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FOIA at CDC Infographic (Text Version)

1. The Freedom of Information Act

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The Freedom of Information Act, known as the FOIA, is a law that gives any person the right to request federal agency records.

Like all federal agencies, the CDC is required to disclose records requested in writing by individuals (regardless of citizenship), Partnerships, Corporations and Organizations unless the records (or a part of the records) are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions contained in the law.

The FOIA also requires federal agencies to make certain types of information available to the public without the need to submit a request.

2. FOIA at CDC

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CDC is the nation’s leading public health agency, dedicated to saving lives and protecting the health of Americans. CDC ensures its science and research activities, as well as employees, comply with various federal laws, regulations, and policies in order to exercise the highest level of scientific integrity. At the core of this mission is information sharing – not just health information and disease study results, but information CDC gathers as part of a continuous process of putting information into action. As a science-based agency funded by U.S. taxpayers, CDC is committed to openness and accountability.

3. Agency Records

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Agency records are any records created or obtained in a normal course of agency business, within our possession AND control.

4. General Lifecycle of a CDC/ATSDR FOIA Request

[Illustration of a diagram showing the lifecycle of a CDC/ATSDR FOIA request (acknowledgement letter sent, possible narrowing/clarifying of scope or to discuss fees, search for responsive records, FOIA Office makes release determinations, records closed and sent).]


  1. Once request received, you will receive an acknowledgement letter
  2. * You may be asked to clarify/narrow scope or discuss fees
    • *This may occur at any point during the lifecycle of the request
  3. CDC program office(s) search for responsive documents and send to FOIA Office
  4. FOIA Office reviews and makes release determinations
  5. Request closed and records sent.

5. CDC FOIA Request Received

[Illustration of a graph showing the number of incoming CDC/ATSDR FOIA requests from fiscal year 2014 to 2016]

During the fiscal year 2014, there were 1147 requests received

During the fiscal year 2015, there were 1054 requests received

During the fiscal year 2016, there were 1247 requests received

CDC averages 1100 requests per year with increasing scope and complexity.

6. Most Cited Exemptions at CDC/ATSDR

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Most cited exemptions at CDC: 4, 5, and 6 which protect an individual’s personal privacy. Visit the E-Z Guide to FOIA Exemptions page for details.