The Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act is a law that allows you to access documents and information from the federal government, especially if you want to check whether a person has a criminal history in the United States. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law on July 4, 1966.
What is the FOIA?
The FOIA law is often described as the law that allows U.S citizens to keep up with what their government is doing. Any federal agency must disclose any information requested unless it falls under certain exemptions. According to FOIA.gov, there are nine exemptions, and they include:
Exemption 1: Information that is classified to protect national security.
Exemption 2: Information related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.
Exemption 3: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.
Exemption 4: Trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is confidential or privileged.
Exemption 5: Privileged communications within or between agencies, including:
Deliberative Process Privilege
Attorney-Work Product Privilege
Exemption 6: Information that, if disclosed, would invade another individual’s personal privacy.
Exemption 7: Information compiled for law enforcement purposes that:
7(A). Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings
7(B). Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication
7(C). Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
7(D). Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source
7(E). Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions
7(F). Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual
Exemption 8: Information that concerns the supervision of financial institutions.
Exemption 9: Geological information on wells.
How FOIA helps the public
The FOIA makes it easier for the public to access records about their government. A lot of information is already publicly available on different agencies on their websites or the FOIA website, but if the information you want isn’t available, you can submit an FOIA request.
Most federal agencies accept requests electronically, but you can also submit a written request and submit it to the agency’s FOIA Office. A request can be made for any agency and you can choose the format that the report is delivered. With this resource, anyone can investigate the government.
In addition, thanks to FOIA, there are numerous private websites – such as this one– that provide efficient and reliable background check tools. These tools allow anyone to check quite easily whether a person has a criminal history.