Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests

The Barack Obama presidential records are governed by the Presidential Records Act (PRA).  Obama presidential records became subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on January 20, 2022. 

How to Submit a FOIA Request

All FOIA requests must be submitted in writing and state that you are requesting records under the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. Submit your request via mail, fax, or email to:

Barack Obama Presidential Library
c/o FOIA Coordinator
2500 W Golf Rd, Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Fax: (847) 252-5799 (include cover sheet)
obama.library@nara.gov (include your name in subject line)

Helpful Tips

  • To avoid delays, review the FOIA Reference Guide before submitting your request.
  • Consult with archives staff before filing a request.
  • All FOIA requests must include a reasonable description of the records requested.
  • Be as specific as possible with regard to names, titles, dates, places, events, subjects, recipients, or agency component(s) or offices likely to maintain records that are of interest to you.
  • The more specific you are about the records or types of records you want, the more likely it will be that our archivists will be able to locate those records for you.
  • Be aware the FOIA does not require us to do research for you, analyze data, answer written questions, or create records in order to respond to a request.
  • Understand that if you have an impending deadline, the FOIA process does take time.

Fees

The Barack Obama Presidential Library is the 14th Presidential Library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, a U.S. Federal agency. The National Archives does not charge FOIA filing, searching, or processing fees. Some fees may be charged for reproductions. See the  FOIA Reference Guide for details.

Frequently Asked FOIA Questions

What records are Presidential Records?

The Presidential Records Act (PRA) defines Presidential Records as “documentary materials, or any reasonably segregable portion thereof, created or received by the President, his immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise and assist the President, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.”

Personal records created by the President are not presidential records. Campaign material and records created pre- and post-presidency are also not presidential records.

PRESIDENTIAL RECORD NOT A PRESIDENTIAL RECORD
Speeches 2008 & 2012 Campaign Materials
Presidential Schedules Barack Obama Senate Records
Presidential Correspondence Pre-presidential Obama family personal photos

How long will it take to get the records I requested?

The FOIA process takes time. FOIA requests are placed in queues based on complexity and the expected volume of records. To treat everyone equitably, FOIA requests are processed in the order in which they are received.  

FOIA requests are processed and reviewed for access under provisions of the PRA and FOIA and in accordance with Executive Order 13489, which requires that we notify the representatives of the former President and the incumbent President prior to the release of any Presidential records. This notification gives them an opportunity to invoke executive privilege over the records proposed for disclosure. See the Letters of Notification of Intent to Release Presidential Records.

How do I request multiple topics?

Submit each request in a separate email. Instead of submitting one request with multiple bullet points, submit each request in a distinct email. This will ensure your requests are processed as efficiently as possible.

What kind of material is restricted?

While NARA’s goal is to provide as much access to records as possible, certain records must be withheld for restrictions/exemptions outlined in the Presidential Records Act (PRA), as amended, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) including national security information, confidential advice, and personal privacy. Researchers are alerted to the exemption of records or portions of records from release by withdrawal markers which provide the reason(s) why the information has been withheld and/or redacted.

Can I appeal the closure of records restricted under the PRA and FOIA?

Yes. Original requesters may file an appeal challenging the status of records closed under the provisions of the PRA and/or FOIA.

Can I request declassification of national security information?

Yes. All national security records responsive to a FOIA request will be reviewed. Any records restricted under the national security provisions of the PRA and FOIA are eligible for a declassification review.

Researchers may also file a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) request for specific national security classified records.  Guidance and tips on submitting MDR requests can be found here.

How can I access the records?

The textual (paper) Obama presidential records are stored and preserved by the National Archives, but they are not accessible to the public. NARA is digitizing the textual records as quickly as possible. Textual records will be scanned in their original order and organized by folder, so researchers will still be able to read the documents in their correct context.

Records (both digitized and born-digital) will be made available for research via the Obama Library website and the National Archives Catalog (NAC).  

What is the National Archives Catalog (NAC)?

The National Archives Catalog (NAC) is an online public portal created by the National Archives and Records Administration that contains descriptions of archival holdings, born-digital records, and digitized records held by the National Archives.

The NAC contains collection and series descriptions for records housed at the Barack Obama Presidential Library. Additionally, documents, photos, and other records held by the Library are hosted through the Catalog. The NAC can be searched for Obama records and records descriptions; search results can be filtered by location.

What if I have other questions?

Send us an email at obama.library@nara.gov; call our Archives staff at (847) 252-5700; or visit the National Archives' FOIA Frequently Asked Questions page.