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The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), enacted in 1966 and amended several times, establishes the public's right to obtain information from federal government agencies to "ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption, and to hold the governors accountable to the governed." OpenTheGovernment.org works with our partners, the Administration, and Congress to secure full implementation of the FOIA, the amendments to it, and the FOIA reform promised by the White House and the Attorney General.
The statute requires federal agencies to provide the fullest possible disclosure of information to the public, although it does provide a limited set of exemptions for disclosure. In recent years the openness community has won several significant legislative reforms to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that could improve the FOIA process and make it more difficult for legislators to exempt information from the public. Among other reforms, the 2007 OPEN Government Act required the establishment of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) to mediate FOIA disputes, review FOIA processes and recommend additional reforms. Additionally, a provision was enacted in 2009 to require all new FOIA exemptions tucked into other pieces of legislation to specifically cite the FOIA statute, making it easier for Congressional aides, openness advocates, and the public to find them and for our community to fight them.
In the Executive Branch, President Obama and Attorney General Holder have issued policies that support increased proactive disclosure of information and in response to FOIA requests. These changes in law and policy will not, on their own, change the behavior of government agencies, however.