45 CFR 5.66 - Exemption five: Internal memoranda.
This exemption covers internal government communications and notes that fall within a generally recognized evidentiary privilege. Internal government communications include an agency's communications with an outside consultant or other outside person, with a court, or with Congress, when those communications are for a purpose similar to the purpose of privileged intra-agency communications. Some of the most-commonly applicable privileges are described in the following paragraphs.
(a) Deliberative process privilege. This privilege protects predecisional deliberative communications. A communication is protected under this privilege if it was made before a final decision was reached on some question of policy and if it expressed recommendations or opinions on that question. The purpose of the privilege is to prevent injury to the quality of the agency decisionmaking process by encouraging open and frank internal policy discussions, by avoiding premature disclosure of policies not yet adopted, and by avoiding the public confusion that might result from disclosing reasons that were not in fact the ultimate grounds for an agency's decision. Purely factual material in a deliberative document is within this privilege only if it is inextricably intertwined with the deliberative portions so that it cannot reasonably be segregated, if it would reveal the nature of the deliberative portions, or if its disclosure would in some other way make possible an intrusion into the decisionmaking process. We will release purely factual material in a deliberative document unless that material is otherwise exempt. The privilege continues to protect predecisional documents even after a decision is made.
(b) Attorney work product privilege. This privilege protects documents prepared by or for an agency, or by or for its representative (typically, HHS attorneys) in anticipation of litigation or for trial. It includes documents prepared for purposes of administrative adjudications as well as court litigation. It includes documents prepared by program offices as well as by attorneys. It includes factual material in such documents as well as material revealing opinions and tactics. Finally, the privilege continues to protect the documents even after the litigation is closed.
(c) Attorney-client communication privilege. This privilege protects confidential communications between a lawyer and an employee or agent of the government where there is an attorney-client relationship between them (typically, where the lawyer is acting as attorney for the agency and the employee is communicating on behalf of the agency) and where the employee has communicated information to the attorney in confidence in order to obtain legal advice or assistance.