Click here to skip navigation

Balancing Personal Privacy and Transparency

FOIA & Privacy Acts

The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) conducts background investigations on civilian and military applicants and Federal employees or employees of government contractors, experts, instructors, and consultants to Federal programs who undergo a personnel background investigation for the purpose of determining suitability for government employment, fitness for appointment to an excepted service position, fitness to perform work under a Government contract, eligibility to serve in a national security sensitive position, acceptance or retention in the armed forces, eligibility for access to classified information, and/or eligibility for logical or physical access to a federally controlled facility or information technology system.

The NBIB Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOI/PA) office supports the collection, dissemination, and re-dissemination of all information gathered during the investigative process in accordance with the Privacy Act and Privacy Procedures for Personnel Records. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) maintains a record of all background investigation information that is governed by systems notice, OPM Central 9, as published in the Federal Register.

The primary duties of the FOI/PA office include:

  • Review and respond to requests for release of NBIB information to the general public
  • Review and respond to requests for release of investigative files to the subjects of investigation and/or their designated representative
  • Review and respond to requests for release of investigative files to law enforcement or counterintelligence entities
  • Review and respond to requests for release of investigative files to parties involved in administrative proceedings or hearings
  • Review and respond to requests for amendment of investigative files
  • Process correspondence related to NBIB FOI/PA and program topics

FOIA & Privacy Acts

Copies of NBIB background investigations may be released under the Freedom of Information Act and/or Privacy Act and in accordance with routine uses identified in the OPM systems of records notice (SORN) for background investigations, OPM Central 9

Privacy Act of 1974 - Section 552a of title 5, United States Code

The purpose of the Privacy Act (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 SORN for the system.

The NBIB FOIPA offices supports individual privacy rights in regard to the collection and re-dissemination of all information gathered during the investigative process.  As mentioned above, NBIB maintains a record of all background investigations.  Dissemination of NBIB 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 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:

Exemption 1: Information that is classified to protect national security.

Exemption 2: Information related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.

Exemption 3: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.

Exemption 4: Trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is confidential or privileged.

Exemption 5: Privileged communications within or between agencies, including:

  • Deliberative Process Privilege
  • Attorney-Work Product Privilege
  • Attorney-Client Privilege

Exemption 6: Information that, if disclosed, would invade another individual's personal privacy.

Exemption 7: Information compiled for law enforcement purposes that:

  • 7(A). Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings
  • 7(B). Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication
  • 7(C). Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
  • 7(D). Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source
  • 7(E). Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions
  • 7(F). Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual

Exemption 8: Information that concerns the supervision of financial institutions.

Exemption 9: Geological information on wells.

Access to Certain Records without a FOIA Request

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) makes certain records available without requiring a FOIA request. Such records include the agency's Annual FOIA Report, and other documents which can be found in the agency's Electronic Reading Room.

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

Back to Top