FOIA Frequently Asked Questions

The Freedom of Information Act generally provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, of access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions thereof) are protected from disclosure by one of nine exemptions, or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.

  • Exemption (b)(1) protects from disclosure of national security information concerning the national defense or foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified in accordance with Executive Order 13526.
  • Exemption (b)(2) exempts from mandatory disclosure records "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency."
  • Exemption (b)(3) covers information "specifically exempted from disclosure by statute."
  • Exemption (b)(4) protects "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential."
  • Exemption (b)(5) protects "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party ... in litigation with the agency."
  • Exemption (b)(6) 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."
  • Exemption (b)(7)(A) 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."
  • Exemption (b)(7)(B) protects "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes (the disclosure of which) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.
  • Exemption (b)(7)(C) provides protection for personal information in law enforcement records the disclosure of which "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
  • Exemption (b)(7)(D) provides protection for "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes which could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source and information furnished by a confidential source."
  • Exemption (b)(7)(E) provides protection to all law enforcement information that "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."
  • Exemption (b)(7)(F) permits the withholding of information necessary to protect the physical safety of "any individual" when disclosure of information about him "could reasonably be expected to endanger his life or physical safety."
  • Exemption (b)(8) protects 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 (b)(9) protects "geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells."
  • Exclusion (c)(1) authorizes federal law enforcement agencies, under specified circumstances, to shield the very existence of records of ongoing investigations or proceedings by excluding them entirely from the FOIA's reach.
  • Exclusion (c)(2) provides that "whenever informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency under an informant's name or personal identifier are requested by a third party, the agency may treat the records as not subject to the requirements of the FOIA unless the informant's status has been officially confirmed.
  • Exclusion (c)(3) pertains only to certain law enforcement records that are maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

FOIA requests to the Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG) or Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC) should relate to those matters or issues under the cognizance of the Judge Advocate General. Requests should be submitted directly to the OJAG division, Defense Service Office (DSO), or Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) having cognizance over the records you are seeking. Contact information for the OJAG, DSOs, and RLSOs is under “Contact.

For a list of other types of records with points of contact, please refer to “What are the types of FOIA records and their custodians?” below.

Your request:

  • Must be in writing and signed by the requester;
  • Must state that the request is being made pursuant to the FOIA;
  • Must reasonably describe the records being requested;
  • Must state the category of the requester for fee purposes (i.e., commercial, media, educational or other);
  • Must contain an agreement to pay all fees that might be incurred;
  • Must state whether a copy of the record is desired, or inspection of records only.

Members of the public, including foreign citizens, military and civilian personnel acting as private citizens, organizations and businesses, and individual members of the Congress for themselves or constituents, may request records in writing. It is important to remember that the Freedom of Information Act applies only to federal agencies. It does not create a right of access to records held by Congress, the courts, state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. Each state has its own public access laws that should be consulted for access to state and local records.

If you would like to request an administrative investigation, please email Please include your contact information and describe in detail the records requested, e.g., incident date, name of ship or aircraft number, the location where the incident occurred, full names of individuals involved, etc.

If you would like to request information concerning the military justice system, individual court-martial, or records of trial, please visit FOIA Request - Military Justice. Please describe in detail the records requested, e.g., incident date, the location where the incident occurred, full names of individuals involved, etc.

Questions concerning military justice FOIA requests may be directed to Code 40 processing center at or (202) 685-7064.

Who is the custodian of other types of FOIA records?

U.S. Coast Guard Records
Commandant (CG-611)
Attn: FOIA Coordinator 2100
2nd St., SW
Washington, DC 20593-0001

Department of the Air Force Records
Headquarters Air Force (HAF / ICIOD)
1000 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1000

Department of the Army Records
The Department of the Army
Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Office
7701 Telegraph Rd., Suite 144
Alexandria, VA 22315-3905

Asbestos Records
Naval Sea Systems Command
1333 Isaac Hull Ave, SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20376-1010

Navy contracts, ethics, fiscal law, intellectual property law, civilian personnel law, and environmental records other than environmental torts
The Department of the Navy
Office of the General Counsel
2000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-2000

Physical Evaluation and Medical Boards
Secretary of the Navy
Council of Review Boards
720 Kennon St, SE, Room 309
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5023

Military Personnel and Disability Law, Selection Board Precepts, and Article 138 Complaints
Office of the Judge Advocate General
Administrative Law Division (Code 13)
1000 Navy Pentagon (Room 4D641)
Washington, DC 20350-10000

Note: If you are seeking certification that an injury you suffered while on active duty was due to an instrumentality of war send your written request to the address listed above.

Military Personnel and Medical Records (Navy/Marine Corps) of Discharged Veterans prior to 1998
National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Ave. St.
Louis, MO 63132-5100

Marine Corps Service Records of discharged personnel,
1998 to present
Headquarter Marine Corps
Attn: Manpower Management Support Branch MSB-12
2008 Ellliot Rd.
Quantico VA 22134-5030

Navy military personnel and nonjudicial punishment records of discharged veterans, 1998 to present
Naval Personnel Command
Pers-00J6 FOIA Office
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-0600

Navy Criminal Investigations and Incident Reports
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (Code 00JF)
Attn: FOIA Officer
716 Sicard St., SE Suite 2000
Washington Navy Yard DC 20388-5380

Marine Corps Command Chronologies and Daily Activity Reports
Marine Corps Combat Development Command
Attn: FOIA Officer
B013 3250 Catlin Ave
Marine Corps Base, Quantico, VA 22134-5000

Marine Corps Investigations pertaining to injuries or death of Marine Corps personnel after June 1995 and unit diaries (unit transaction register)
The Commandant of the Marine Corps Headquarters
United States Marine Corps 2 Navy Annex, room 3134
Washington, DC 20380-1775

Deck logs prior to 1941
Archives 1 Reference Branch
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20408

After action reports and Deck logs more than 30 years old but after 1941
National Archives Modern Military Branch
8601 Adelphi Rd.
College Park, MD 20740-6001

Aircraft mishap reports prior to May 1969 Deck logs less than 30 years old Navy Combat Action Reports Shipwreck and Marine Archaeology Reports Cancelled or Superseded OP-Orders
Naval History and Heritage Command
805 Kidder Breese St SE
Washington Navy Yard DC 20374-5060

Aircraft and Vehicle Accidents Mishap Reports Afloat and Ashore Mishap Reports Aircraft accidents from May 22, 1969, to present. Vehicle accidents from 1993 to present. Afloat or ashore mishaps from May 21, 1969 to present Marine ground mishaps from October 1, 1987 to present
Commander, Naval Safety Command
375 A St. Norfolk, VA 23511-4399

The Military Justice Administration Division (Code 40) processes FOIA requests concerning the military justice system and individual courts-martial; and responds to requests for records of trial

Office of the Judge Advocate General
Military Justice Administration (Code 40)
1254 Charles Morris Street
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5124

Note: Questions concerning military justice FOIA requests may be directed to Code 40 processing center at

Admiralty Incidents Mishaps involving U.S. Navy ships and civilian ships/property Mishaps involving civilian ships and U.S. Navy property Mishaps involving injuries to civilians on board U.S. Navy ships.

Office of the Judge Advocate General
Admiralty & Claims Division (Code 15)
1322 Patterson Ave., Suite 3000
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5066

Investigations into the Compromise of Classified Material Flight Regulations
The Department of the Navy
Chief of Naval Operations
2000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-2000

Command Investigations Conducted After December 1995
Addresses are listed in the Standard Navy Distribution List (SNDL). Requests should be made to the Navy or Marine Corps General Court Martial Convening Authority for this investigation.

Command Investigations Conducted Prior to December 1995
Office of the Judge Advocate General
Admiralty & Claims Division (Code 15)
1322 Patterson Ave., Suite 3000
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5066