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Freedom of Information Act Requests (FOIA)


What is a FOIA Request?

Freedom of Information Act request or FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552, as amended) generally provides any person with the statutory right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to Government information in executive branch agency records. This right to access is limited when such information is protected from disclosure by one of FOIA’s nine statutory exemptions.

To learn more about FOIA please read the National Archive's FOIA Reference Guide.

Clinton presidential records became subject to FOIA requests on January 20, 2006. Any person can request access to records via a FOIA request. FOIA requests are processed according to the day the request is received. Following the receipt of a FOIA request, a search is conducted for records responsive to the request. The researcher is then advised of the result of the initial search, and the FOIA is placed in one of several queues, based on complexity and volume.

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What is the Presidential Records Act?

The Presidential Records Act of 1978 (or PRA) (44 U.S.C. β2201-2207) governs the official records of Presidents and Vice Presidents created or received after January 20, 1981. The PRA has six restrictions. To learn more about the PRA please go to the National Archive's PRA Guide.  The Clinton presidential records are subject to the PRA for twelve years following the end of the Administration. This means that materials restricted under the PRA are only closed for twelve years, unlike materials restricted under FOIA which remain closed for longer and more variable periods of time. 

Two restrictions that are distinct to the PRA are the P2 restriction for information relating to appointment of Federal Office, and the P5 restriction for information that would disclose confidential advice between the President and his advisors, or between such advisors.

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What is a presidential record?

The term presidential record means any documentary material, or any reasonably divisible portion thereof created or received by the President, his immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function it is to advise and assist the President in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.  Offices that create Presidential records include but are not limited to the National Security Council, the Council of Economic Advisors, the Office of Management and Budget and the White House. These are just a few examples of offices that create Presidential records.

Personal records created by the President are not presidential records. Campaign material and records created post-presidency are also not presidential records.

Examples:

 

Presidential record Not Presidential record
Speeches 1992 Campaign Material
Presidential Schedules Clinton Foundation
Presidential Correspondence Arkansas Governor Material

 

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How to submit a FOIA request

FOIA requests can be submitted by letter, fax, or email. Requests should include the requestor’s name, address, email address, and phone number. Requests should also state that the requestor asks for access to records under the provisions of FOIA. Requestors should provide as much detail as possible when describing the records they are requesting. Information that might provide such detail includes:

  • White House offices or staff members,
  • Events, speeches, issues,
  • Date or date range of events, speeches or records

Submit a request by email

Submit a request by fax to 501-244-2881

Submit a request by mail please send your request to this address:

FOIA Coordinator
Clinton Presidential Library
1200 President Clinton Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

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What kind of material is restricted?

Most of the documents closed under the restrictions of the PRA and the FOIA relate to national security information, confidential advice between the President and his advisors or between such advisors, or information regarded as a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, such as social security numbers or home phone numbers. Items removed from a collection are listed on withdrawal sheets placed in the open file. These sheets cite PRA and/or FOIA restrictions applied.

Records withdrawn under the statutes of the PRA remain closed for a period of twelve years following the end of the former president’s administration. Records withdrawn under the FOIA remain closed for longer and more variable periods of time.

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Can I appeal closures of records restricted under the PRA/FOIA?

Yes. The original requestor can file an appeal challenging the status of records closed under the provisions of the PRA and/or FOIA. Forms for filing PRA and FOIA appeals are available on request. Please contact the library by mail, fax or email.

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Can I request declassification of national security information?

Yes. All national security documents responsive to a FOIA request will be reviewed. Any records restricted under national security provisions of the PRA and FOIA will be eligible for appeal by the original requestor once submitted for declassification review. Researchers may also file a Mandatory Declassification Review request for specific Presidential documents closed under the national security restrictions of the FOIA. Use the Mandatory Declassification Review page to find step-by-step instructions and the necessary forms and information to file a Mandatory Declassification Review request.

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I filed a FOIA request but haven’t heard anything for a long time

FOIA requests are placed in queues based on complexity and the expected volume of records. To treat everyone equitably FOIAs are processed in the order in which they are received.  Also FOIA requests received by the Clinton Library are processed and reviewed for access under the provisions of the PRA and FOIA and are subject to Executive Order 13489, which requires that we notify the representatives of the former President and the incumbent President prior to the release of any Presidential records.

If you have questions about the status of your FOIA, please contact us.

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FOIA Fees

There is no initial fee to submit a FOIA request. However fees will be charged for reproduction and shipping of records if requested.  Please see the FAQ section for more information.

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