Freedom of Information/Privacy Act

FBI records

Learn all about FBI records—including how to access previously released records and how to request records in accordance with the Freedom of Information (FOIA) and Privacy Acts, collectively referred to as FOIPA. Please review the information below to assist you with understanding these records and the operations of the FBI.

Understanding FBI Records 

The FBI—along with every other government agency—creates and obtains records as it carries out its day to day operations. In the Bureau, these records generally include investigative files, personnel files, and policy guides. A majority of these documents are indexed in our Central Records System (CRS)—an electronic index that allows Bureau personnel to query requested information. While the CRS contains most of the FBI's records, some of our earliest records were not indexed, and some records have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration

Obtaining FBI Records 

Records Available Now

A large number of FBI records are available for public review on the FBI's electronic FOIA Library (The Vault).

  • On The Vault website, users can examine a wide variety of FBI records from the comfort of their own computers. Types of records that the FBI provides electronically on The Vault include, but are not limited to:
  • Records on The Vault are organized alphabetically by name or topic. Users may also locate records by browsing various categories such as civil rights, counterterrorism, popular culture, unusual phenomenon, and violent crime. Records that are frequently requested or deemed to be of significant public interest may be found on the Hot Topics page.
  • If you would rather receive a physical copy (CD or paper format) of records that are currently available on The Vault, you may submit a FOIA request by e-mail, fax, standard mail, or through eFOIPA, the FBI's electronic FOIPA portal. Please note that physical copies of these records will be of the same quality as those available on The Vault.

Records Available by Request

To receive records that are not already available on The Vault, you may submit an FOIPA request by e-mail, fax, standard mail, or through eFOIPA, the FBI's recently deployed electronic FOIPA portal. Currently in beta, eFOIPA allows requesters to electronically submit and receive correspondence regarding their FOIPA requests. This new system is expected to significantly reduce paper costs, mailing costs, and response times associated with FOIPA records requests.

For complete information on when and how to submit an FOIPA request, please review Requesting FBI Records.

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

If you have questions about preparing or submitting requests, you may 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/public/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

Contact Us