Library

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

General Questions

  1. What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

    The Freedom of Information Act generally 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 national security laws.

  2. Why is declassification important?
    "These [declassification] programs are a representation of the vital components of our democracy, one of which is an open society in which the American public, informed by a free flow of information, holds the Government accountable for its actions."

    Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). 2007 Report to the President

  3. What is the Privacy Act?

    The Privacy Act allows individuals to see what records the federal government is keeping about them and allows them access to these records. It also allows individuals to amend that information if they feel it is incorrect. It also outlines how personal information should be collected, handled, and shared.

  4. What kind of records does the CIA produce?

    The CIA's primary mission is the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence information for use by our nation's leadership. The CIA was organized pursuant to the National Security Act of 1947. The Agency has no police, subpoena, law enforcement, or internal security functions. In addition to records on foreign intelligence information, the CIA also maintains personnel files on employees and applicants.

  5. Where can I find your regulations?

    The text in PDF format of 32CFR is available online.

  6. Where can I find CIA's annual reports?

    Our annual reports date back to 1997. Access reports from 2002 to the present on the Annual Reports page

  7. Where can I find CIA's FOIA improvement plan that Executive Order 13392 requires?

    The Improving Agency Disclosure of Information document is available here.

  8. What if the CIA locates records originated by another government agency?

    If we locate records that were originated by another government agency, we will refer this material to that agency. They will review the request and respond.

  9. How can I request my personnel records and Performance Appraisal Reports (PARs)?

    All requests for PARs and other personnel records are made via the Privacy Act. See How to File a Privacy Act Request for the required information and form.

  10. Where can I find information regarding CIA's Electronic Recordkeeping System?
    See CIA's Information Management: Electronic Recordkeeping System document for more information.
     

File a FOIA Request

  1. How do I file a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request with the CIA?

    To file a FOIA request, write to:

    Information and Privacy Coordinator
    Central Intelligence Agency
    Washington, D.C. 20505

    Or send via fax to: 703-613-3007
    We do not accept FOIA requests via e-mail.
    Requests must be written in English.
    See our sample letter for full details.

  2. May I ask for any information I want?

    Yes. The Freedom of Information Act is designed so you can obtain information from the government on topics in which you are interested.

    Sending us requests on a specific subject of your interest helps us process your request. With specific requests, we can identify the record systems that are likely to contain information responsive to your request and any responsive materials the Agency may have previously released.

  3. Can I request information on individuals other than myself?When requesting records on an individual other than yourself, provide the following information:
    • Full name.
    • Date and place of birth, nationality, and citizenship status. A signed notarized statement from the other individual authorizing release of personal information or evidence of death -- such as a death certificate, obituary, or press statement.

    Please see Privacy Act for obtaining information about yourself.

  4. What kind of requests will you not fulfill?

    The CIA takes exemptions under the FOIA to protect sources and methods and national security information.

    CIA will neither confirm nor deny the existence of records on:

    • CIA operational activities.
    • Specific confidential or covert relationships (i.e., classified source).
    • Most organizational components.
    • Foreign nationals.
    • Polygraph records.
    • Names, official titles, salaries of CIA personnel.
    • Numbers of personnel employed by CIA.
    • Data relating to CIA budget and/or expenditures.
    • CIA facilities.
    • CIA liaison relationships with foreign governments. Information provided by a foreign government.

    CIA will fulfill requests if any of the above has been "officially" acknowledged by executive acknowledgment or official release.

  5. How do I make sure my request is effective?

    The CIA collects and analyzes foreign intelligence on foreign countries, regions, and international issues.

    To fulfill FOIA requests, we search through decentralized, voluminous records indexed to a specific country, region, or broad issue of public interest. So that we might better serve you, you should:

    • Specify a particular subject or subjects.
    • Provide a timeframe for your interest.
    • Limit your request to finished intelligence, especially if you have a short deadline.

    To avoid any unnecessary delays in processing, make sure your request is specific. You must:

    • Describe your records sufficiently to enable a professional employee familiar with the subject to locate the document without an unreasonable amount of effort - meaning the document must be locatable through indices to our various records.
    • Not expect us to do research or conduct unreasonable searches through a body of material not easily accessed through indices to our various records.
  6. In what order will the CIA process my request for information?

    We process FOIA requests on a "first in, first out" basis. However, relatively simple requests may be handled quicker than those requests involving complex and/or voluminous records.

  7. I need a fast response. How can I get expedited treatment for my request?

    Your request will move to the front of the processing line if you can demonstrate a "compelling need." The Agency defines a compelling need as:

    • A matter involving imminent threat to the life or safety of an individual, or
    • When a person primarily engaged in disseminating information asks for information relevant to a matter of public urgency regarding actual or alleged federal government activity.

    Once we have started to process a FOIA request, a request for expedited processing becomes moot. The CIA must grant a decision for expedited processing within 10 calendar days of receiving a proper request.

  8. How much does it cost to file a FOIA request?

    The cost for a FOIA request varies. For complete details, visit FOIA Fees & Waivers.

    At your request, we will provide estimates of fees. We also will work with you by offering suggestions on how to refine your requests to minimize costs.

  9. Can I check on the progress of my request?

    Yes. Call our FOIA Requester Service Center at 703-613-1287, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST. Please provide as much identifying information as possible (e.g., your name, phone number, and case number).

    We cannot receive or respond to e-mail messages.

  10. Why didn't I get what I requested?

    The Freedom of Information Act authorizes government agencies to protect certain information from release. This includes -- but is not limited to -- information that is currently and properly classified.

    We cannot withhold requested, responsive information unless one of nine of the FOIA's exemptions {Link to exemptions} applies. You will receive an explanation of these exemptions with the Agency's response.

  11. I don't like CIA's response to my request. May I ask the Agency to reconsider?

    You can file an administrative appeal with the CIA within 45 business days of the date of the CIA's decision to deny all or part of the requested information or to provide a "no records located" response.

    Send your appeal to:

    CIA Agency Release Panel
    CIA Information and Privacy Coordinator
    CIA
    Washington, D.C. 20505

    Or send via fax to: 703-613-3007

    We do not accept appeals via e-mail.

  12. How do I file a request for records before 1947 (the date of CIA's creation)?

    We do have some administrative Office of Strategic Services (OSS) records. OSS operational records, however, have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

    Send requests for operational OSS records to:

    Office of Records Services 
    Modern Military Records 
    National Archives and Records Administration
    8601 Adelphi Road 
    College Park, Md. 20740-6001

File a Privacy Act (PA) Request

  1. How do I file a PA request with the CIA?

    Specify in writing that you wish a copy of records indexed to your name.

    Send your query to:

    Information and Privacy Coordinator
    Central Intelligence Agency
    Washington, D.C. 20505

    Or send via fax to: 703-613-3007

    We do not accept Privacy Act requests via e-mail.

    Requests must be written in English.

    See our sample letter for full details and requirements.

  2. Who's eligible for a PA request?

    The Privacy Act applies only to personal information on US citizens or permanent resident aliens maintained by Executive Branch agencies of the US Government.

  3. Who can you file a PA request on?

    Seeking the Most Information on Yourself

    Some provisions of the FOIA and the PA overlap. However, the laws contain different procedures and exemptions. Because of these differences, information exempt under one law may be released under the other. The CIA's policy, as with many other Executive Branch agencies, is to automatically handle PA requests under the provisions of both the PA and the FOIA.

    Requests for Information on Individuals Other Than Yourself

    If you are seeking information on someone other than yourself, make your request only under the FOIA

    Requesting Searches of Specific CIA Record Systems

    It is not necessary for you to specify the particular record systems you wish to have searched. However, it is helpful if your request includes information about the type of information or what records you believe we have on you.

  4. What kind of requests will not be fulfilled?

    The CIA takes exemptions under the PA to protect sources and methods and national security information.

    The Agency will neither confirm nor deny the existence of those records and will deny records on, but not limited to, the following:

    • Privacy information on other US citizens unless granted permission by the individual or can prove person is deceased.
    • CIA operational activities.
    • Specific confidential or covert relationships.
    • Foreign nationals.
    • Polygraph tests.

    CIA will fulfill requests if any of the above has been "officially" acknowledged by executive acknowledgment or official release.

  5. How much does it cost to file a PA request?

    The CIA does not assess fees for either searches or reproduction when processing PA requests.

  6. What will slow down my request?

    We are legally required to seek additional information from you before we can start processing your request if it is missing the following elements:

    • Any or all of this biographic data: full name, date and place of birth, and citizenship status.
    • A statement about citizenship status, especially a US citizen born overseas. If you are a legal permanent resident alien or a naturalized citizen, we will need the date you obtained that status and your PRA/citizenship certificate number.
    • A notarized statement attesting to your identity or a statement such as the following signed under penalty of perjury stating the same, for example:
      I, NAME, do swear that the above mentioned information is true and correct under penalty of perjury pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1746. 
      [Signed] NAME
    • A notarized statement authorizing us to release your records to an attorney or statement signed under penalty of perjury stating the same, for example:

      I, NAME, do authorize ATTORNEY'S NAME as my attorney to receive any records on my behalf under penalty of perjury pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1746.
      [Signed] NAME

*Adobe® Reader® is needed to view Adobe PDF files. If you don't already have Adobe Reader installed, you may download the current version at the Adobe website.