Welcome to MuckRock's Freedom of Information Act appeal guide!

Each entry provides background and context about an exemption to the public records laws in all fifty states, as well as federal FOIA. Read more about United States of America's public records law or explore all our expert FOIA guides. Have a public records appeal or information on an exemption we should include? Consider sharing your knowledge with everyone by donating your FOIA appeal language.


Also known as the National Security exemption.

Thank you to Amanda Hickman for contributing to this entry. This guide is for informational purposes only, is general in nature, and is not legal opinion nor legal advice regarding any specific issue or factual circumstance.

5 U.S.C. ยง 552(b)(1), Classified national defense and foreign relations information

What that means: Classified national defense and foreign relations information. Spy and/or military stuff, mostly.

What you can do about it: Depends on how recent the docs are. If it’s anywhere near the vicinity of this decade, you’re probably out of luck. If it’s on the older side, you might have a case for a Mandatory Declassification Review.

Any other resources? The consistently excellent folks over at National Security Archive have a great guide on how and when to file an MDR - there’s even a flowchart! Speaking of the NSA(rchive), Friend of MuckRock Nate Jones has an entire book on his decade plus efforts to get records declassified that comes highly recommended. Also, check out our interview with Jason Leopold, which has some solid pointers on MDRs.

Example Appeals

Material that is over 25 years old, and therefore no longer properly classified under Executive Order 12958

This information is over 25 years old, I hereby request a Mandatory Declassification Review, as this material no longer meets the standards for classification.

Proper Use

Information whose release would reasonably pose a threat to national security

Material properly classified to such Executive Order #12958

Improper Use

Material over 25 years old, after which point it should have been automatically declassified

Material not explicitly classified by Executive Order