FAQ Topic

What are the FOIA exemptions?

a. (b)(1) covers all classified national security information, i. e., information classified according to E.O. 13526. 
b. (b)(2) Internal personnel rules and practices: information related solely to internal personnel rules and practices. This exemption has two profiles, high (b)(2) and low (b)(2). 
i. Records qualifying under high (b)(2) are those containing or constituting statues, rules, regulations, orders, manuals, directives, instruction, and security classification guides, the release of which would allow circumvention of the records thereby substantially hindering the effective performance of the DoD or its agencies.
ii. Records qualifying under low (b)(2) are those that are trivial and housekeeping in nature for which there is no legitimate public interest or benefit to be gained by release and would constitute an administrative burden to process the request in order to disclose the records. (examples - rules on use of parking facilities or regulation of lunch hours, policies on sick leave) Most agencies do not withhold records under a low (b)(2) exemption.
c. (b)(3) Exempt by statute: anything covered under a statute that specifically exempts information (classified or unclassified) from disclosure
d. (b)(4) Commercial information that would case competitive harm: documents containing trade secrets or commercial or financial information.
e. (b)(5) Predecisional, deliberative information: documents containing information considered privileged in litigation.
f. (b)(6) Invasion of personal privacy: Information in personnel and medical files or other Privacy Act records.
g. (b)(7) Records complied for law enforcement purposes
h. (b)(8) Records for the use of any agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions: records contained in or related to examination, operation or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of any agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions. 
i. (b)(9) records containing geological and geophysical information (including Maps) concerning wells.


What is a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) and how does it differ from a FOIA request? 

Mandatory Declassification Review is a provision of E.O. 13526 that allows members of the public to request a classification review of a classified document in order to obtain a releasable version of that document. The document must be classified in order to qualify for MDR; otherwise, the request must be made under the FOIA. The desired document must be specified in sufficient detail that it can be readily located. If documents pertaining to a particular subject are desired, that request should be made under the FOIA. There are some limitations to MDR, including: a minimum two-year limit between classification reviews (i. e., no MDR review need be conducted if the record was reviewed less than two years previously); a one-year time frame in which to accomplish the review (cf. FOIA's 20-day initial and follow-on responses to requesters); the record in question may not be the subject of litigation (e. g., before a court due to another requester's FOIA appeal). One prominent advantage of the MDR process is the availability of the ISCAP for appeals, cf. the (expensive) legal recourse for FOIA appeals.