You probably know that GovSpend houses the only searchable database of Federal, State and Local purchasing records… but do you know why this database is possible? It’s because of one law, signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, called the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This law endows Americans with the right to request federal agency records or information. It’s this law that makes government spending “public record.”
Of course, there are exceptions. Nine types of information can be withheld at an agency’s discretion:
- Classified information for national defense or foreign policy
- Internal personnel rules and practices
- Information that is exempt from other laws
- Trade secrets and confidential business information
- Interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are protected by legal privileges
- Personnel and medical files
- Law enforcement records or information
- Information concerning bank supervision
- Geological and geophysical information
Congress also provided special protection under the FOIA for three narrow categories of law enforcement records. The provisions protecting those records are known as “exclusions,” and they’re devised to protect national security.
The first exclusion protects ongoing criminal investigations. If the subject of an investigation is unaware that they’re being investigated, law enforcement has the right to keep their proceedings under wraps to prevent any interference with the case.
The second exclusion protects informants from being revealed, especially when the informant’s status has not been officially confirmed.
The third exclusion is limited to the FBI, and it protects the existence of classified foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, or international terrorism records
The FOIA also only applies to federal agencies—so it doesn’t open records held by Congress, the courts, or by state agencies.
It’s thanks to the FOIA that GovSpend can maintain relationships with agencies and collect the data that makes up our database. Our Data Acquisition team works diligently every day to collect purchasing data from our agencies, then sends that data to our Data Engineers, who make it searchable for all of our clients. So let’s all be thankful the FOIA makes everything a little bit easier for us.