Exempting a System of Records (SOR)

The Privacy Act of 1974 allows the head of an agency to publish rules to exempt any system of records from the requirement that individuals be permitted access to records pertaining to themselves, as well as exemption from other requirements. The Privacy Act provides general and specific exemptions which may be used by an agency to publish rules exempting a system of records from certain provisions of the Act.

The Secretary of the Army may exempt agency records from certain requirements of the Privacy Act. The two kinds of exemptions that require Secretary of the Army enactment are general and specific exemptions. The general exemption authorizes the exemption of a system of records from most requirements of the Act; the specific exemptions authorize the exemption of a system of record from only a few.

(a) General exemptions. Only Army activities actually engaged in the enforcement of criminal laws as their primary function may claim the general exemption. See 5 U.S.C. section 552a(j)(2). To qualify for this exemption, a system must consist of:

(1) Information compiled to identify individual criminal offenders and alleged offenders, which consists only of identifying data and arrest records; type and disposition of charges; sentencing, confinement, and release records; and parole and probation status;

(2) Information compiled for the purpose of criminal investigation including reports of informants and investigators, and associated with an identifiable individual; or

(3) Reports identifiable to an individual, compiled at any stage of the process of enforcement of the criminal laws, from arrest or indictment through release from supervision.

(b) Specific exemptions. The Secretary of the Army has exempted all properly classified information and systems of records that have the following kinds of information listed in this section, from certain parts of the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act exemption reference appears in parentheses after each category.

(1) Classified information in every Army system of records. Before denying any individual access to classified information, the Access and Amendment Refusal Authority must make sure that it was properly classified under the standards of Executive Orders 11652, 12065, or 12958 and that it must remain so in the interest of national defense of foreign policy (5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(1)).

(2) Investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes other than material within the scope of subsection 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2), may be exempt pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(2). However, if this information has been used to deny someone a right, privilege or benefit to which the individual is entitled by Federal law, or for which than individual would otherwise be eligible as a result of the maintenance of the information, it must be released, unless doing so would reveal the identity of a confidential source. Note: When claimed, this exemption allows limited protection of investigative reports maintained in a system of records used in personnel or administrative actions.

(3) Records maintained in connection with providing protective services to the President of the United States or other individuals protected pursuant to Title 18 U.S.C., section 3056 (5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(3)).

(4) Records maintained solely for statistical research or program evaluation purposes and which are not used to make decisions on the rights, benefits, or entitlements of individuals, except for census records which may be disclosed under Title 13 U.S.C., section 8 (5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(4)).

(5) Investigatory material compiled solely to determine suitability, eligibility, or qualifications for Federal service, Federal contracts, or access to classified information. This information may be withheld only to the extent that disclosure would reveal the identity of a confidential source (5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(5)).

(6) Testing or examination material used solely to determine if a person is qualified for appointment or promotion in the Federal service. This information may be withheld only if disclosure would compromise the objectivity or fairness of the examination process (5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(6)).

(7) Evaluation material used solely to determine promotion potential in the Armed Forces. Information may be withheld, but only to the extent that disclosure would reveal the identity of a confidential source (5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(7)).

When claiming an exemption for a system of records, the Privacy Official must prepare and submit a Proposed Rule to the Army Privacy Office (APO) for review and staffing. A rule is an official document that announces and identifies the subsections of the Act which are being exempted. It describes the nature, effect, and reasons for the proposed exemption in greater detail than the system of records notice itself.

After appropriate staffing and approval by the Secretary of the Army, the rule will be published in the Federal Register for 60 days, and then followed by a final rule. No exemption may be invoked until these steps have been completed.

Exemptions routinely used by DOD components.

Proposed Rule template.