The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives any person the right to request access to records of the Executive Branch of the United States Government. The records requested must be disclosed unless they are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552, enacted in 1966, is a federal statute that provides the public with the right to request access to records in the possession of federal agencies in the Executive Branch. FOIA establishes a presumption that records are accessible to the people, except for those records protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. The FOIA does not grant an absolute right to examine government documents; the FOIA establishes FOIA establishes the right to request records and to receive a response to the request. If a record cannot be released, the requestor is entitled to be told the reason for the denial. The requester also has a right to appeal the denial and, if necessary, to challenge it in court.
The Electronic FOIA Amendment of 1996 (EFOIA), brought the FOIA into the electronic information age by treating information maintained by agencies in electronic form in generally the same way as paper records. EFOIA promotes the use of advanced information technologies in order to achieve efficient disclosure of information to the public by electronic means. This brought about the electronic reading room. The electronic reading room gives you quick access to records discussed in response to FOIA requests that TTB determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records. These records may include agency policy statements, final opinions, and certain administrative staff manuals.
New laws, like the OPEN Government Act of 2007, as well as new policies, such as President Obama's Memorandum Concerning the Freedom of Information Act (January 21, 2009) and the Attorney General's Memorandum Concerning the Freedom of Information Act (March 19, 2009), directed agencies to apply a presumption of openness in responding to FOIA requests. The Attorney General emphasized that the President has called on agencies to work in a spirit of cooperation with FOIA requesters. The Attorney General FOIA Memo specifically called on agencies not to withhold information just because it technically falls within an exemption but he also encouraged agencies to make discretionary releases of records.