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FOIA Exemptions and Exclusions

The OIG will provide any requested record or portion of a record that can be segregated from other parts of a file or record after deleting the portions that are exempt from disclosure. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the following exemptions from disclosure may apply:

FOIA Exemptions

Exemption (b)(1) specifically authorizes, under criteria established by an Executive order, information to be kept secret in the interest of National defense or foreign policy.

Exemption (b)(2) pertains to information related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.

Exemption (b)(3) protects information that is prohibited by a statute other than the FOIA.

In most OIG cases, Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that parties in possession of information which is part of a Grand Jury proceeding may make disclosure only by court order.

Exemption (b)(4) protects trade secrets and confidential, commercial or financial information

Examples of exemption 4 records are financial statements and balance sheets; names of consultants, subcontractors, and suppliers; equipment information; certain financial information related to Indian tribes and tribal enterprises; commercial or financial information received in confidence in connection with bids, contracts, or proposals.

Exemption (b)(5) permits an agency to withhold inter-agency or intra-agency information that would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Examples of possible exemption 5 documents are sensitive draft records; advisory material in records prepared on behalf of the agency by consultants; records relating to the possible settlement of litigation; and sensitive recommendations contained in official reports of audits, investigations, etc., pertaining to the safety, security, or internal management, administration, or operation of one of the U.S. Department of the Interior's components.

Exemption (b)(6) prohibits the disclosure of any record which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy such as information found in personnel and medical files.

Examples of exemption 6 records are performance appraisals; records on an employee's medical condition, history, and test results; personally identifiable information such as name, social security number, military service number, home address and telephone number, age, place and date of birth, etc.; and payroll information such as number of deductions, number of withholding exemptions, and net wages.

Exemption (b)(7) pertains to records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information:

(A) Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings;

(B) Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;

(C) Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;

(D) Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a state, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution that furnished information on a confidential basis;

(E) Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law; or

(F) Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.

Examples of exemption 7 records are investigative files; pending criminal, civil, or administrative actions; background security investigations; affidavits; audit reports where an investigation is involved; names of special agents, informants, witnesses, and interviewees; information that would identify a confidential source; sections of the IG Manual that detail sensitive interviewing, surveillance, and investigation techniques.

Exemption (b)(8) protects matters that are contained in or related to examination, operation, or condition reports used by agencies responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.

Examples of exemption 8 records are bank examination reports; all records of a bank's financial condition and operation in possession of a Federal agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions; and reports examining bank compliance with consumer laws and regulations.

Exemption (b)(9) protects geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.

Examples of exemption 9 records include scientific and technical data about a well, and the commercial value of information related to mineral exploration and extraction.

FOIA Exclusions

Three exclusions can be claimed regarding records which fall under exemption (b)(7)(A).

(1) The disclosure of the records could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings involving a possible violation of criminal law when the subject of the investigation or proceeding is not aware of such.

(2) A request by a third party for informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency under an informant's name or personal identifier may be treated as not subject to the requirements of this section unless the informant's status has been officially confirmed.

(3) Records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation pertaining to foreign intelligence, counterintelligence or international terrorism, may be withheld if the existence of the records is classified information.