What is FOIA?
Enacted in 1966, and taking effect on July 5, 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. Before sending a request to a federal agency, you should determine which agency is likely to have the records you are seeking. Each agency's website will contain information about the type of records that agency maintains.
The FOIA is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Under the FOIA, agencies must disclose any information that is requested - unless that information is protected from public disclosure. The FOIA also requires that agencies automatically disclose certain information, including frequently requested records. As Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court have all recognized, the FOIA is a vital part of our democracy.
Who oversees the FOIA?
It is the Executive Branch, led by the President, that is responsible for the administration of the FOIA across the government. The Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy oversees agency compliance with these directives and encourages all agencies to fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of the FOIA.
What is the Administration's FOIA Policy?
President Obama and Attorney General Holder have directed agencies to apply a presumption of openness in responding to FOIA requests. The Attorney General specifically called on agencies not to withhold information just because it technically falls within an exemption and he also encouraged agencies to make discretionary releases of records. The Attorney General emphasized that the President has called on agencies to work in a spirit of cooperation with FOIA requesters. The Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice oversees agency compliance with these directives and encourages all agencies to fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of the FOIA. President Obama has pledged to make this the most transparent Administration in history.
Why is the NTSB FOIA Site Changing?
Although the change coincides with an update to the NTSB's public website, the change is primarily driven by a move to a more proactive posture with respect to the publishing of Safety Board products. The NTSB, like the rest of the Federal Government, is moving away from paper products and publishing directly on-line.
The NTSB carries out a number of activities in the direct view of the public. These activities include Board Meetings, Public Hearing and Symposia that are conducted under the "Sunshine Act" and open to the public. These events are also broadcast via the web and archives of these events are kept on the public website for a period of time.
Since July 1, 2009, the NTSB has been proactively posting public docket information on the accidents and incidents investigated by the Safety Board. On average over 130 dockets are posted to the public website each month and in response to customer requests the NTSB has introduced upgrades to facilitate the searching of the Docket database and to identify Dockets that have been recently updated.
Prior to making a FOIA request search the NTSB website to verify the information you seek is not publicly available.
The Importance of Freedom and Information
Staff in the NTSB's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office process hundreds of FOIA requests every year. Their work is their passion and they take great pride in ensuring that the agency is open and transparent to the American public.