FOIA requires that all government records must be published or made available to the public unless they fall into one of the nine enumerated exemptions in § 552(b). The exemptions are not mandatory bars to disclosure, and therefore an agency – unless otherwise prohibited by a more specific statute – may exercise its discretion to disclose exempted information.
- Exemption 1 covers documents that are “specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive Order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive Order.”
- Exemption 2 protects from disclosure information “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.”
- Exemption 3 protects information specifically exempted from disclosure by statute, provided that such statute (a) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue or (b) established particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld. Section 12(d) and 12(n) of the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (45 U.S.C. §§ 362(d) and (n) are incorporated into the Railroad Retirement Act. These provisions prohibit disclosure of personally identifiable information unless one of the exemptions contained in those sections are met. These statutes are Exemption 3 statutes.
- Exemption 4 applies to “trade secrets” and to “commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”
- Exemption 5 shields from mandatory disclosure “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.”
- Exemption 6 covers “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
- Exemption 7 protects records or information complied for law enforcement purposes.
- Exemption 8 applies to 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 regulations or supervision of financial institutions.”
Exemption 9 applies to “geological and geophysical information and date, including maps, concerning wells.”