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Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Requests Freedom of Information and Privacy Act

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Federal Investigative Services (OPM-FIS) conducts background investigations on Federal applicants, employees, military members and contractor personnel for suitability and security purposes. Copies of the investigations may be released under the Freedom of Information Act and/or Privacy Act and in accordance with a routine uses identified in OPM-FIS's systems notice.

The system of records maintained by OPM-FIS includes investigative information regarding an individual's:

  • Character, conduct, and behavior in the community
  • Arrests and convictions
  • Reports of interviews with the subject of the investigation and with present and former supervisors, co-workers, associates, educators, etc.
  • Reports about the qualifications of an individual for a specific position and correspondence relating to adjudication matters
  • Reports of inquiries with law enforcement agencies, employers, educational institutions attended
  • Other information developed from the above items

Privacy Act of 1974 - Section 552a of title 5, United States Code (5 U.S.C. 552a)

The purpose of the Privacy Act (FOI/PA) is to regulate the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personal information by Federal Executive Branch agencies. Generally speaking, the Act prohibits the disclosure of records contained in a system of records without the written request or consent of the individual to whom the records pertain, unless a condition of disclosure is met or the release is covered by a routine use of the System of Records Notice (SORN) for the system.

Background investigations are maintained in the OPM Personnel Investigations Records System, covered by the OPM/Central-9 SORN.

The OPM-FIS Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOI/PA) offices supports individual privacy rights in regard to the collection and re-dissemination of all information gathered during the investigative process. OPM-FIS maintains a record of all background investigations which is governed by systems notice, OPM-Central 9, as published in the Federal Register. Dissemination of OPM-FIS background investigations is done in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974 [5 U.S. Code 552(a)] and Privacy Procedures for Personnel Records [5 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 297].

The primary duties of the FOI/PA office include:

  • Release of investigative files to the subjects of investigation and/or their designated representative
  • Release of investigative files to law enforcement or counterintelligence entities
  • Release of FIS information to the general public
  • Review and decide all requests for amendment to the investigative file
  • Processing of correspondence related to FOI/PA and program issues

The Freedom of Information Act, Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552

This Act gives you the right to request access to federal agency records or information. All U.S. government agencies are required to disclose agency records to the public unless the records are protected by one or more of the FOIA's nine exemptions or three exclusions. The nine exemption categories that authorize government agencies to withhold information are:

  1. classified information for national defense or foreign policy;
  2. internal personnel rules and practices;
  3. information that is exempt under other laws;
  4. trade secrets and confidential business information;
  5. inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are protected by legal privileges;
  6. personnel and medical files;
  7. law enforcement records or information;
  8. information concerning bank supervision; and
  9. geological and geophysical information.

Access to Certain Records without a FOIA Request

This Act requires that certain records be made available without requiring a FOIA request. Such records include:

  1. final opinions made by OPM in adjudication of cases;
  2. OPM policy statements and interpretations adopted by OPM but not published in the Federal Register;
  3. OPM administrative staff manuals and instructions that affect a member of the public;
  4. copies of records disclosed in response to a FOIA request that have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests; and
  5. OPM's Annual FOIA Report.

This information can be found in the OPM Electronic FOIA Reading Room.

Please see 5 CFR 294 for additional information regarding OPM's regulations for the Availability of Official Information.

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