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House Passes the Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 2007

Posted on by Jesse Lee

On March 5, 2007, Reps. Lacy Clay (MO-01), Todd Platts (PA-19), and Henry Waxman (CA-30) introduced H.R. 1309, the Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 2007. This legislation contains a dozen substantive provisions that will increase public access to government information by strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Amendments passed today, 308-117.

Full text of the bill >>

Rep. Clay explained the bill during debate:

Rep. Lacy Clay:
“During a hearing in February, the subcommittee heard extensive testimony concerning long delays, bureaucratic obstacles, experienced by requesters when trying to obtain government records under FOIA. According to testimony from GAO, most agencies throughout the government are failing to keep pace…”

File Not Found: Agencies Violate Law on Online Information
National Security Archive report – March 12, 2007

Ten years after Congress enacted the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA), only one in five federal agencies actually complies with the law, according to a new survey released today during Sunshine Week by the National Security Archive.

Passed in 1996 and effective in 1997, E-FOIA ordered federal agencies to post key records online, provide citizens with detailed guidance on making information requests, and use new information technology to publish information proactively. The act’s intent: Expand public access and reduce the burden of FOIA requests.

But most federal agencies do not follow the law, according to the National Security Archive’s government-wide audit, “File Not Found,” conducted with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Knight Open Government Survey systematically reviewed agency Web sites to cover all 91 federal agencies that have Chief FOIA Officers and the additional 58 agency components each of which handles more than 500 FOIA requests a year.

Bush Administration FOIA Report Card Hits New Low
Mark Fitzgerald, Editor & Publisher – February 27, 2007

Back in December of 2005 with the White House coming under increasing criticism for its secrecy, President George W. Bush ordered federal agencies to speed up their responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

A new FOIA report card by a coalition of journalists groups makes it clear that Bush’s directive did not produce a “surge” in the response rate by the agencies.

The study by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government concludes the Bush directive did nothing to speed up responses by agencies that have been systematically cutting back the personnel assigned to FOIA work, even as backlogs of requests grow and the cost of fulfilling requests increases.

“Requests remain heavily backlogged,” the study says. “Requesters still have long wait times for a response from many agencies. And people seeking records and information remain less likely to get the information they seek than in the past.”

The coalition assembled the FOIA performance reports from 15 Cabinet-level departments and 15 agencies dating back to 1998, when agency reporting was first required. The 13 agencies that had reported 2006 performance by Feb. 9 were also included in the study.

Overall, the groups said, FOIA performance remains at the lowest point since 1998.

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