Fees and Waivers (FOIA)

Records the CIA Provides at No Cost Under FOIA

  • No fees are charged to requesters seeking records about themselves under the FOIA, specifically records indexed to their names. We process such requests under both the FOIA and the Privacy Act to ensure the release of the maximum amount of information.
  • Searches of Previously Released Information at This Internet Site: You have immediate and free access to CIA records already declassified in full or in part under the FOIA and the Executive Order (EO) and previously released to the public (use the search above) or visit frequently requested records.
  • No charge for requests that can be processed for less than $10.

Otherwise, you may be responsible for fees as detailed below. The FOIA provides for the collection of fees assessed according to the requester type:

  • Educational and Scientific: Any accredited U.S. educational or research institution or instructor/researcher of such an institution using the information in a scholarly or analytical work contributing to public knowledge and disseminated to the general public.
  • Commercial: Furthers the commercial interests of the requester - for example, book publishers and authors.
  • News Media: Representatives of newspapers, television stations, radio stations, and freelancers (if publishing through one of these news organizations) disseminating current events of interest to the general public to enhance its understanding of the operation or activities of the U.S. government.
  • All Others: Requests from individuals who do not fit into the previous three categories.

Fees Charged by the CIA for Processing FOIA Requests:

  • Searches: Time expended in looking for and retrieving material, either paper or electronic indices, that may be responsive to the request, including personnel hours (clerical and professional) or computer time.
  • Reviews: Professional time spent determining the releasability of a record (blacking out or redaction of text) under legal guidelines, excluding the resolution of legal or policy issues.
  • Reproduction: Generating a copy of a requested record in the appropriate medium, for example, paper or computer disk.

For the categories "Commercial" and "All Others" the cost of an average search could be significant and require payment even if no records surface during the search. We will not process such requests until we have a fee commitment from the requester in writing and in some cases a deposit. At your request, we will offer suggestions on how to refine your requests to minimize costs.

The following chart breaks down the most common fees by requester, but for more detail about all of the costs associated with FOIA requests, see 32 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1900):

Category Search Costs Review Costs Reproductions Costs
Educational & Scientific None None First 100 pages: no charge

Remainder: 10 cents/page
Commercial $18/hr: manual

$11-27/hr: computer
Yes: case by case 10 cents/page
News Media None None First 100 pages: no charge

Remainder: 10 cents/page
All Others First 2 hrs: no charge

Remainder: $18/hr: manual

$11-27/hr: computer
None First 100 pages: no charge

Remainder: 10 cents/page

Fee Waivers

The FOIA provides for requests of fee waiver when the disclosure of the information is in the public interest and not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. These two requirements can be applied using the six factors in the law, four defining public interest and two defining commercial interest:

  • Public Interest:
    1. The subject concerns the operations or activities of the US Government.
    2. The disclosure is informative (i.e. "likely to contribute").
    3. The disclosure helps the public understand the operations and activities of the US Government.
    4. The disclosure contributes significantly into public understanding.
  • No Commercial Interest: 
    1. Does requester have a commercial interest?
    2. Which is greater, the public or commercial interest?

In summary, the requester can get a fee waiver if the information disclosed is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the US Government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. We note that many FOIA requests to CIA--which concern foreign countries or events--do not qualify by this definition.

Fee Waiver Appeals

Denials of requests for fee waivers or reductions may be appealed to the Chair of the Agency Release Panel via the Agency's Information and Privacy Coordinator (see sample request letter for address). Requesters are encouraged to explain how their requests satisfy the legal requirements under fee waivers as outlined under the "Fee Waivers" section above.