The statute is based upon the fundamental principle that an informed citizenry is essential to the democratic process and that the more the American people know about their government the better they will be governed. However this does not mean that all government information is available upon request. Obtaining information via the FOIA requires a legal application in which a judge rules to either grant disclosure or deny the request.
Denial must be based upon a claim by the relevant source, that one or more of the exemptions from disclosure which the FOIA allows for is applicable. If a judge agrees with the claim for exemption, the very existence of information may be withheld. In other words, a FOIA application for the disclosure of all UFO reports during a specified period could result in a FOIA applicant being told that no applicable reports exist, when in fact they do. There are also fees for processing FOIA requests. Therefore, although the act is intended to facilitate disclosure, it can also do just the opposite.