Privacy Act Helpful Hints

Who's Eligible

The Privacy Act applies to personal information on only US citizens or permanent resident aliens maintained by Executive Branch agencies of the US Government.

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. It does, however, maintain personnel files on employees and applicants.

Seeking the Most Information on Yourself

Some provisions of the FOIA and the PA overlap although both laws contain different procedures and exemptions. Because of these differences, information exempt under one law may be released under the other. The CIA's policy, as with many other Executive Branch agencies, is to automatically handle PA requests under the provisions of both the PA and the FOIA.

Requests for Information on Other Than Yourself

If seeking information on someone other than yourself, you should make your request only under the FOIA (select FOIA Tips and see heading "Requests on Individuals.")


Because the Agency at its own administrative discretion charges no fees for processing PA requests, you do not need a fee paragraph in your letter (select sample letter for more information).

Requesting Searches of Specific CIA Record Systems

With respect to CIA, it is not necessary to specify the particular record systems you wished searched. However, it would be helpful if your request included information about the type of information or what records you believe we have on you.

The Most Common Errors That Slow Processing on Your Request

The Agency is legally required to seek additional information from requesters before it can start processing their requests if missing the following elements:

  • Any or all of this biographic data: full name, date and place of birth, and citizenship status.
  • A statement about citizenship status, especially a US citizen born overseas.
  • A notarized statement attesting to your identity or a statement such as the following signed under penalty of perjury stating the same, for example:

    I, NAME, do swear that the above mentioned information is true and correct under penalty of perjury pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1746. [Signed] NAME

  • A notarized statement authorizing us to release your records to an attorney or statement signed under penalty of perjury stating the same, for example:

    I, NAME, do authorize ATTORNEY'S NAME as my attorney to receive any records on my behalf under penalty of perjury pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1746. [Signed] NAME

Personal 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 PA to protect sources and methods and national security information by neither confirming nor denying the existence of those records and denying records on, but not limited to, the following:

  • Privacy information on other US citizens unless granted permission by the individual or can prove person is deceased.
  • CIA operational activities.
  • Specific confidential or covert relationships. Foreign nationals.
  • Polygraph tests.