How to Request Records

Notice to NARA Researchers and FOIA Requesters
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of our staff.  As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgment as well as a substantive response to your reference or FOIA request or appeal.  We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.  Read more on how NARA is addressing COVID-19 (coronavirus) https://www.archives.gov/coronavirus.
Presidential records for Barack Obama 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. You must also state you are requesting records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Submit your request in one of the following ways:

Email

           obama.library@nara.gov (your name in the subject line)

Postal mail

   Barack Obama Presidential Library
   c/o FOIA Coordinator
   2500 W. Golf Road
   Hoffman Estates, IL 60169-111         

Fax

           (847) 252-5799 (include cover sheet)

Helpful tips for submitting a FOIA request

  • 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 that the FOIA does not require us to research for you, analyze data, answer written questions, or create records to respond to a request.
  • Understand that the FOIA process takes time. If you have an impending deadline plan accordingly.

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. However, some fees may be charged for reproductions. See the  FOIA Reference Guide for details.


How to Make a Mandatory Declassification Review Request

In addition to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, records may be released via a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR). MDRs are authorized under Executive Order 13526, which allows the public to request a classification review of a withdrawn, classified document. 

Requirements for MDR requests

  • The document must be classified in order to qualify for MDR.
  • The request must be specific in scope (preferably, individual documents) so that they can be readily located.
  • Broad topics requests should be submitted under FOIA.                                                                               

Steps for filing a MDR request

  1. Complete Presidential Libraries Mandatory Review Request - NA Form 14020 (available as DOC or PDF).
  2. Complete Sections I, II, and III by copying the Withdrawal/Redaction Sheet information into Sections II and III.
  3. Download and Complete the MDR Address Form (available as DOC or PDF).
  4. Send the completed Mandatory Review Request Form (NA Form 14020AND MDR Address Form to the Obama Library in one of the following ways:

Email

           obama.library@nara.gov (include "MDR" in the subject line)

Postal mail

   Barack Obama Presidential Library
   c/o Mandatory Declassification Review Archivist 
   2500 W. Golf Road
   Hoffman Estates, IL 60169-111         

Fax

          (847) 252-5799 (include cover sheet)

Additional Details About Mandatory Declassification Review

  • THE REQUESTOR SHOULD COMPLETE sections II and III of the MDR Request form using the information provided on the Withdrawal/Redaction Sheet. The documents identified on the MDR request form should be from one folder only.
  • If you are requesting documents from more than one folder, use a separate request form for each folder, even if the folders are from the same box. 
  • Documents that have been reviewed by an agency with declassification authority and exempted from declassification may not be resubmitted for declassification review until two years from the date of an agency’s final determination. The two-year rule applies regardless of whether the agency reviewed the document as a mandatory declassification review in accordance with Section 3.5 of Executive Order 13526, or as a systematic declassification review in accordance with Section 3.4 of the Order.
  • Only those requesters identified at the time the Mandatory Review (MR) request is submitted for agency review will have the right to appeal an agency’s final determination.

President Barack Obama has departure photos taken with Max Lesko, Counsel's Office, in the Outer Oval Office, Sept. 18, 2015. (P042816AL-0076)

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

FOIA Frequently Asked 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.”

Presidential Records Not a Presidential Record
Speeches 2008 & 2012 Campaign Materials
Presidential Schedules Barack Obama Senate records
Presidential Correspondence Pre-Presidential Obama family and personal photos

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

The FOIA process takes time. Once FOIA requests are received, they 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 notification of the representatives of the former President and the incumbent President prior to the release of any Presidential records. This notification gives allows 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?

Requests must be submitted one at a time. We suggest sending FOIA requests in separate emails with your name in the subject line. 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 can still 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 a 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?

Visit the National Archives' FOIA Frequently Asked Questions page or contact us below.