Freedom of Information/Privacy Act

FBI records

Learn all about FBI records—including how to find records already released and how to request unreleased records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or the Privacy Act. You can also find other information that will help you understand these records and the work of the FBI.

Understanding FBI Records 

The FBI—along with every other government agency—creates or obtains records as it carries out its responsibilities. In the Bureau, these records are generally organized into case files. Our common records include investigative files and personnel files. Our files are generally indexed in our Central Records System. This computerized index contains most of our records; some of our earliest records are not indexed. Some of our records have also been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration

More Information:

Obtaining FBI Records 

Records Available Now

A large number of FBI records are already available for reading and research in the FBI FOIA Library (The Vault).

  • In the Vault—our electronic FOIA library—you can read our most popular documents from the comfort of your own computer. The files are organized alphabetically by name or topic and by category or subject—including civil rights, counterterrorism, popular culture, unusual phenomenon, and violent crime. New releases of broad interest to the public can also be found on our Hot Topics page. While the Freedom of Information Act requires that the FBI make certain categories of records available in its libraries, it may at its discretion include other types of records:
  • If you would rather review the material in your own home, all FOIA Library documents are available on CDs. The information contained on the CDs is of the same quality as the original materials in the FOIA Library. To obtain these records, you must submit a FOIA request either by e-mail, regular mail, or fax.

Records Available by Request

The FBI recently launched eFOIA, a system designed to allow requestors to electronically submit FOIA requests and receive FOIA responses, which should eventually help reduce mailing and paper costs as well as response time. For complete information on when and how to submit a request through eFOIA or by mail, fax, or email, see Requesting FBI Records.

To learn what information you will receive, how long it takes, and how to file an appeal, see What Happens After Making a Request.

If you have questions about preparing or submitting requests, e-mail foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov or call our FOIA Requester Service at Center (540) 868-1535 to hear helpful recorded information.


What Happens After Making a Request 

How Long it Takes to Receive Information

  • Requests are handled in the order in which they are received according to a multi-track system. Please remember that the FBI receives a voluminous amount of requests on a daily basis.
  • Requests are divided into three different tracks depending on the number of pages sought. Smaller requests are those consisting of one to 50 pages. Medium requests consist of 51 to 950 pages. Large requests (950 pages or more) take more time to process.
  • If your request falls in the medium or large track, an FBI representative will contact you to identify the exact information needed to reduce processing time.
    To check on the status of an existing request, requesters are encouraged to use our online status check at https://vault.fbi.gov/fdps-1/@@search-fdps. Status updates are provided on a weekly basis. Requests that have been closed within the past six months are also listed.
  • If you have questions regarding FOIA-related matters, please contact us at foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov. Requesters may contact our Public Information Office at (540) 868-4593. Please provide the FOIPA request number to the public information officer to start the process.
    • Note: The public information officer cannot answer questions about an Identity History Summary Check (aka, rap sheet/background check, police certificate, criminal arrest record). All requests related to an Identity History Summary Check will be referred to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS), Clarksburg, West Virginia at (304) 625-2000.

What You Will Receive After FBI Processing

  • A release letter (commonly called an FOIPA release letter) is sent to you, along with all releasable documents.
  • The release letter explains any exemptions (Title 5, U.S. Code, Section 552/552a) that were used during processing. Each exemption used will have a check mark in its respective block. Please see the Freedom of Information Act exemptions and Privacy Act exemptions for more information.
  • The release letter will cite the number of pages reviewed and the number of pages being released.
  • Note: If there are any duplication and/or processing fees, the release letter will state the cost and provide instructions on where to send payment. Only upon our direction should payment be submitted.

Appeals

If you are not satisfied with the results of your request, you may file an appeal by writing to the Director of the Office of Information Policy (OIP/DOJ). Please follow the instructions below when submitting your appeal to OIP.

Address your appeal as follows:

Director, Office of Information Policy (OIP)
U.S. Department of Justice
1425 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 11050
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

In lieu of mailing your appeal, you may submit an appeal through OIP’s FOIA online portal by creating an account on the following website: https://foiaonline.regulations.gov/foia/action/publications.home.

Your appeal to OIP must be postmarked or electronically transmitted within 90 days from the date of your letter in order to be considered timely. If you submit your appeal by mail, both the letter and envelope should be clearly marked “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.” Please cite the FOIPA request number assigned to your request so that it may be easily identified.

Note: please do not send your appeal request directly to the FBI, which does not review appeals.

You may seek dispute resolution services by contacting the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at 877-684-6448, or by e-mailing ogis@nara.gov. Alternatively, you may contact the FBI’s FOIA public liaison by e-mailing foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov. If you submit your dispute resolution correspondence by e-mail, the subject heading should clearly state “Dispute Resolution Services.” Please also cite the FOIPA request number assigned to your request so that it may be easily identified.

Prepublication Review Office 

The Prepublication Review Office (PRO) is responsible for the FBI’s prepublication review program based on the obligation of FBI personnel and persons with whom the FBI contracts to safeguard sensitive and classified information from unauthorized disclosures. This obligation is based on statutes, regulations, access and employment agreements, contractual clauses, and the fiduciary relationships into which employees or contractor personnel enter when they are entrusted with such information in the performance of their official duties.

The PRO coordinates the prepublication-review process—preparing the FBI response to each request for prepublication, reviewing the submitted work upon receipt, and screening it to determine if further review is required and by whom. If there is an objection to disclosure of any portion of a work, the PRO notifies the author that the FBI withholds permission to disclose or publish the portions and requests such modifications as may be necessary. If the author submits a corrected portion for further review, the PRO continues to work with the requester until final clearance is authorized.

For further information, please contact:

Prepublication Review Coordinator
Phone: (540) 868-1697
E-mail: FBIPREPUB@ic.fbi.gov

Prepublication Review Office
Records Management Division
170 Marcel Drive
Winchester, VA 22602-4843

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