FOIA

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The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. § 552) was designed to make all existing federal government records available to the public unless they are protected from disclosure by a FOIA exemption or release of the information would cause a specific harm.
 
For general information about FOIA, please consult the Department of Justice's FOIA Resources.  
 
Each agency handles its own requests under FOIA.  The information included below only pertains to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.
 
Types of Information Available:
FOIA applies to records held by the agency that are either not protected by a FOIA exemption or the release of which would not cause a specific harm.
 
Records are defined as data complications such as books, papers, maps, and photographs, machine readable, electronic format, or other documents regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States government and in their possession and control at the time a FOIA request is received. In response to requests, the FOIA does not require agencies to create records, conduct investigations, render opinions, provide subjective evaluations, answer questions or develop information.
 
FOIA does not apply to records created by or in the possession of private citizens or government grant holders.
 
Nearly all of the information held by the Truman Foundation that would be covered by FOIA is available on our website.  There is no need to file a request for these items.  For instance, lists of Scholars, sortable by year, school, name and state are available on the website.
 
How to Make a FOIA Request:
We do not require a special form in order to make a FOIA request.  Requests for existing records must be in writing, handwritten or typed, and submitted via mail, fax or electronically.  Requests may be sent to the attention of the Deputy Executive Secretary, Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, 712 Jackson Place, NW, Washington, DC 20006, via office@truman.gov or by fax at 2020.395.6995. The more specific a request is, (dates, time frames, subject, location), the more responsive we can be. If necessary, we will contact a requester in order to refine or clarify the request.
 
All requests are processed under both the FOIA and the Privacy Act in order to provide proper disclosure. Requesters seeking records on themselves must provide either a notarized statement or a statement signed under penalty of perjury stating that they are the person they claim to be. They may have their signature on the request notarized or pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1746 (2) include the following statement just before the signature line: “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [date].” This is to ensure that private information is not improperly disclosed.
 
Reasons Why Records May Not Be Disclosed:
  • A reasonable search failed to locate responsive records.
  • Request is referred to the Federal agency that possesses the responsive records.
  • Information requested is not a record within the meaning of the FOIA.
  • Access to the record is denied in whole or in part pursuant to the FOIA exemptions.

The Nine FOIA Exemptions can be found at 5 U.S.C. §552(b) (1) through (b)(9).  The ones that are likely to apply to the Truman Foundation are:

  • Exemption (b)(2) records that relate solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency;
  • Exemption (b)(3) records protected by another law that specifically exempts the information from public disclosure. (The specific statute must be cited.);
  • Exemption (b)(4) which includes financial information obtained from a person which would cause substantial competitive harm to the submitter if disclosed;
  • Exemption (b)(5) inter-agency or intra-agency records that are deliberative in nature and are part of the decision making process that contain opinions and recommendations; and
  • Exemption (b)(6) personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of individual privacy.
 
Response Time
FOIA requires that agencies respond to requests within 20 working days excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. This period begins once the correct office is in receipt of the request and once any issues such as processing fees are resolved. The Foundation's written acknowledgment of the request will provide contact information in order for the requester to check the status of their request. FOIA allows the Foundation to invoke a ten working day extension when responsive records are voluminous, require two or more offices to confer about the records, and/or are located off-site.
 
Expedited Handling of FOIA Requests
Under certain conditions a requester may be entitled to have their request processed on an expedited basis (within 10 calendar days) from the date on which the request was received. The requester must demonstrate that failure to obtain requested records on an expedited basis could pose a threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or the requester is primarily engaged in disseminating the information and has an urgency to inform the public on an actual or alleged federal government activity.
 
Fees
The FOIA classifies requesters into four categories:
  • Commercial requesters:  Records are for a use or purpose that furthers their commercial, trade, or profit interests. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review and duplication.
  • Educational institutions & Non-commercial scientific requesters:  Records must be for educational or scholarly research. Educational requesters pay only duplication fees after receiving the first 100 pages at no cost.
  • News media:  Must be actively gathering news for an entity organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. Freelance reporters may qualify as media requesters. These requesters pay only duplication fees after receiving the first 100 pages at no cost.
  • Other:  Requesters do not fit into any categories above and the records are for personal use. Fees are $30 an hour for search and review and $.10 a page for duplication.
 
A requester may seek a fee waiver if disclosure of the requested records is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.  Non-profit, media or indigent statuses do not automatically qualify a requester for a fee waiver. The requester must demonstrate expertise in the subject area and the ability to disseminate the information to the public.
 
Appeal of Initial Denial
A requester may file an appeal if responsive records are withheld, a “no records” initial response is provided, expedited processing or a fee waiver is denied.  The written appeal must be submitted to the Foundation within 60 calendar days of the date of the initial response and must contain the signature of the appellant. We will review all pertinent documents and respond directly to the appellant with disclosure, expedited processing and fee waiver determinations.  If this appeal is also denied, a requestor may appeal to the Truman Foundation's Legal Counsel.  Should this appeal also be denied, the requestor can appeal to the Truman Foundation's Board of Trustees.  After these administrative remedies have been exhausted, a requester may seek judicial review.