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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

What is FOIA?

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a Federal law (5 U.S.C. §552) that establishes the public’s right to request existing records from Federal government agencies. As a component of the Department of the Navy, Secretary of the Navy Instruction 5720.42G, Department of the Navy Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program (SECNAVINST 5720.42G), governs the Marine Corps FOIA program.  SECNAVINST 5720.42G is codified at 32 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 701.

Who can file a FOIA request?

Any person can file a FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, businesses, and state and local governments.

 

What can I ask for under the FOIA?

A FOIA request can be made for any agency record in any format you specify.  You should be aware that the FOIA does not require agencies to do research for you, to analyze data, to answer written questions, or to create records in response to a request.  The records are subject to review and you will not receive information that is exempt from release. 

 

What are exemptions?

 

In limited instances, information may be withheld from disclosure if it is:

    -currently and properly classified in the interest of national defense or foreign policy [FOIA exemption (b)(1) pertains];

    -related solely to internal personnel rules and practices, the release of which would allow circumvention of a statute or rule [FOIA exemption (b)(2) pertains];

    -protected by a statute that specifically exempts the information from public release [FOIA exemption (b)(3) pertains];

    -trade secrets and commercial or financial information which was obtained from a private source which would cause substantial competitive harm to the information source [FOIA exemption (b)(4) pertains];

    -pre-decisional opinions and recommendations, inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters, that show foreseeable harm if released.  Also, attorney-client privilege and attorney-work product are covered [FOIA exemption (b)(5) pertains];

    -personal and medical information, the release of which would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy [FOIA exemption (b)(6) pertains]; and/or

    -investigatory records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, which (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 identify of a confidential source, (e) would disclose investigative techniques, and/or (f) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual [FOIA exemption (b)(7) pertains].

How long does it take?

The time it takes to respond to each request varies depending on how complex it is and whether there is a backlog of other requests pending at the agency.  The FOIA establishes a standard time limit of 20 working days (about a month); if more time is needed you will be notified in writing and provided an opportunity to modify or limit the scope of your request.  Under certain conditions specified by law, you may be entitled to expedited processing.

 

How to file a FOIA request electronically:

  1. Electronic requests are submitted via FOIAonline.gov. Use the dropdowns to direct the request to MAGTFTC, MCAGCC: Create Request > Department of the Navy, including Marine Corps > Marine Corps > MCAGCC/MAGTFTC 29 Palms.

 

  1. The following elements are required:

 

  • Complete name, email, and mailing address of requestor. Records are typically sent electronically, therefore, an email is required.
  • A willingness to pay fees - Although there are allowances for non-commercial requesters to receive a limited amount of search and duplication without charge, the law requires that the requester be willing to pay fees.  You may state any amount or indicate that you will limit your request to what you can receive without charge. Fee waivers are considered on a case-by- case basis and will require an explanation of how the public interest will be served.
  • A description of the specific records you are requesting, with enough detail so that they can be located with a reasonable amount of effort. Generally, a record is reasonably described when the description contains sufficient file-related information (type of document, title, subject area, date of creation, originator, etc.) or the request contains enough event-related information (date of circumstances surrounding the event the record covers) to permit the conduct of an organized, non-random search.  Because most Navy records are not retained permanently, the more information provided, the better opportunity there is to determine if the records would still exist and where.

 

Can I submit a paper request?

 

Yes.

 

How to submit your FOIA request via U.S. Mail:

 

  1. Label your request "FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUEST," on the request (and also on the envelope, if you use a written request). 
     
  2. Describe the specific record(s) you are seeking with enough detail so that a knowledgeable official of the activity may locate the record with a reasonable amount of effort. Such detail should include descriptive information, time frame to be searched, etc. Because most Marine Corps records are not retained permanently, the more information provided, the better opportunity there is to determine if the records would still exist and where. The FOIA clearly states that records must exist at the time the request is submitted to be considered.
     
  3. State your willingness to pay all fees or those up to a specified amount or provide a justification to support a fee waiver. Agreements to pay fees are considered to be up to $25, unless another amount is specified. Currently we charge search, review (for commercial requesters only), and duplication costs. (Our fee schedule is provided at enclosure (3) of Secretary of the Navy Instruction 5720.42F). 
     
  4. Include your complete postal service mailing address on your request.

 

 

  1. Please mail your request to:

 

Commanding General
Attn: Adjutant (FOIA Coordinator)
Box 788101
MAGTFTC, MCAGCC
Twentynine Palms, CA 92278-8101

 

 

Questions?

Call the FOIA/PA Coordinator at (760) 830-4189

Email the FOIA/PA Coordinator at SMBPLMSG-1FOIA@usmc.mil
For more information visit USMC FOIA.