b)(7)(C). As explained infra, "Exemption 7: Law Enforcement Records or Information," Exemption 7's privacy protections are broader than Exemption 6's, although it is limited to "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes," 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7).

Some records covered by Exemptions 6 or 7(C) may also be fall under the ambit of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. The interplay between FOIA and the Privacy Act is discussed below. See infra "Related Open Government and Information Laws: FACA, the Sunshine Act, and the Privacy Act."

267.

See, e.g., Joseph W. Diemert, Jr. & Assoc. Co. v. FAA, 218 F. App'x 479 (6th Cir. 2007) (workers compensation records possessed by the Federal Aviation Administration).

268.

See, e.g., DOJ v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749 (1989) (FBI "rap sheet" on private individual).

269.

See, e.g., DOD v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. 487 (1994) (home addresses of certain Department of Defense employees).

270.

See, e.g., Coleman v. Lappin, 680 F. Supp. 2d 192 (D.D.C. 2010) (social security numbers of Bureau of Prisons employees).

271.

See S. Rep. No. 813, at 9 (1965) (stating that "[s]uch agencies as the Veterans' Administration, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Selective Service, etc., have great quantifies of files" and that "[t]here is a consensus that these files should not be opened to the public"); accord H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 11 (1966).

272.

Dep't of State v. Wash. Post. Co., 456 U.S. 595, 599 (1982).

273.

See, e.g., Dep't of State v. Ray, 502 U.S. 164, 179 (1991) (holding that disclosure of unredacted documents containing identifying information of Haitian citizens would violate Exemption 6).

274.

See, e.g., Nat'l Parks & Conservation Ass'n v. Kleppe, 547 F.2d 673, 685 n.44 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (noting that "[t]he sixth exemption has not been extended to protect the privacy interests of businesses or corporations"). In FCC v. AT&T, 562 U.S. 397 (2011), the Supreme Court held that Exemption 7(C)'s protection of "personal privacy" did not apply to corporations. Id. at 409-10. In support of this conclusion, the Court discussed the inclusion of that term in Exemption 6 and explained that while "the question whether Exemption 6 is limited to individuals has not come to us directly, we have regularly referred to that exemption as involving an 'individual's right of privacy.'" Id. at 407-08 (quoting Ray, 502 U.S. at 175). That said, the D.C. Circuit has held that "Exemption 6 applies to financial information in business records when the business is individually owned or closely held, and 'the records would necessarily reveal at least a portion of the owner's personal finances.'" Multi AG Media LLC v. USDA, 515 F.3d 1224, 1228-29 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Kleppe, 547 F.2d at 685).

275.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6); see DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exemption 6, at 4 (Oct. 4, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Exemption 6], https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1207336/download.

276.

Wood v. FBI, 432 F.3d 78, 86 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Wash. Post. Co., 456 U.S. at 600); see also Dep't of Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 377 (1976) (explaining that the requested case summaries of Air Force Academy honor and ethics code hearings did "not contain the vast amounts of personal data which constitute the kind of profile of an individual ordinarily to be found in his personnel file: showing, for example, where he was born, the names of his parents, where he has lived from time to time, his high school or other school records, results of examinations, evaluations of his work performance," and that "access to these files is not drastically limited, as is customarily true of personnel files, only to supervisory personnel directly involved with the individual (apart from the personnel department itself), frequently thus excluding even the individual himself") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

277.

Wash. Post. Co., 456 U.S. at 600, 602; see also id. (stating that Congress "'intended [Exemption 6] to cover detailed Government records on an individual which can be identified as applying to that individual'" (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 11 (1966))).

278.

Nat'l Ass'n of Retired Fed. Employees v. Horner, 879 F.2d 873, 874 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

279.

Wash. Post. Co., 456 U.S. at 602.

280.

See, e.g., Phillips v. ICE, 385 F. Supp. 2d 296, 304 (S.D.N.Y. 2005); see also Cook v. Nat'l Archives & Records Admin., 758 F.3d 168, 174-75 (2d Cir. 2014) (noting that "Passport Office records revealing citizenship status; an investigation report revealing alleged misconduct; letters to Guantanamo Bay detainees revealing the names and addresses of family members; and records of interview of deported aliens revealing their identities" are all "types of records [that] have been deemed 'similar files' for purposes of Exemption 6") (footnotes omitted).

281.

Rural Hous. All. v. USDA, 498 F.2d 73, 77 (D.C. Cir. 1974).

282.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6). The Supreme Court has explained that "the purposes for which [a] request for information is made" do not govern "whether an invasion of privacy is warranted." DOD v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. 487, 496 (1994) (emphasis and internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Reporters Comm., 489 U.S. at 771).

283.

According to the Supreme Court, "[t]he privacy interest[s] protected by Exemption 6 encompass the individual's control of information concerning his or her person." Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. at 500 (internal quotation marks, citation, and alteration omitted). In National Archives and Records Administration v. Favish, 541 U.S. 157 (2004), in which the Court considered whether death-scene photographs of a former deputy counsel to the President—Vincent Foster, Jr.—were exempt under Exemption 7(C), 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7), the Court held that FOIA's privacy protections extended to the privacy interests of the close relatives of a record's subject, 541 U.S. at 161, 168, 171. Exemption 7(C) contains similar invasion-of-privacy language as Exemption 6. See infra "Exemption 7: Law Enforcement Records or Information." See also Clark, supra note 94, at 305 (explaining that Exemption 6 was designed to exempt "all personnel and medical files, and all private or personal information contained in other files," where disclosure "would amount to a clearly unwarranted invasion of the privacy of any person, including members of the family of the person to whom the information pertains").

284.

Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. at 495 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting DOJ v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749, 776 (1989)); see Dep't of Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 372 (1976). FOIA's legislative history indicates that Congress understood Exemption 6 to require a balancing of private and public interests. See H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 11 (1966) (writing that "[t]he limitation of a 'clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy' provides a proper balance between the protection of an individual's right of privacy and the preservation of the public's right to Government information by excluding those kinds of files the disclosure of which might harm the individual"); S. Rep. No. 813, at 9 (1965) (explaining that "[t]he phrase 'clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy' enunciates a policy that will involve a balancing of interests between the protection of an individual's private affairs from unnecessary public scrutiny, and the preservation of the public's right to governmental information").

285.

See, e.g., Am. Farm Bureau Fed'n v. EPA, 836 F.3d 963, 970 (8th Cir. 2016); Cook v. Nat'l Archives & Records Admin., 758 F.3d 168, 175-76 (2d Cir. 2014); Multi AG Media LLC v. USDA, 515 F.3d 1224, 1229-30 (D.C. Cir. 2008); see DOJ Guide, Exemption 6, supra note 275, at 9-10. The necessary privacy interest for the Exemption 6 balancing analysis has also been described as one that is "significant," see Multi AG Media, 515 F.3d at 1229 (citation and quotation marks omitted), or "nontrivial," see Cameranesi v. DOD, 856 F.3d 626, 637 (9th Cir. 2017).

286.

Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. at 495 (emphasis and internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Reporters Comm, 489 U.S. at 777); see also id. at 497 (declaring that "the only relevant public interest in the FOIA balancing analysis" is "the extent to which disclosure of the information sought would 'shed light on an agency's performance of its statutory duties' or otherwise let citizens known 'what their government is up to'" (quoting Reporters Comm, 489 U.S. at 773)); Bibles v. Or. Natural Desert Ass'n, 519 U.S. 355, 355-56 (1997) (per curiam) (same); Dep't of Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 372 (1976) (explaining that "Congress sought to construct an exemption [in Exemption 6] that would require a balancing of the individual's right of privacy against the preservation of the basic purpose of [FOIA] 'to open agency action to the light of public scrutiny'" (quoting Rose v. Dep't of Air Force, 495 F.2d 261, 263 (2d Cir. 1974), aff'd, 425 U.S. 352)).

In National Archives and Records Administration v. Favish, the Supreme Court construed Exemption 7(C) so that a requester must "establish a sufficient reason for . . . disclosure." 541 U.S. at 172. To meet this burden, he or she must establish (1) "that the public interest sought to be advanced is a significant one, an interest more specific than having the information for its own sake," and (2) that "the information is likely to advance that interest. Otherwise, the invasion of privacy is unwarranted." Id. When the public interest asserted by the requester concerns government misconduct or negligence, the Court held that "the requester must produce evidence that would warrant a belief by a reasonable person that the alleged Government impropriety might have occurred," a showing requiring "more than a bare suspicion." Id. at 174.

287.

See, e.g., Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. at 502 ("Because the privacy interest of bargaining unit employees in nondisclosure of their home addresses substantially out-weighs the negligible FOIA-related public interest in disclosure, we conclude that disclosure would constitute a 'clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy'" and that "FOIA, thus, does not require the agencies to divulge the addresses . . . ." (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6))). If, on the other hand, the public interest in disclosure outweighs the asserted privacy interest, the information is not covered by Exemption 6. See, e.g., Nat'l Ass'n of Home Builders v. Norton, 309 F.3d 26, 37 (D.C. 2002) ("Given the strong public interest in knowing 'what the government is up to,' we hold that the Secretary has failed to rebut the presumption favoring disclosure . . . ." (citation omitted)).

An agency's redaction of sensitive information may, depending on the circumstances, be adequate to remove the remaining contents of a record from Exemption 6's protection. See Rose, 425 U.S. at 380-81 (writing that respondents' "request for access to [the requested documents] with personal references or other identifying information deleted[] respected the confidentiality interests embodied in Exemption 6," but that if "deletion of personal references and other identifying information is not sufficient to safeguard privacy, then the [documents] should not be disclosed" (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)).

288.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A)-(F); John Doe Agency v. John Doe Corp., 493 U.S. 146, 156 (1989) ("Exemption 7 requires the Government to demonstrate that a record is 'compiled for law enforcement purposes' and that disclosure would effectuate one or more of . . . six specified harms." (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7))). Exemption 7 is not limited to investigative records. See Tax Analysts v. IRS, 294 F.3d 71, 79 (D.C. Cir. 2002); S. Rep. No. 221, at 23 (1983). Although at one time the act did confine the exemption's scope to such records, see 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7) (1982), in 1986, Congress amended Exemption 7 "by deleting the word 'investigatory' and inserting the words 'or information,' so that protection is now available to all 'records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes.'" Abdelfattah v. United States DHS, 488 F.3d 178, 184 (3d Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (alteration omitted) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)); see Pub. L. No. 99-570, § 1802, 100 Stat. 3207, 3207-48 (1986).

289.

NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214, 224 (1978).

290.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7).

291.

John Doe Agency, 493 U.S. at 155.

292.

FBI v. Abramson, 456 U.S. 615, 631-32 (1982).

293.

Public Emp.'s for Envtl. Responsibility v. U.S. Section, Int'l Boundary & Water Comm'n, 740 F.3d 195, 203 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (Kavanaugh, J.).

294.

DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exemption 7, at 7-9 (May 24, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Exemption 7], https://www.justice.gov/oip/foia-guide/exemption_7/download. See, e.g., Stein v. United States SEC, 266 F. Supp. 3d 326, 343 (D.D.C. 2017) ("Exemption 7(A) applies to law enforcement records compiled for civil, administrative, and criminal matters.") (citing Tax Analysts, 294 F.3d at 77)); Ctr. for Nat'l Sec. Studies v. DOJ, 331 F.3d 918, 926 (2003) (determining that 9/11 detainees' names satisfied Exemption 7's threshold requirement because "[t]he terrorism investigation is one of DOJ's chief law enforcement duties, and the investigation concerns a heinous violation of federal law as well as a breach of this nation's security") (quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Milner v. Dep't of Navy, 562 U.S. 562, 582-83 (2011) (Alito, J., concurring) (writing that "[t]he ordinary understanding of law enforcement includes not just the investigation and prosecution of offenses that have already been committed, but also proactive steps designed to prevent criminal activity and to maintain security" and that "in recent years, terrorism prevention and national security measures have been recognized as vital to effective law enforcement efforts in our Nation").

295.

See, e.g., Tax Analysts, 294 F.3d at 77 (stating that "FOIA makes no distinction between agencies whose principal function is criminal law enforcement and agencies with both law enforcement and administrative functions" and that "agencies like IRS [the Internal Revenue Service], that combine administrative and law enforcement functions, as well as agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation ('FBI'), whose principal function is criminal law enforcement, may seek to avoid disclosure of records or information pursuant to Exemption 7"); id. (writing that "the District Court [below] correctly identified IRS as a mixed-function agency"). See Margaret Kwoka, Deferring to Secrecy, 54 B.C. L. Rev. 185, 217 (2013) ("Both agencies whose principal function is law enforcement, such as the [FBI], and agencies that engage in law enforcement activities and other administrative functions, such as the [IRS], can claim this exemption.") (citing Tax Analysts, 294 F.3d at 77).

296.

See Pratt v. Webster, 673 F.2d 408, 418 (D.C. Cir. 1982). Courts have generally applied one of two tests when evaluating whether records withheld by an agency whose principal purpose is criminal law enforcement were compiled for law enforcement purposes. See Jordan v. DOJ, 668 F.3d 1188, 1193-94 (10th Cir. 2011) (summarizing the two tests). Many apply what is known as the "rational nexus test," which demands that, in the words of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, "an agency . . . demonstrate that the relationship between its authority to enforce a statute or regulation and the activity giving rise to the requested documents is based upon information sufficient to support at least a colorable claim of the relationship's rationality." Abdelfattah, 488 F.3d at 186. The rational nexus test was first articulated by the D.C. Circuit in Pratt v. Webster. See 673 F.2d at 420-21 (holding, prior to the 1986 amendments that broadened Exemption 7 to embrace noninvestigatory records, see supra note 288, that an agency must establish that the "investigatory activities that give rise to the documents sought . . . relate[] to the enforcement of federal laws or to the maintenance of national security" and that "the nexus between the investigation and one of the agency's law enforcement duties . . . [is] based on information sufficient to support at least a 'colorable claim' of its rationality"). In contrast, pursuant to the "per se rule," materials withheld by agencies that primarily engage in criminal law enforcement are deemed to be "inherently records compiled for law enforcement purposes within the meaning of Exemption 7." Curran v. DOJ, 813 F.2d 473, 475 (1st Cir. 1987) (quotation marks and citation omitted). However, courts often require a more rigorous showing from mixed-function agencies that the information being withheld was compiled for law enforcement purposes. See, e.g., Tax Analysts, 294 F.3d at 77 (explaining that the IRS was "subject to an exacting standard when it comes to the threshold requirement of Exemption 7"); Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP v. IRS, No. 04-2187, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58410, at *23 (D.D.C. Aug. 21, 2006) ("Because the IRS is an agency that combines administrative and law enforcement functions, it is entitled to less deference when evaluating its claim that information was compiled for law enforcement purposes."). See DOJ Guide, Exemption 7, supra note 294, at 17-21.

297.

See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A)-(F).

298.

See John Doe Agency, 493 U.S. at 156.

299.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A).

300.

Manna v. DOJ, 51 F.3d 1158, 1164 (3d Cir. 1995); see also Sussman v. U.S. Marshals Serv., 494 F.3d 1106, 1114 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (explaining that Exemption 7(A) applies where enforcement proceedings are "reasonably anticipated") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., the Supreme Court explained that mandating the disclosure of witness statements prior to an NLRB unfair practices hearing raises the risk that employers or unions "will coerce or intimidate employees and other[]" witnesses and may "have a chilling effect on the Board's sources." 437 U.S. at 239-41. The Court held that disclosure in such an instance "would constitute an 'interference' with NLRB enforcement proceedings" in that it would "giv[e] a party litigant earlier and greater access to the Board's case than he would otherwise have." Id. at 241. Crucially, the Court also held that, under Exemption 7(A), courts are authorized to determine "that, with respect to particular kinds of enforcement proceedings, disclosure of particular kinds of investigatory records while a case is pending would generally 'interfere with enforcement proceedings.'" Id. at 236 (emphasis added) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A)). This "generic" method allows agencies to eschew the "document-by-document" approach to justifying withholding decisions. DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exemption 7(A), at 20 (Aug. 21, 2019), https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1197816/download.

301.

NLRB v. Tire & Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214, 225 (1978) ("In originally enacting Exemption 7, Congress recognized that law enforcement agencies had legitimate needs to keep certain records confidential, lest the agencies be hindered in their investigations or placed at a disadvantage when it came time to present their cases.").

302.

Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, 677 F. Supp. 2d 101, 108 (D.D.C. 2009) (emphasis omitted) (citing Campbell v. HHS, 682 F.2d 256, 265 (D.C. Cir. 1982)); cf. Wright v. Occupational Safety & Health Admin., 822 F.2d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) ("We also find that [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)] has not provided an adequate factual basis to allow a court to determine whether the category of evidence and supporting information compiled by the [compliance safety health officer] is exempt from disclosure. Although there may be reason to believe that such information should be exempt under [Exemption] 7(A) to prevent giving away OSHA's case, this category may contain documents that Union Oil itself provided to OSHA during the course of the agency's investigation. In that case, it is not clear to us why public disclosure of this information would provide Union Oil with any information that it does not already have.").

303.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(B).

304.

Chiquita Brands Int'l v. SEC, 805 F.3d 289, 294 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted) (quoting Wash. Post Co. v. DOJ, 863 F.2d 96, 102 (D.C. Cir. 1988)). The D.C. Circuit has held that a "trial" as used in Exemption 7(B) refers to "the ultimate determination of factual and legal claims by judge or jury in a judicial proceeding" and "that Exemption 7(B) comes into play only when it is probable that the release of law enforcement records will seriously interfere with the fairness of that final step [of a judicial proceeding] which is called the trial." Id. at 295 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The court also held that Exemption 7(B)'s reference to "adjudication" "refers to determinations made by administrative agencies, not," as the appellant in the case argued, "to pretrial decisions issued by a judge." Id. at 296.

305.

Id. at 297-98.

306.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(C).

307.

Id. § 552(b)(6). See supra "Exemption 6: Personnel, Medical, and Similar Files."

308.

DOD v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. 487, 496 n.6 (1994); see also 3 Hickman & Pierce, Jr., supra note 151, § 21.13, at 2234.

309.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) (emphasis added).

310.

Id. § 552(b)(7)(C); Reporters Comm., 489 U.S. at 756; see also Pierce, Jr., supra note 154, at 396.

311.

See supra "Exemption 6: Personnel, Medical, and Similar Files"; DOJ Guide, Exemption 6, supra note 275, passim.

312.

See, e.g., CREW v. DOJ, 746 F.3d 1082, 1091-96 (D.C. Cir. 2014). Under Exemption 7(C), however, case-by-case balancing may be eschewed in favor of a categorical approach in some circumstances. See Reporters Comm., 489 U.S. at 776 (holding "that categorical decisions may be appropriate and individual circumstances disregarded when a case fits into a genus in which the balance characteristically tips in one direction"). In Reporters Committee, the Supreme Court determined that there was a "substantial" privacy interest in "rap sheets"—records of individuals' criminal histories—which the Court described as publicly available but practically obscure. 489 U.S. at 751,764, 780. In asserting the principle of "categorical balancing" in the Exemption 7(C) context, the Court explained that "[w]hen the subject of such a rap sheet is a private citizen and when the information is in the Government's control as a compilation, rather than as a record of 'what the Government is up to,' the privacy interest protected by Exemption 7(C) is in fact at its apex while the FOIA-based public interest in disclosure is at its nadir." Id. at 780. "Such a disparity on the scales of justice," the Court continued, "holds for a class of cases without regard to individual circumstances; the standard virtues of bright-line rules are thus present, and the difficulties attendant to ad hoc adjudication may be avoided." Id.; see Pierce, Jr., et al., supra note 154, at 396 (writing that the Reporters Committee "Court adopted a 'categorical' approach by holding that rap sheets could not be obtained through the FOIA pursuant to this or any other request").

313.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(D). Exemption 7(D) states, in full, that "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes" are exempt where disclosure:

could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source.

Id.

314.

DOJ v. Landano, 508 U.S. 165, 172 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting S. Rep. No. 1200, at 13 (1974) (Conf. Rep.)).

315.

Id. at 174.

316.

Id. at 180-81.

317.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E).

318.

Compare, e.g., Hamdan v. DOJ, 797 F.3d 759, 778 (9th Cir. 2015), and Allard K. Lowenstein Int'l Human Rights Project v. DHS, 626 F.3d 678, 681 (2d Cir. 2010) (declaring that "basic rules of grammar and punctuation dictate that the [circumvention language] modifies only the immediately antecedent 'guidelines' clause and not the more remote 'techniques and procedures' clause ), with Sack v. DOD, 823 F.3d 687, 694 (D.C. Cir. 2016) and Catledge v. Mueller, 323 F. App'x 464, 466-67 (7th Cir. 2009) (explaining that "[u]nder [Exemption 7(E)] government agencies may refuse to release 'records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information . . . would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions . . . if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.'" (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E))).

319.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(F).

320.

Meese Memorandum, supra note 21 (citing 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(F) (1982)).

321.

Id. (citing Pub. L. No. 99-570, § 1802, 100 Stat. 3207, 3207-49 (1986)).

322.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(8). Courts have interpreted Exemption 8 broadly. See, e.g., Williams & Connolly LLP v. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, 39 F. Supp. 3d 82, 90 (D.D.C. 2014) (explaining that "this Circuit has repeatedly recognized the broad scope Congress accorded Exemption 8"); Pub. Investors Arbitration Bar Ass'n v. SEC, 930 F. Supp. 2d 55, 62 (D.D.C. 2013) ("[T]he 'related to' language [in Exemption 8] casts a wide net of non-disclosure over any documents that are logically connected to an 'examination, operating, or condition report[].'") (alteration in original) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(8)).

323.

S. Rep. No. 813, at 10 (1965); accord H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 11 (1966) (explaining that Exemption 8 "is designed to insure the security and integrity of financial institutions, for the sensitive details collected by Government agencies which regulate these institutions could, if indiscriminately disclosed, cause great harm"). The D.C. Circuit has written that "there was concern that disclosure of examination, operation, and condition reports containing frank evaluations of the investigated banks might undermine public confidence and cause unwarranted runs on banks." Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. v. Heimann, 589 F.2d 531, 534 (D.C. Cir. 1978).

324.

Heimann, 589 F.2d at 534. The Heimann court explained that, "[i]f details of the bank examinations were made freely available to the public and to banking competitors, there was concern that banks would cooperate less than fully with federal authorities." Id.

325.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(9).

326.

Pierce, Jr., et al., supra note 154, at 397 (noting that Exemption 9 "is rarely invoked or interpreted"). See also 3 O'Reilly, supra note 25, § 18:1, at 391 (stating that Exemptions 8 and 9 "are [FOIA's] most obscure and least utilized" exemptions).

327.

5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1)-(3).

328.

Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 18.

329.

Labow v. DOJ, 831 F.3d 523, 532 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

330.

Memphis Publ'g Co. v. FBI, 879 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6-7 (D.D.C. 2012); see CREW v. FEC, 711 F.3d 180, 182-83 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (Kavanaugh, J.) (holding that, when making an initial "determination" of a FOIA request under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i), an "agency must at least indicate within the relevant time period the scope of the documents it will produce and the exemptions it will claim with respect to any withheld documents").

The exclusions are also intended to cover those situations where an agency's issuance of a Glomar response to a FOIA request implicating records covered by an exclusion could still result in the dangers sought to be prevented by § 552(c). See Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 26. As discussed above, when an agency issues a Glomar response, it refuses to either confirm or deny whether records exist. See supra note 152. But, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit explained, the "standard" Glomar response requires "a public explanation of the exemption that would apply if the records existed." ACLU v. FBI, 734 F.3d 460, 469, 470 (6th Cir. 2013). A Glomar response, therefore, will not adequately protect against the types of dangers the exclusions were intended to prevent. DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Exclusions, at 2 (April 4, 2019) [hereinafter DOJ Guide, Exclusions], https://www.justice.gov/oip/foia-guide/exclusions/download; see also Pickard v. DOJ, 653 F.3d 782, 784 (9th Cir. 2011) (noting, while explaining the procedural background of the case, that in response to the plaintiff's FOIA request, the agency had cited Exemptions 6 and 7(C) and neither confirmed nor denied whether any responsive records existed).

331.

Cf. Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 26 (writing that, in contrast to the Glomar principle, FOIA's exclusions "afford[] a higher level of protection" to covered records).

332.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A); see supra "Exemption 7: Law Enforcement Records or Information."

333.

5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1)(A).

334.

Id. § 552(c)(1)(B).

335.

See Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 19 ("To avail itself of Exemption 7(A) . . . an agency must routinely specify that it is relying on that exemption—first administratively and then, if sued, in court—even where it is invoking the exemption to withhold all responsive records in their entireties. The difficulty is that in those unusual situations in which the investigation's subject is as yet unaware of the investigation's existence, the agency's specific reliance on Exemption 7(A) can 'tip off' the subject and thereby cause harm."); id. at 20 ("The (c)(1) exclusion permits agencies to avoid having to disclose to investigative subjects a sensitive fact (i.e., whether there is an investigation ongoing or not) that would be disclosed by the mere invocation of Exemption 7(A)."). The Attorney General's memorandum on the 1986 FOIA amendments also states in the case of an individual who submits a request for records in an attempt to determine whether he or she is the subject of an investigation, "[a]n agency response invoking Exemption 7(A) would confirm the existence of an ongoing investigation," and that "any response that did not invoke Exemption 7(A) in withholding law enforcement files would tell such a requester that his activities (or perhaps those of some other entity named in the request) have thus far escaped detection." Id. at 20 (emphasis added).

336.

5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1).

337.

See Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 22 ("Once a law enforcement matter reaches a stage at which all subjects are aware of its pendency, or at which the agency otherwise determines that the public disclosure of that pendency no longer could lead to harm, the exclusion should be regarded as no longer applicable.").

338.

5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(2).

339.

Id.

340.

Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 23; see 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(D). This report discusses Exemption 7(D) above. See supra "Exemption 7: Law Enforcement Records or Information."

341.

Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 23-24.

342.

5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(2); see Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 24 n.43. For information on judicial treatment of the "officially confirmed" limitation of Exclusion (c)(2), see DOJ Guide, Exclusions, supra note 330, at 9-11.

343.

5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(3).

344.

Id.; see 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1). See supra "Exemption 1: National Defense or Foreign Policy."

345.

DOJ Guide, Exclusions, supra note 330, at 12.

346.

5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(3). The Attorney General's memorandum on the 1986 FOIA amendments states that, while Exclusion (c)(3) explicitly concerns FBI records, "it is conceivable that records derived from such FBI records might be maintained elsewhere, potentially in contexts in which the harm sought to be prevented by this exclusion is no less threatened." Meese Memorandum, supra note 21, at 25 n.45. For "any such extreme situation," the memorandum states that "it would be appropriate for another agency and the FBI jointly to consider the possible applicability of this exclusion, on a derivative basis, where necessary to avoid an anomalous result." Id.

347.

FOIA's judicial review provision was a notable distinction from the APA's prior public information section. See S. Rep. No. 813, at 5 (1965) (listing as one of the problems associated with the APA's prior information-access section the fact that "[t]here is no remedy in case of wrongful withholding of information from citizens by Government officials"). While the discussion in this section pertains to the general requirements governing legal challenges to agency withholding decisions, FOIA requesters may also challenge other agency FOIA-related actions in federal court. See, e.g., 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(vii) (authorizing "action[s] . . . regarding the waiver of [request processing] fees").

348.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). Venue is available "in the district in which the complainant resides, or has his principal place of business, or in which the agency records are situated, or in the District of Columbia." Id. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reviews a considerably large number of FOIA lawsuits. See Margaret B. Kwoka, The Freedom of Information Act Trial, 61 Am. U. L. Rev. 217, 261 (2011) ("The District Court for the District of Columbia is the forum for a disproportionate share of FOIA cases, disposing of 38% of all FOIA cases in the country, even though it disposes of only 1.3% of all district court litigation.") (citing Fed. Judicial Ctr., Federal Court Cases: Integrated Databases (1979-2008)); cf. Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 325 (Harry A. Hammitt et al. eds., 25th ed. 2010) ("Because the vast majority of FOIA lawsuits are filed in the District of Columbia, the district court and court of appeals there have developed a substantial body of expertise in FOIA matters that may be lacking in other jurisdictions.").

349.

See Kissinger v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 445 U.S. 136, 150 (1980) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). All three elements must be established in order to obtain judicial review of an agency's withholding decision. Id. at 150; accord U.S. Dep't of Justice v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 142 (1989).

350.

492 U.S. at 151 ("It follows from the exclusive nature of the § 552(b) exemption scheme that agency records which do not fall within one of the exemptions are 'improperly' withheld.").

351.

GTE Sylvania v. Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., 445 U.S. 375, 384, 386-87 (1980) (holding that the Consumer Product Safety Commission had not withheld records "improperly" where the agency was enjoined by a federal court from disclosing them in unrelated litigation); see Alley v. HHS, 590 F.3d 1195, 1198 (11th Cir. 2009) ("Under the rule of GTE Sylvania[], an agency that complies with a court order forbidding disclosure does not violate the FOIA."). In Tax Analysts, the Court acknowledged that the records at issue in GTE Sylvania had not been covered by any exemptions. 492 U.S. at 154. But while observing that "GTE Sylvania represents a departure from the FOIA's self-contained exemption scheme," the Court explained that "this departure was a slight one at best, and was necessary in order to serve a critical goal independent of FOIA—the enforcement of a court order." Id. at 155.

352.

445 U.S. at 150. "In such a case," the Court wrote, "the agency has neither the custody nor control necessary to enable it to withhold." Id. at 150-51. The Court further explained that an agency's "refusal to resort to legal remedies to obtain possession" of documents that were formally within the agency's control does not constitute a withholding under FOIA. Id. at 151; see also Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. at 150 (holding that DOJ "withheld" requested copies of district court tax decisions that it had received when it "refused to comply with [the complainant's] requests," even though the decisions were made publicly available by the issuing court).

353.

Kissinger, 445 U.S. at 155 n.9. The Court also did not decide whether or not an agency "withholding" occurs when an individual "wrongfully remove[s]" a record from an agency after the filing of a request. Id.

354.

Gawker Media, LLC v. U.S. Dep't of State, 266 F. Supp. 3d 152, 159 (D.D.C. 2017); cf. Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dep't of State, No. 13-1363, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62283, at *10-12 (D.D.C. May 4, 2016).

355.

See Lockett v. Wray, 271 F. Supp. 3d 205, 208 (D.D.C. 2017) ("An inadequate search for records constitutes an improper withholding under the FOIA.").

356.

See supra "Request-Driven Disclosure."

357.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B).

358.

See Louis v. Dep't of Labor, 419 F.3d 970, 977 (9th Cir. 2005).

359.

Ctr. for Nat'l Sec. Studies v. DOJ, 331 F.3d 918, 926-27 (D.C. Cir. 2013); id. at 927 ("[B]oth the Supreme Court and this Court have expressly recognized the propriety of deference to the executive in the context of FOIA claims which implicate national security."); see CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159, 179 (1985) ("Here the Director concluded that disclosure of the institutional affiliations of the MKULTRA researchers could lead to identifying the researchers themselves and thus the disclosure posed an unacceptable risk of revealing protected 'intelligence sources.' The decisions of the Director, who must of course be familiar with 'the whole picture,' as judges are not, are worthy of great deference given the magnitude of the national security interests and potential risks at stake.") (footnote omitted).

360.

See DOJ Guide, Litigation Considerations, supra note 147, at 28.

361.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(vii); see DOJ Guide, Litigation Considerations, supra note 147, at 28.

362.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B).

363.

This process stems from the decision in Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820, 826-28 (D.C. Cir. 1973), from which it takes its name. See DOJ Guide, Litigation Considerations, supra note 147, at 82 ("A distinguishing feature of FOIA litigation is that the defendant agency bears the burden of sustaining its action of withholding records. The most commonly used device for meeting this burden of proof is the Vaughn Index, fashioned by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a case entitled Vaughn v. Rosen.") (footnotes omitted); accord Am. Immigration Lawyers Ass'n v. Exec. Office for Immigration Rev., 830 F.3d 667, 673 (D.C. Cir. 2016) ("An agency can carry its burden by submitting a Vaughn index . . . .").

364.

King v. DOJ, 830 F.2d 210, 218 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Vaughn, 484 F.2d at 825).

365.

Id. Specifically, the D.C. Circuit has explained that the Vaughn Index was intended to "to permit adequate adversary testing of the agency's claimed right to an exemption, and enable the District Court to make a rational decision whether the withheld material must be produced without actually viewing the documents themselves, as well as to produce a record that will render [its] decision capable of meaningful review on appeal." Id. at 218-19 (internal quotation marks and footnotes omitted).

366.

Mead Data Cent., Inc. v. Dep't of Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 251 (D.C. Cir. 1977).

367.

Am. Immigration Lawyers Ass'n, 830 F.3d at 673 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

368.

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) (providing that district courts "may examine the contents of [withheld] agency records in camera to determine whether such records or any part thereof shall be withheld under any of the exemptions set forth in subsection (b) of [§ 552]").

369.

Spirko v. USPS, 147 F.3d 992, 997 (D.C. Cir. 1998). In camera review may occur in other situations. See id. at 996 ("[I]n camera inspection may be particularly appropriate when either the agency affidavits are insufficiently detailed to permit meaningful review of exemption claims or there is evidence of bad faith on the part of the agency, when the number of withheld documents is relatively small, and when the dispute turns on the contents of the withheld documents, and not the parties' interpretations of those documents.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

370.

See NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber, 437 U.S. 214, 224 (1978) ("The in camera review provision is discretionary by its terms, and is designed to be invoked when the issue before the District Court could not be resolved."); Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. DHS, 384 F. Supp. 2d 100, 119 (D.D.C. 2005) ("[C]ourts disfavor in camera inspection and it is more appropriate in only the exceptional case.").

371.

Armstrong v. EOP, 97 F.3d 575, 580 (D.C. Cir. 1996).

372.

Paul R. Verkuil, An Outcomes Analysis of Scope of Review Standards, 44 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 679, 717 (2002). Reverse-FOIA suits ordinarily arise after an agency informs a party that the agency has received a request for the records at issue or that it has decided to release such records in response to a request. See, e.g., Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 287 (1979) (explaining that the lawsuit "began . . . when the [agency] informed Chrysler that third parties had made an FOIA request for disclosure of the [records at issue]"); Nat'l Bus. Aviation Ass'n v. FAA, 686 F. Supp. 2d 80, 83-84 (D.D.C. 2010) ("The [Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)] contacted the [plaintiff] by telephone and advised that the FAA had made an initial determination that the [material at issue] was releasable in response to [a FOIA] request. The FAA asked for input from the [plaintiff] before making a final decision. The [plaintiff] objected to the proposed release on the basis of FOIA Exemption 4. Subsequently, the FAA determined that the [material] was not protected from disclosure under Exemption 4 because it was not a trade secret or commercial or financial information. . . . . After receiving [FAA's explanation], the [plaintiff] filed this suit seeking to enjoin the FAA's release of the [material] . . . .") (citations omitted).

373.

Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 285 (1979).

374.

CNA Fin. Corp. v. Donovan, 830 F.2d 1132, 1133 n.1 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (explaining that, in a reverse-FOIA suit, "[t]ypically, a submitter of information—usually a corporation or other business entity required to report various and sundry data on its policies, operations, or products—seeks to prevent the agency that collected the information from revealing it to a third party in response to the latter's FOIA request").

375.

Chrysler, 441 U.S. at 294, 316-17. The TSA is a criminal statute that prohibits the unlawful disclosure of a variety of commercial and financial information. See 18 U.S.C. § 1905. But the statute allows disclosure of covered information when disclosure is "authorized by law." Id.

376.

Chrysler Corp., 441 U.S. at 317-18.

377.

5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A); see CNA, 830 F.2d at 1162; Chrysler, 441 U.S. at 318. Review under this standard is more deferential to the agency than is the de novo review of agency withholding decisions required by FOIA. See supra "Judicial Review of Agency Withholding Decisions." In Chrysler, the Court explained that "any disclosure that violates [the TSA] is 'not in accordance with law' within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A)." 441 U.S. at 318.

378.

See AAR Airlift Grp., Inc. v. U.S. Transp. Command, 161 F. Supp. 3d 37, 43 (D.D.C. 2015).

379.

Exec. Order No. 12,600 §§ 1, 3 (Jan. 1, 1987).

380.

Id. §§ 5, 6.

381.

Id. § 2(a).

382.

See supra "Exemption 4: Trade Secrets and Commercial or Financial Information."

383.

139 S. Ct. 2356, 2363-66 (2019).

384.

See DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Exemption 4 After the Supreme Court's Ruling in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media (updated Oct. 4, 2019), https://www.justice.gov/oip/exemption-4-after-supreme-courts-ruling-food-marketing-institute-v-argus-leader-media ("Many agency predisclosure notification regulations have followed the model provided by [DOJ], which defines the term 'confidential commercial information' more broadly, without reference to competitive harm, and instead refers more generically to material that may be protected under Exemption 4. In the wake of Argus Leader, agencies should now use those predisclosure notification procedures when necessary to seek the submitter's views on whether the two conditions [stemming from the Court's decision, see supra text accompanying notes 225] that agencies should consider in determining whether information is 'confidential' for purposes of Exemption 4 of the FOIA . . . are met.").

385.

5 U.S.C. § 552(d).

386.

ACLU v. CIA, 823 F.3d 655, 662-63 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

387.

See S. Rep. No. 4, at 2-3 (2015).

388.

See, e.g., id. at 2, 7-8 (explaining that "there are concerns that some agencies are overusing FOIA exemptions that allow, but do not require, information to be withheld from disclosure" and that the 2016 amendments to FOIA codified "[t]he standard . . . that an agency may withhold information only if it reasonably foresees a specific identifiable harm to an interest protected by an exemption, or if disclosure is prohibited by law"); H.R. Rep. No. 1441, at 14 (1976) (Conf. Rep.) (writing that "[t]he conferees intend [the 1976 amendments to Exemption 3] to overrule the decision of the Supreme Court in Administrator, FAA v. Robertson, 422 U.S. 255 (1975)"); S. Rep. No. 1200, at 9 (1974) (Conf. Rep.) (explaining that, "[i]n Environmental Protection Agency v. Mink, et al., 410 U.S. 73 (1973), the Supreme Court ruled that in camera inspection of documents withheld under section 552(b) (1) of the law, authorizing the withholding of classified information, would ordinarily be precluded in [FOIA] cases, unless Congress directed otherwise," and that the 1974 amendments to FOIA "amend[] the present law to permit such in camera examination at the discretion of the court").

389.

See DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Congressional Access Under FOIA, 5 FOIA Update 1 (Jan. 1, 1984) [hereinafter Congressional Access Under FOIA], https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/foia-update-oip-guidance-congressional-access-under-foia.

390.

5 U.S.C. § 552(d).

391.

S. Rep. No. 813, at 10 (1965).

392.

While the special access provision may prohibit application of a FOIA exemption to prevent disclosure to Congress, it does not govern whether another source of law, such as executive privilege, may protect information from disclosure. Congressional Access Under FOIA, supra note 389.

393.

See id.

394.

Id.

395.

Id.

396.

Id. See also Authority of Individual Members of Congress to Conduct Oversight of the Executive Branch, 41 Op. O.L.C. 1, 1 (2017) (opining that "the constitutional authority to conduct oversight . . . may be exercised only be each house of Congress or, under existing delegations, by committees and subcommittees (or their chairmen)" and that "[i]ndividual members of Congress . . . do not have the authority to conduct oversight in the absence of a specific delegation by a full house, committee, or subcommittee"); id. at 3 (asserting that "[i]ndividual members who have not been authorized to conduct oversight are entitled to no more than the voluntary cooperation of agency officials or private persons") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

397.

See H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 11-12 (1966).

398.

613 F.2d 1151 (D.C. Cir. 1979).

399.

See All Party Parliamentary Grp. on Extraordinary Rendition v. DOD, 754 F.3d 1047, 1052 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (explaining that Murphy, 613 F.2d at 1157, interpreted the special access provision "as requiring agencies to distinguish between requests made by members of Congress in their official capacities and those made in their individual capacities").

400.

See Murphy, 613 F.2d at 1154, 1159.

401.

Id. at 1156.

402.

Id. at 1157.

403.

Id.

404.

See, e.g., Letter to Gary M. Stern, Gen'l Counsel, Nat'l Archives & Rec. Admin., from Senators Richard Blumenthal, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Richard J. Durbin, Sheldon Whitehouse, Amy Klobuchar, Christopher A. Coons, Mazie K. Hirono, Cory A. Booker, and Kamala D. Harris (Aug. 8, 2018); 163 Cong. Rec. S4077, S4078 (daily ed. July 19, 2017) (Senator Charles E. Grassley).

405.

See Congressional Access Under FOIA, supra note 389; DOJ, Office of Info. Pol'y, Release of Exempt Information to Members of Congress: The Impact of the Murphy Decision, 1 FOIA Update 4 (Jan. 1, 1980) [hereinafter Release of Exempt Information to Members of Congress], https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/foia-update-policy-guidance-release-exempt-information-members-congress-impact-murphy.

406.

U.S. Const. art. I, § 1; Release of Exempt Information to Members of Congress, supra note 405.

407.

H.R. Rep. No. 1497, at 11-12 (1966) (emphasis added); Congressional Access Under FOIA, supra note 389.

408.

Release of Exempt Information to Members of Congress, supra note 405.

409.

See, e.g., All Party Parliamentary Grp. on Extraordinary Rendition v. DOD, 754 F.3d 1047, 1052 (D.C. Cir. 2014) ("[T]his Court has interpreted FOIA section 552(d), which provides that FOIA exemptions do not apply to requests from Congress, as requiring agencies to distinguish between requests made by members of Congress in their official capacities and those made in their individual capacities.") (citing Murphy v. Dep't of the Army, 613 F.2d 1151, 1157 (D.C.Cir.1979)); Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. Transp. Sec. Admin., 928 F. Supp. 2d 156, 165 (D.D.C. 2013) ("And earlier, in Murphy v. Department of the Army, the Circuit held that a document disclosed by the Army to a congressman was protected under exemption 5 even where the army did not actively condition disclosure on confidentiality.") (citing Murphy, 613 F.2d at 1156).

410.

See supra "'Agency Records'"; 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A), (4)(B).

411.

See 5 U.S.C. §§ 551(1), 552(f)(1); see also ACLU v. CIA, 823 F.3d 655, 662 (D.C. Cir. 2016) ("[B]ecause it is undisputed that Congress is not an agency, it is also undisputed that 'congressional documents are not subject to FOIA's disclosure requirements.'" (quoting United We Stand Am., Inc. v. IRS, 359 F.3d 595, 597 (D.C. Cir. 2004))); see Dow Jones & Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 917 F.2d 571, 574 (D.C. Cir. 1990) ("[M]embers of Congress are not within the definition of agency under FOIA.").

412.

See ACLU, 823 F.3d at 662.

413.

Id. at 662-63 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Secret Serv., 726 F.3d 208, 221 (D.C. Cir. 2013)).

As discussed above, material does not qualify as an "agency record" if an agency does not have "control" of it at the time a FOIA request for the material is issued. See supra "'Agency Records'"; DOJ v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 145 (1989). The report previously explained that the D.C. Circuit developed the "Burka test" for determining whether an agency has "control" over material that it has created or obtained. See supra "'Agency Records.'" The test considers

(1) the intent of the document's creator to retain or relinquish control over the records; (2) the ability of the agency to use and dispose of the record as it sees fit; (3) the extent to which agency personnel have read or relied upon the document; and (4) the degree to which the document was integrated into the agency's record system or files.

Burka v. United States HHS, 87 F.3d 508, 515 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The court has explained that the congressional-intent-to-control test "renders the first two factors of the [Burka] test effectively dispositive." Judicial Watch, 726 F.3d at 221.

The D.C. Circuit uses the congressional-intent-to-control test when determining whether material created or obtained by an agency is a congressional record because focusing "on Congress' intent to control (and not on the agency's) reflects those special policy considerations which counsel in favor of according due deference to Congress' affirmatively expressed intent to control its own documents." Paisley v. CIA, 712 F.2d 686, 693 n.30 (D.C. Cir. 1983); see also Goland v. CIA, 607 F.2d 339, 346 (D.C. Cir. 1978) (explaining that a test that would provide that "an agency's possession of a document per se dictates that document's status as an 'agency record'" would mean that "Congress would be forced either to surrender its constitutional prerogative of maintaining secrecy, or to suffer an impairment of its oversight role"). As the court has explained, under the congressional-intent-to-control test, if "Congress has manifested its own intent to retain control, then the agency—by definition—cannot lawfully 'control' the documents . . ., and hence they are not 'agency records.'" Paisley, 712 F.2d at 693 (footnotes omitted).

414.

Holy Spirit Ass'n for Unification of World Christianity v. CIA, 636 F.2d 838, 842 (D.C. Cir. 1980); see ACLU, 823 F.3d at 665 (explaining that D.C. Circuit precedent "make[s] it clear that Congress may manifest an intent to retain control over documents either when the documents are created or when the documents are transmitted to an agency").

415.

ACLU, 823 F.3d at 667-68.

416.

Id. at 658.

417.

Id. at 658.

418.

Id. at 660.

419.

Id. at 659.

420.

Id. at 665 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (ellipses in original) (emphasis omitted). Id.

421.

It further explained that that its "command is unequivocal, and it contains no temporal limitations." ACLU, 823 F.3d at 665 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

422.

Id. at 667. The court's decision was supported by the fact that the committee had publicly released the report's executive summary, only provided copies of the final report to a limited number of executive branch officials, and, when the committee submitted a draft of the report to executive branch officials in 2012, the committee "made it clear that [it] would determine if and when to publicly disseminate the" final report." Id. at 666-67.

423.

United We Stand, 359 F.3d at 602.

424.

Id. at 597 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

425.

Id.

426.

Id. at 602.

427.

Id. at 601.

428.

Id. at 605.

429.

Id. at 602; accord ACLU, 823 F.3d at 664 (explaining that a letter sent by the new chairman of the committee to the President demanding the return of the final report "was sent after Appellants had submitted their FOIA request and after they had filed suit in the District Court" and concluding, accordingly, that the letter "is a 'post-hoc objection[] to disclosure,' and, as such, it 'cannot manifest the clear assertion of congressional control that our case law requires.'") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original); cf. Am. Oversight, Inc. v. HHS, No. 17-827, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 220885, at *19 (D.D.C. Aug. 10, 2018) ("[T]o satisfy the requirement regarding the timing of congressional manifestation of intent, Congress must establish its intent to retain control over the records prior to the FOIA request to which the records are responsive.").

430.

Paisley, 712 F.2d at 694; see United We Stand, 359 F.3d at 602 (agency's argument that the congressional committee had an expectation of confidentiality regarding its communications with the agency based "on its consistent course of dealing with the" agency, as "such an understanding is far too general to remove the [document] from FOIA's disclosure requirement").

431.

Paisley, 712 F.2d at 695.

432.

Id.

433.

See Goland, 607 F.2d at 347 ("Whether a congressionally generated document has become an agency record . . . depends on whether under all the facts of the case, the document has passed from the control of Congress and become property subject to the free disposition of the agency with which the document resides.").

434.

United We Stand, 359 F.3d at 605. But the court "express[ed] no view about the sufficiency of congressional manifestations of intent to control documents that are created under other circumstances." Id.

435.

See 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 220885, at *14-21.

436.

Id.*5, *14-21. The language consisted of boilerplate that the committee included in each email chain at issue and stated:

This document and any related documents, notes, draft and final legislation, recommendations, reports, or other materials generated by the Members or staff of the Committee on Ways and Means are records of the Committee, remain subject to the Committee's control, and are entrusted to your agency only for use in handling this matter. Any such documents created or compiled by an agency in connection with any response to this Committee document or any related Committee communications, including but not limited to any replies to the Committee, are also records of the Committee and remain subject to the Committee's control. Accordingly, the aforementioned documents are not "agency records" for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act or other law.

Id. at *8 (quotation marks added) (citation omitted).

437.

An "advisory committee," as defined by FACA, is "any committee, board, commission, council, conference, panel, task force, or other similar group" that has been "established by statute or reorganization plan" or "established or utilized" by either the President or an agency "in the interest of obtaining advice or recommendations for the President or one or more agencies or officers of the Federal Government." 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 3. However, groups that are entirely composed of federal employees are excluded from the definition of "advisory committee," as are committees of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Public Administration. Id.; see also id. § 4 (providing that FACA does not apply to committees established or utilized by the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Reserve System, or Office of the Director of National Intelligence (but only, in regard to the latter, to the extent that the Director "determines that for reasons of national security such advisory committee cannot comply with" FACA).

438.

Id. § 10(b).

439.

Id. § 10(a)(1), (3). But see id. § 10(d) (providing that these requirements "shall not apply to any portion of an advisory committee meeting where the President, or the head of the agency to which the advisory committee reports, determines that such portion of such meeting may be closed to the public in accordance with [the Sunshine Act]").

440.

See id. § 10(b); Nat. Res. Def. Council v. Johnson, 488 F.3d 1002, 1003 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (explaining that FACA, at § 10(b), "incorporates the FOIA exemptions").

441.

See 5 U.S.C. § 552b. The Sunshine Act specifically applies to each "agency" (as that term is described in FOIA at § 552(f)) that is "headed by a collegial body composed of two or more individual members, a majority of whom are appointed to such position by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, and any subdivision thereof authorized to act on behalf of the agency." Id. § 552b(a)(1).

442.

The Sunshine Act defines "meeting" to generally mean "the deliberations of at least the number of individual agency members required to take action on behalf of the agency where such deliberations determine or result in the joint conduct or disposition of official agency business." 5 U.S.C. § 552b(a)(2).

443.

See id. § 552b(b); see also, e.g., id. § 552b(f)(2) (directing agencies to "make promptly available to the public . . . the transcript, electronic recording, or minutes . . . of the discussion of any item on the agenda, or of any item of the testimony of any witness received at [a] meeting" or portion of a meeting that was closed by the agency pursuant to the exemptions contained in § 552b(c).

444.

See id. § 552b(c)(1)-(10).

445.

Bartel v. FAA, 725 F.2d 1403, 1407 (D.C. Cir. 1984); see 5 U.S.C. § 552a(a)(2) (defining "individual" for purposes of the Privacy Act as "a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence").

446.

5 U.S.C. § 552a(b)(1)-(12). The Privacy Act applies to "any record which is contained in a system of records." Id. The act defines "record" as "any item, collection, or grouping of information about an individual that is maintained by an agency . . . and that contains his name, or the identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual, such as a finger or voice print or a photograph." Id. § 552a(a)(4). A "system of records" is "a group of any records under the control of any agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual." Id. § 552a(a)(5).

447.

Id. § 552a(b)(2).

448.

See, e.g., DOD v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 510 U.S. 487, 502 (1994) (holding that "FOIA . . . does not require the agencies to divulge the [records at issue], and the Privacy Act, therefore, prohibits their release").

449.

See 5 U.S.C. § 552a(d), (j), (k). FOIA's exemptions may not be used "to withhold from an individual any record which is otherwise accessible to such individual under the provisions of" the Privacy Act. Id. § 552a(t)(1).