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At the federal level, executive branch “agencies” are subject to the federal Freedom of Information Act. “Agencies” are defined to include executive branch departments, military departments, government-controlled corporations, the Executive Office of the President (though not the President himself nor his immediate advisors) and independent regulatory bodies such as the EPA and the FCC.
Agency websites contain FOIA landing pages that can provide useful information. Here are some examples from the Department of Defense, the Federal Trade Commission, the Office of Management and Budget and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Certain federal advisory committees are also subject to FOIA.
The President himself as well as his immediate staff and advisory/support personnel are not subject to FOIA. Similar restrictions apply to the Office of the Vice President. Additionally, neither Congress nor any federal court is subject to FOIA. Different internal procedures and legal rights govern access to federal congressional and court records. Our Federal Open Government Guide explains more.
The federal system is somewhat modeled at the state and local level where only executive branch bodies—sometimes including limitations on access to state governor records—are subject to state FOI laws. However, in some states, courts and state legislatures can also be subject to state FOI laws. States also vary as to if and when certain non-governmental or quasi-governmental entities can be subject to FOI laws.
Check out our State Open Government Guide to see what the law is in each state regarding what bodies are subject to FOI laws.