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FOIA Exemptions

The FOIA protects certain agency records from public disclosure, under nine exemptions contained in the FOIA statute. If an agency record is requested and it contains information that is protected from disclosure under one or more of the nine exemptions, the agency may withhold that record. If the agency determines, however, that the protected portions can be segregated from the unprotected portions of the record, the agency will make available to the requester a redacted version of the document.

It is the policy of the agency to make records available to the public to the greatest extent possible, in keeping with the spirit of the FOIA, while at the same time protecting sensitive information. The following is a list of FOIA exemptions which apply to Government information in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(b):

(b)(1) Exemption 1 Classified Secret Matters or National Defense or Foreign Policy. This exemption protects from disclosure national security information concerning the national defense or foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified in accordance with the substantive and procedural requirements of an executive order.

(b)(2) Exemption 2 Internal Personnel Rules and Practices. 
This exemption exempts from mandatory disclosure records "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency." Courts have interpreted the exemption to encompass two distinct categories of information:

(a) internal matters of a relatively trivial nature--sometimes referred to as "low2" information; and

(b) more substantial internal matters, the disclosure of which would risk circumvention of a legal requirement--sometimes referred to as "high 2" information.

(b)(3) Exemption 3 Information Specifically Exempted by Other Statutes. 
This exemption incorporates the disclosure prohibitions that are contained in various other federal statutes. As originally enacted in 1966, Exemption 3 was broadly phrased so as to simply cover information "specifically exempted from disclosure by statute." The new Exemption 3 statue prohibits agencies from releasing under the FOIA any proposal "submitted by a contractor in response to the requirements of a solicitation for a competitive proposals," unless that proposal "is set forth or incorporated by reference in a contract entered into between the agency and the contractor that submitted the proposal."

(b)(4) Exemption 4 Trade Secrets, Commercial or Financial Information. 
This exemption protects "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential." This exemption is intended to protect the interest of both the government and submitter of information.

(b)(5) Exemption 5 Privileged Interagency or Intra-Agency Memoranda or Letters. 
This exemption protects "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums of letters which would not be available by law to a party ...in litigation with the agency." As such, it has been construed to "exempt those documents, and only those documents, normally privileged in the civil discovery context."

(b)(6) Exemption 6 Personal Information Affecting an Individual's Privacy. 
This exemption permits the government to withhold all information about individuals in "personnel and medical files and similar files" when the disclosure of such information " would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." This exemption cannot be invoked to withhold from a requester information pertaining to the requester.

(b)(7) Exemption 7 Investigatory Records Compiled for Law Enforcement Purposes. 
As amended, this exemption protects from disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes.

(b)(7) Exemption 7(A) Records or Information That Could Reasonably by Expected to Interfere With Enforcement Proceedings. 
This exemption authorizes the withholding of "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that production of such law enforcement records or information ... could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings."

(b)(7) Exemption 7(B) Disclosure Which Would Deprive a Person of a Fair Trial or an Impartial Adjudication. 
Records that would prevent prejudicial pretrial publicity that could impair a court proceeding, protects "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes [the disclosure of which] would deprive a person of the right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication."

(b)(7) Exemption 7(C) Personal Information in Law Enforcement Records. 
This exemption provides protection for personal information in law enforcement records. This exemption is the law enforcement counterpart to Exemption 6, providing protection for law enforcement information the disclosure of which "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

(b)(7) Exemption 7(D) Identity of a Confidential Source. 
This exemption provides protection for "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes [which] 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 a 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."

(b)(7) Exemption 7(E) Circumvention of the Law. 
This exemption affords protection to all law enforcement information which "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."

(b)(7) Exemption 7(F) Physical Safety to Protect a Wide Range of Individuals. 
This exemption permits the withholding of information necessary to protect the physical safety of a wide range of individuals. Whereas Exemption 7(F) previously protected records that "would ...endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel," the amended exemption provides protection to "any individual when disclosure of information about him or her "could reasonably be expected to endanger [his/her] life or physical safety."

(b)(8) Exemption 8 Records of Financial Institutions. 
This exemption covers 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."

(b)(9) Exemption 9 Geographical and Geophysical Information Concerning Wells. 
This exemption covers "geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.

Updated: Thursday, January 9, 2014