Improving Access

Senators call for FOIA compliance, full implementation of the 2016 FOIA reforms

In the spirit of Sunshine Week, and National Freedom of Information Day, Senators Feinstein, Leahy, Cornyn, and Grassley sent letters to the Trump Administration on March 15, 2017, calling for full compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and strong implementation of the 2016 FOIA reforms. The letters request information on the specific steps that are underway to carry out the reforms passed last year, and to improve proactive disclosure of information. 

Updated: OMB responds to coalition letter on stripping online government data

On February 13, a group of 69 public interest organizations dedicated to open and accountable government, free speech, civil rights, consumer protection, the environment, and other issues called on federal agencies to fulfill their legal requirement to provide the public with adequate notice before removing public information from government websites. 

Reports of Information Removed from Government Websites

Since the Trump Administration took office, reports of information going missing from government websites have caused confusion and worry. Volunteers from government and civil society have been working to preserve as much online government data as possible, with groups like the End Of Term Harvest and DataRefuge bringing archivists and hackers together to harvest data and other information from government websites.  

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.