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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING A FOIA REQUEST

General Information

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, permits any person to request access to federal agency records or information. Federal agencies are required to disclose records upon receipt of a written request, except for records that are protected from disclosure by nine exemptions or three exclusions specified by the Act. FOIA applies only to federal agencies and does not create a right of access to records held by Congress, the courts, or by state or local government agencies. Most states have public information laws governing access to state and local records.

It is the policy of Amtrak’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to make records available to the public, consistent with the requirements of the law.

How to Submit a Request:

If you wish to make a request for Amtrak OIG records pursuant to the FOIA, it must be in writing. We cannot accept telephone requests. Requests to the OIG can be made by mail, email, or facsimile.

  • By mail to:
    Office of Inspector General
    National Railroad Passenger Corporation
    10 G St. NE, Suite 3W-300
    Washington D.C., 20002
    Attn: FOIA Request
  • By email to:
    foia@amtrakoig.gov
  • By fax to:
    (202) 906-4695
    Attn: FOIA Request
     

    In order for the OIG to efficiently process your request, please include the following information in your request:

    • Your name and sufficient contact information (e.g., daytime telephone number, daytime email address, or full mailing address). The OIG staff may need to contact you during normal business hours if clarification of your request is necessary.
    • Describe the record(s) sought in sufficient detail that the OIG staff will be able to locate responsive records with a reasonable amount of time and effort. Whenever possible, you should include specific information about each record sought, such as the date, number, title or name, author, recipient, and subject matter of the record.
    • Indicate whether you are requesting expedited processing. The FOIA allows that a requester be entitled to have their request processed on an expedited basis from the date on which the request was received, under certain conditions (i.e., a compelling need outlined in the FOIA). The request for expedited processing must include your reasons why your request should be expedited and should certify that your reasons are true and correct. (For further information, see 49 C.F.R. § 701.7(e).)
    • Indicate your willingness to pay fees or specify your willingness to pay up to a specified amount. Under the FOIA, we are permitted to charge certain fees for processing FOIA requests. Fees may vary depending on the requester’s category. (For further information on fees, see 49 C.F.R. § 701.11.)

Fee Categories:

The FOIA classifies requesters into four categories:

  • Commercial requesters are those who seek information for a use or purpose that furthers their commercial, trade, or profit interests. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review, and duplication.
  • Educational institutions include preschools through institutions of higher learning. Records must be for educational or scholarly research. Educational requesters pay only duplication fees after receiving the first 100 pages at no cost.
  • Non-commercial scientific requesters are institutions that operate solely for conducting scientific research and the records must be sought in furtherance of scientific research. These requesters pay only duplication fees after receiving the first 100 pages at no cost.
  • News media requesters are those who are actively gathering news for an entity organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. Freelance reporters may qualify as media requesters. These requesters pay only duplication fees after receiving the first 100 pages at no cost.

“Other” requesters are those that do not qualify for another category and the request is for their personal use. Amtrak OIG fees are $38 per hour for search and review, and $0.25 per page for duplication. There is no charge for processing a request if applicable fees are less than $10.

Fee Waivers:

A requester may seek a fee waiver if disclosure of the requested records is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the agency and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. (For further information on fee waivers, see 49 C.F.R. § 701.11(k).)

Appeals:

A requester may file an appeal if responsive records are withheld, a “no records” initial response is provided, expedited processing is denied, or a fee waiver is denied.

The appeal must be submitted in writing to the FOIA Office within 30 calendar days of the date of the initial response and must contain the signature of the appellant. An appeal should include a copy of the initial request, a copy of the letter denying the request, and a statement explaining why you disagree with our decision. The FOIA Office will review all pertinent documents and respond directly to the appellant.

The basic purpose of the FOIA is to shed light on an agency’s performance of its statutory duties. The FOIA provides only for the disclosure of federal agency records; it does not require government agencies to create records or to answer questions. Agencies need not add explanatory materials to any records disclosed in response to a FOIA request.

For Additional Information:

The above Instructions for Submitting a FOIA Request are provided as a quick guide for making a request. For more information on our FOIA policy, see 49 C.F.R. § 701. Questions regarding the FOIA request submission process for Amtrak’s OIG may be submitted to the address above, or via e-mail.