The National Transportation Safety Board embraces administration policy and applies a presumption of openness in responding to FOIA requests. The NTSB has also taken steps over the past two years to make discretionary releases of record as evidenced by the number of dockets posted to the public website.
However, certain records retained by the NTSB may fall under exemptions of the FOIA. The NTSB will deny requests, either in whole or in part, if the request seeks information that falls within one of the exemptions of the FOIA. The NTSB may deny a request based on the following exemptions:
- Exemption 3 : Information that another statute prohibits release. This includes, but is not limited to, the following information:
- Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) tapes. Title 49 U.S.C. § 1114(c) prohibits the release of any CVR tape. However, the NTSB may release a CVR transcript (edited or unedited), in accordance with 49 U.S.C. § 1114(c)(1);
- Voluntarily provided safety-related information. Title 49 U.S.C. § 1114(b)(3) prohibits the release of such information if it is not related to the exercise of the NTSB's accident or incident investigation authority and if the NTSB finds that the disclosure would inhibit the voluntary provision of that type of information;
- Records or information relating to the NTSB's participation in foreign aircraft accident investigations. 49 U.S.C. § 1114(f) prohibits the release of this information before the country conducting the investigation releases its report or 2 years following the accident, whichever occurs first;
- Passenger lists, in accordance with 49 U.S.C. § 1136(d); and
- Other information that is prohibited from release by another statute. For example, the Procurement Integrity Act prohibits the NTSB from releasing certain information regarding bids on government contracts.
- Exemption 4 : Information or trade secrets that private corporations or other entities have submitted to the NTSB in the course of an investigation.
- Exemption 5 : Information that reflects the NTSB's internal deliberations, speculations, or ideas. This includes drafts of reports and certain analyses.
- Exemption 6 : Personal information, where a privacy interest outweighs the public interest in disclosure. This includes graphic photographs of victims' injuries, autopsy reports, medical records, or other information from participants in an investigation, such as contact information.
- Exemption 7 : Information from an investigation that is ongoing.
Filing a FOIA Appeal
Requesters who receive a denial from the NTSB in response to a FOIA request, based on one of the FOIA's exemptions, may appeal the denial. Appeals must be in writing, and should be clearly labeled as an appeal to a denied FOIA request. The appeal should include:
- The initial request number which was assigned to your request;
- The date of the action on your request; and
- The legal basis for your appeal (i.e., why you think the NTSB should release the information that the NTSB withheld in the initial determination).
If a requester believes that additional records exist, their appeal must specify why they think such records exist and, if possible, where they believe such records might be located. Appeals should be addressed to the NTSB's Managing Director:
National Transportation Safety Board
Attn: Managing Director
490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, D.C. 20594
Finally, if a requester believes that the Managing Director's conclusion regarding their appeal is legally insufficient, the FOIA provides that the requester may challenge the NTSB's response in federal court. The Managing Director's letter in response to such appeals will inform the requester of this right.