HomeFreedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act (PA) of 1974

About FOIA

The FOIA generally provides that any person (with the exception of another federal agency, a fugitive from the law, or a representative of a foreign government) has the right, enforceable in court, to request access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions thereof) are protected from disclosure by one of nine exemptions. As part of the Agency's compliance with the Electronic FOIA (E-FOIA) requirements, the NRO posts FOIA information that will inform the public of NRO missions and functions. For information on how to submit a FOIA request, please refer to FOIA.gov .

The Information Review and Release Group (IRRG) administers the NRO’s FOIA program. The goal of the FOIA program is to release as much information as possible, consistent with the need to protect classified and sensitive information under the exemption provisions of the law. Where discretionary releases can be made without causing harm, the Chief of the IRRG, as the Initial Denial Authority, and the Chief Information Officer, as the Appellate Authority, use their discretion to release information even where an exemption may be available.

Because of the sensitivity of NRO's functions and activities, the most often cited exemptions are (b)(1) (national security information) and (b)(3) (exemption by statute). The statutes most often applied to the protection of information are the following:

  • 10 U.S.C. § 424 which states: "Except as required by the President or as provided in subsection (c), no provision of law shall be construed to require the disclosure of (1) The organization or any function ...(2)... number of persons employed by or assigned or detailed to any such organization or the name, official title, occupational series, grade, or salary of any such person ...(b) Covered Organizations ... the National Reconnaissance Office";

  • 50 U.S.C. § 432a, which exempts operational files of the NRO from the publication, disclosure, search and review provisions of the FOIA.

About PA

The PA protects an individual's privacy by putting controls on federal agencies in the collection, use, maintenance, and dissemination of personal information. In addition, it entitles individuals to access federal agency records or to request an amendment to records that are maintained in a file retrievable by an individual's name or personal identifier, except to the extent that the information is exempt from release. An individual, in the context of the PA, is defined as a U.S. citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

The PA also requires that agency records be accurate, relevant, timely, and complete, and amendments are limited to these criteria. However, amendments are normally restricted to correcting factual errors and not matters of official judgments, such as performance ratings, or subjective judgments that reflect an individual's observation, evaluation, or opinion.

NRO Annual Reports

The NRO prepares an annual report on its FOIA processing. The NRO report is included in the Department of Defense annual report and can be found on the Department of Justice Office of Information Policy Reports page.