Improving Access

Coalition praises removal of harmful FOIA exemptions from final NDAA legislation

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2016 – In a major win for government openness and accountability, Congress has removed three harmful exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017. The FOIA exemptions would have severely undermined the FOIA by creating an unnecessary secrecy provision and a carve-out from the FOIA for the Pentagon.

President signs most significant reform to FOIA since its original passage

June 30, 2016 – Today, the President signed the FOIA Improvement Act, codifying into law comprehensive bipartisan reforms to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the first time in nearly a decade. The signing of the bill comes days before the 50th anniversary of the FOIA, signed into law on July 4, 1966. The FOIA Improvement Act is the result of a herculean effort on the part of Congressional leaders, staff members, and open government advocates who have been working to push the FOIA reform legislation that is critical to ensuring government accountability.

Importantly, the reform bill codifies the presumption of openness -- requiring records be released unless there is a foreseeable harm or legal requirement to withhold them. This language mirrors the Obama Administration’s and the Department of Justice’s 2009 guidance on FOIA, which reversed the policy of the Bush administration that had encouraged agencies to limit discretionary disclosures of information. With these legislative changes, the law makes clear that FOIA, under any administration, must be approached with a presumption of openness. 

ODNI revises rule on excessive MDR fees in response to public comments

UPDATE: April 25, 2016 – Today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) issued a revised rule that amends excessive fee provisions that would have restricted the ability of the public to request the declassification of classified ODNI records. The new rule reflects the joint comments submitted by OTG and 15 other organizations, as well as the comments submitted by Federation of American Scientists.