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First Amendment Library:
Michael R. Sonnenreich


The Freedom of Information Act, 5 U. S. C. § 552, empowers federal courts to order an "agency" to produce "agency records improperly withheld" from an individual requesting access. § 552 (a) (4) (B). We hold here that written data generated, owned, and possessed by a privately controlled organization receiving federal study grants are not "agency records" within the meaning of the Act when copies of those data have not been obtained by a federal agency subject to the FOIA. Federal participation in the generation of the data by means of a grant from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) does not make the private organization a federal "agency" within the terms of the Act. Nor does this federal funding in combination with a federal right of access render the data "agency records" of HEW, which is a federal "agency" under the terms of the Act.