Access to Government Information In the United States: A Primer

Source: Wendy Ginsberg, Michael Greene, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, 97-71, March 18, 2016

No provision in the U.S. Constitution expressly establishes a procedure for public access to government records or meetings. Congress, however, has legislated various public access laws.

Among these laws are two records access statutes,
• the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act or FOIA; 5 U.S.C. §552), and
• the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. §552a),
and two meetings access statutes,
• the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA; 5 U.S.C. App.), and
• the Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. §552b).

These four laws provide the foundation for access to executive branch information in the American federal government. …. This report offers an introduction to the four access laws and provides citations to additional resources related to these statutes. This report includes statistics on the use of FOIA and FACA and on litigation related to FOIA. ….