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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.

Exemption 3

Also known as Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3), b3.

Thank you to JPat Brown 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. § 552(b)(3) states that information specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (other than section 552b of this title), provided that such statute (A) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on issue or (B) establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld.

What it means: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.

Improper Use

There is not another law prohibiting disclosure. A study by the Collaboration on Government Secrecy at American University Washington College of Law found that over 150 laws had been improperly cited in such a matter. Some of the improperly cited laws:

  • 5 U.S.C. § 552a (Privacy Act of 1974)
  • 10 U.S.C. § 130(d) (pertaining to certain “confidential business information and other sensitive but * unclassified homeland security information”)
  • 10 U.S.C. § 618(f) (Repealed. Pub. L. 109-364, div. A, title V, Sec. 547(a)(2),Oct. 17, 2006, 120 Stat. 2216)
  • 17 U.S.C. § 101 (Copyright Act of 1976)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 795(a) (pertaining to the photographing and sketching of defense installations)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 798 (pertaining to communications intelligence)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 923(g) (pertaining to the licensing of firearm manufacturing, dealing, and importing)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1905 (Trade Secrets Act)
  • 19 U.S.C. § 2605(h) (pertaining to cultural property under negotiation)
  • 28 U.S.C. § 534 (pertaining to criminal history records)
  • 42 U.S.C. § 423(a), (f) (pertaining to disability insurance benefit payments)
  • 42 U.S.C. § 14132 (pertaining to the law enforcement exchange of DNA identification information)

Key Citations

DOJ b(3) Guidance