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 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 processing tracks based on the number of pages responsive to the request. A request is routed through a small processing track if it encompasses 50 pages or less, a medium processing track if it encompasses 51 to 950 pages, or a large processing track if it encompasses 951 pages or more. Requests that encompass a high volume of responsive records will take a longer time to process than requests that encompass a small volume of responsive records.
  • If your request encompasses more than 950 responsive pages, an FBI representative will contact you in an effort to reduce the fees and the processing time associated with your request. 
  • To check the status of an existing request, requesters are encouraged to use the FBI’s FOIPA online status tool at This tool can also be found on the FOIPA Status tab at the top of this page ( Status updates are performed on a weekly basis. The status of a closed request will be available for six months following the date of closure.
  • If you have questions regarding any FBI FOIPA-related matters, please contact us at, or contact our Public Information Office at (540) 868-4593. If you have already submitted a request, please be prepared to provide your FOIPA request number so that we may better assist you.
    • Questions about Identity History Summary Checks: The public information officer cannot answer questions about Identity History Summary Checks (commonly called rap sheets, background checks, police certificates, or criminal arrest records). All requests or questions related to Identity History Summary Checks should be directed to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia at (304) 625-2000.
    • Questions about Name Check Requests: The public information officer cannot answer questions about Name Check requests. Information regarding Name Check requests can be found on the FBI’s National Name Check Program webpage. Please note that the National Name Check Program only accepts requests submitted by other federal agencies; requests received from the general public will not be accepted.

What You Will Receive After FBI Processing

After records responsive to your request have been processed, you will receive the following items:

  • Releasable documents
  • An FOIPA release letter citing the number of pages reviewed, released, and any exemptions (Title 5, U.S. Code, Section 552/552a) that were applied during the processing of your request. Please see the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act exemptions for more information. If there were any duplication and/or processing fees associated with your request, costs and payment instructions will be provided to you in the letter.


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) at the following address:

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

In lieu of mailing your appeal, you may submit an appeal electronically after creating an account on OIP’s FOIA online portal.

If you submitted your request before July 1, 2016, your appeal to OIP must be postmarked or electronically transmitted within 60 days from the date of your letter in order to be considered timely. If you submitted your request after July 1, 2016, 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 are submitting your appeal through standard mail, both the letter and envelope should be clearly marked “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.” Please cite your FOIPA request number so that it may be easily identified.

Note: Please do not send your appeal request directly to the FBI. Appeal requests sent directly to the FBI will not be reviewed.

Prior to submitting an appeal to OIP, you have the option to seek dispute resolution services by contacting the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at (877) 684-6448, or by e-mailing Alternatively, you may contact the FBI’s FOIPA public liaison by e-mailing If you submit your dispute resolution correspondence by e-mail, the subject heading should clearly state “Dispute Resolution Services.” Please also cite your FOIPA request number so that it may be easily identified.

Prepublication Review Office 

The Prepublication Review Office (PRO) is responsible for reviewing requests for prepublication, submitted by individuals who currently or have previously served positions supported under the FBI, in order to safeguard any sensitive or classified information from unauthorized disclosure. 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’s response to each request for prepublication, reviewing the submitted work upon receipt, and screening it to determine whether further review is required and by whom. The PRO will notify the author if any portions of a work may not be disclosed or published. The author then has the opportunity to submit the necessary modifications until final clearance for disclosure and publication is authorized.  

For further information, please contact:

Prepublication Review Coordinator
Phone: (540) 868-1697

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

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