The US Federal Government
The US Government is Comprised of 3 Main Branches:
The Executive Branch
The Executive branch of the government is responsible for enforcing the laws and regulations . The president, vice president, department heads (cabinet members), and the federal law enforcement agencies carry out this mission.
The Judicial Branch
The Judicial Branch of the US Government was created by Article III of the Constitution and the US Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court is the highest court in the country and is the final arbiter of issues relating to the constitutionality of laws.
The Courts decide arguments about the meaning of laws, how they are applied, and whether they violate the Constitution. The latter power is known as judicial review and it is this process that the judiciary uses to provide checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches. Judicial review is not an explicit power given to the courts but it is an implied power, clearly articulated in the precedent set by Marbury v. Madison (1803).
The Legislative Branch
Article I of the Constitution establishes the Legislative or law making branch of government. It has a two-branch Congress (bicameral)—the Senate and the House of Representatives—and agencies that support Congress.
THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law by President Johnson in 1966 (Amended 1996, 2002, 2007). This act allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States Government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures and grants exemptions to the statute. The FOIA explicitly applies only to federal government agencies.
Exemptions to FOIA were created to protect national security, the public safety, personal privacy and the operational integrity of agencies and the areas they regulate. Specifically:
1) Information relating to national defense/ security
2) Relating solely to the internal workings of an agency
3) Any documents that may lead to the defamation of character or constitute an invasion of personal privacy
4) Trade secrets and commercial or financial information,
5) Inter and intra agency memoranda or correspondence that would not otherwise be available under the law (unless it is subpoenaed)
6) Personnel, medical or similar files that would constitute an invasion of personal privacy
7) Records of criminal investigation the release of which might interfere with the investigation or could reasonably constitute an invasion of personal privacy or reveal investigative techniques and secrets that might interfere with future investigations or endanger lives.
8) Any documents contained in or related to any form of document created for or by an agency responsible for the regulation of financial institutions that might cause instability or speculation.
9) Any type of geological and geophysical info or data including maps concerning wells.
The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996
The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA) stated that all agencies are required by statute to make certain types of records, created by the agency on or after November 1, 1996, available electronically. Agencies must also provide electronic reading rooms for citizens to use to have access to records. An Agency's response time for a FOIA request can be up to 20 days under the law.
YOU MAY BE REQUIRED TO PAY FOR INFORMATION RELEASED TO YOU UNDER THE FOIA.
Agencies are allowed to charge fees related to storage, retrieval and delivery of information open to the public under the freedom of information act. Each agency has different rules and fee scheduled and should be consulted directly to better understand what those are.
For more info about the US Federal Government and how it is organized you can click on the following links: