Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act allows the release of information (copies of records) from federal agencies to members of the public, as long as that release is legal. There are nine exemptions to the Act, or reasons that information would not be made available to a requestor.
Those nine exemptions center around such areas as national security, information compiled for law-enforcement purposes, and some personnel medical files.
The Web sites of most federal agencies have a section or page dedicated to the FOIA. For example, if you'd like to request information from the U.S. Department of State under the FOIA, visit the FOIA information page of their Web site to find the best way to work with them on your request.