Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs

Freedom of Information Act

 


Freedom of Information Act - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a record?

A record is the product(s) of data compilation, such as all books, papers, maps, and photographs, machine readable materials, inclusive of those in electronic form or format, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law in connection with the transaction of public business and in the agency’s possession and control at the time the FOIA request is made.

What records are exempt from FOIA requests?

There are nine exemptions listed below. If you are unsure whether the records you want are exempt, request them anyway.
  1. classified national defense and foreign relations information,
  2. internal agency rules and practices (unless they relate to instructions on how to deal with the public),
  3. information that is prohibited from disclosure by another law,
  4. trade secrets and other confidential business information,
  5. inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges,
  6. information involving matters of personal privacy,
  7. certain information compiled for law enforcement purposes,
  8. information relating to the supervision of financial institutions, and
  9. geological information on wells

What are the reasons for not releasing a record?

The reasons why the Wisconsin National Guard may not release a record when a request for the record is made under the FOIA, are:
  • A reasonable search of files failed to identify responsive records.
  • The requests if transferred to another Agency, or to another Federal Agency.
  • The request is withdrawn by the requester.
  • The requester is unwilling to pay fees associated with a request; the requester is past due in the payment of fees from a previous FOIA request; or the requester disagrees with the fee estimate.
  • A record has not been described with sufficient particularity to enable the Delaware National Guard to locate it by conducting a reasonable search.
  • The requester has failed to comply with procedural requirements, other than fee-related, imposed by DoD 5400.7-R or DoD Component supplementing regulations.
  • The information requested is not a record within the meaning of the FOIA and this Regulation.
  • The request is a duplicate request (e.g. a requester asks for the same information more than once). This includes identical requests received via different means (e.g. electronic mail, facsimile, mail, courier) at the same or different times.
  • Any other reason a requester does not comply with published rules other than those outlined above.
  • The record is denied in whole or in part in accordance with procedures set forth in the FOIA.

Who can make a FOIA Request?

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

Can I ask a question under FOIA?

FOIA does not require federal agencies to answer questions, render opinions, or provide subjective evaluations. FOIA merely allows requesters access to records and information listed above.

How do I request a record under FOIA?

To make a FOIA request, simply write or fax a letter to the appropriate agency. To ensure quick handling of your request, mark both your envelope and your letter Freedom of Information Act Request. You do not have to give the records title, but try to be as specific as possible to increase the likelihood that WING will be able to locate the information you seek. You are not required to state why you want the records or information.

To make a FOIA Request to the Wisconsin Army National Guard, please contact:

An example FOIA Request letter is at the end of this publication.

Do I have to identify myself when making the request?

No but in order to help determine your status for determination of fees for the request you may want to identify your affiliation.

Am I required to state the reason for the request?

You do not have to state your reason for your request.

Can I get electronic records?

Yes, In 1996 Congress amended FOIA to provide for public access to information in an electronic format. Also under the E-FOIA amendments, FOIA requires that federal agencies make certain information/records available in their FOIA reading rooms on the internet. Click here to access the FOIA sites of federal agencies.

May I request records in a specific format?

Yes, but the records may not be available in the requested format. If you request records that already exist in an electronic format, the FOIA requires agencies in almost all cases to provide these records to you in that same format, if that is what you prefer. However, if you request records that exist only in paper form, and would like them in some electronic format, the agency is obligated to provide the records in that electronic format only if it can do so with a reasonable amount of effort. The same is true if you request that electronic records be provided to you in an electronic format in which they do not already exist.

How long until I get the records?

The agency has 20 working days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays) to respond to your request. If you do not receive a response within that time (include mailing time) then contact the agency to check the status of your request. The agency can extend the 20-day period by 10 days with written notice to you. If the request cannot be processed with in the time limit, the agency shall provide the requester the opportunity to limit the scope of the request so that it may be processed within the time limit, or an opportunity to arrange an alternative time frame for processing the request or modified request.

What is the cost of the record?

FOIA allows fees to be charged to certain types of requesters, but it also provides that waivers or reductions in fees be given if disclosing the information is in the public interest. Public interest is defined as information which significantly enhances the public’s knowledge of the operations and activities of the Wisconsin National Guard, and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

The FOIA requires that requesters be placed into one of the below categories:

  • Commercial: Requesters who seek information for a use or purpose that benefits their commercial, trade, or profit interest, are considered commercial requesters. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review and duplication.

  • Educational. Educational institutions that include preschools, elementary or secondary schools and institutions of higher learning, qualify as educational institutions. The records must be sought to facilitate scholarly research. Educational requesters pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that disclosing the information is in the public interest then the fees may be waived or reduced. The first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

  • Non-Commercial Scientific. A non-commercial scientific institution is operated solely for conducting scientific research. The records must be sought to further scientific research. Like educational requesters, these requesters pay only duplication fees unless it is determined that disclosing the information is in the public interest then the fees are waived or reduced. The first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

  • News Media. A representative of the news media is a person actively gathering news for an entity organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. News media pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that disclosing the information is in the public interest then the fees may be waived or reduced t. Again, the first 100 pages are provided at no cost.

  • “Other” Requesters. Requesters who do not qualify in any other category are considered “other” requesters, and normally make requests for agency records for their personal use. “Other” requesters receive two hours search, all review costs, and the first 100 pages at no cost.

All requesters should submit a willingness to pay fees regardless of the fee category. However, this does not mean you will be charged fees. Except for commercial requesters whose fees total more than $15, waivers are always considered. Fee waivers may be granted when disclosure of the records is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the Wisconsin National Guard and the government.

What if my request is denied?

If the agency locates records in response to your request, it can withhold them (or any portion of them) if they are exempt from disclosure (see above for exemptions). If the agency denies your request, in whole or in part, it must provide an estimate of the amount of material withheld, state the reason(s) for the denial, and inform you of your right to appeal to a higher decision making level within the agency.

If your request is initially denied, in whole or in part, under one or more of the above exemptions or denied for some other reason, you will be advised of your appeal rights and the proper procedures for submitting the appeal. Your appeal must be postmarked within 60 days of the date of the denial letter. You may also appeal any determination that you consider to be adverse. As with appeals of denied information, an appeal of an adverse determination also must be postmarked within 60 days of the date of the letter advising you of the adverse determination.

The agency has 20 working days (excluding Saturday, Sunday and Federal holidays) to respond to an appeal.

What if my appeal is denied?

If the agency denies your appeal, or does not respond within the statutory time period, you may take the matter to court. You can file a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court where you live, where you have your principal place of business, where the documents are kept, or in the District of Columbia.

Related Information

FOIA: How To Make A Request

FOIA: The Law (46Kb pdf)

Sample FOIA Request (11kb pdf)

Sample FOIA Request (23kb Word)

Helpful Links

National Guard Bureau FOIA

Department of Justice components FOIA contacts

Principal FOIA contacts at other federal agencies

Links to other federal agencies FOIA websites

Code of Federal Regulations

The Privacy Act of 1974

Freedom of Information Act

Department of Defense FOIA Website

DOD FOIA Program

The Army FOIA Program

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