FOIA Helpful Hints

The Kinds of Records Produced by the CIA

To better understand the information which is available, users should note that the CIA was organized pursuant to the National Security Act of 1947 and that its primary mission is the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence information for use by our nation's leadership; the CIA has no police, subpoena, law enforcement, or internal security functions.

Effective Requests on Individuals

When requesting records on an individual other than yourself (please see Privacy Act for obtaining information about yourself), you need to provide the following for us to conduct an effective search:

  • Full name.
  • Date and place of birth, nationality, and citizenship status.
  • A signed notarized statement from the other individual authorizing release of personal information or evidence of death--such as a death certificate, obituary, or press statement.

Effective Requests in General

The CIA collects and produces a vast amount of material as a variety of offices collect and analyze foreign intelligence on foreign countries, regions, and international issues. To effectively search through decentralized, voluminous records indexed to a specific country, region, or broad issue of public interest, you must:

  • Specify a particular subject or subjects.
  • Provide a timeframe for your interest.
  • Limit your request to finished intelligence, especially if you have a short deadline and seek the greatest release of information, if any exists.


To avoid any unnecessary delays in processing because your request lacks the specificity required under the FOIA statutes, you must:

  • Not fail to describe your records sufficiently to enable a professional employee familiar with the subject to locate the document without an unreasonable amount of effort--meaning the document must be locatable through indices to our various records.
  • Not expect us do research or conduct unreasonable searches through a body of material not easily accessed through indices to our various records.

Information Which Must Be Denied by Law

Unless "officially" acknowledged by executive acknowledgment or official release, an intelligence organization like the CIA takes exemptions under the FOIA to protect sources and methods and national security information by neither confirming nor denying the existence of records on:

  • CIA operational activities.
  • Specific confidential or covert relationships (i.e., classified source).
  • Most organizational components.
  • Foreign nationals.
  • Polygraph records.
  • Names, official titles, salaries of CIA personnel.
  • Numbers of personnel employed by CIA.
  • Data relating to CIA budget and/or expenditures.
  • CIA facilities.
  • CIA liaison relationships with foreign governments.
  • Information provided by a foreign government.


To avoid any unnecessary processing or delays in processing under the "All Other" fee category--should an individual qualify--a requester must:

  • Agree to pay search fees before we begin processing your request.
  • Realize each item of a search generally averages $150 (a more precise estimate of your cost can be made upon request).
  • Pay fees regardless if any records concerning your request for information are located and releasable.
  • Pay all delinquent fees before further requests will be processed.

Referrals to Other Government Agencies

If we locate records originated by another government agency during our search, we will refer this material to that agency for review and direct response to you.

Letters Written in a Foreign Language

We do not accept communications in other than the English language because we are not authorized to expend government funds for translations and because the FOIA does not authorize government agencies to conduct research in order to satisfy requests.

Location of CIA Records Before 1947, Date of CIA's Creation

We do have some administrative Office of Strategic Services, (OSS) records; however, operational records have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). You can send any requests for operational OSS records to the following address:

Office of Records Services 

Modern Military Records 

National Archives and Records Administration 

8601 Adelphi Road 

College Park, MD 20740-6001