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.

OpenTheGovernment.org has actively opposed the Pentagon’s attempts to get Congress to pass harmful FOIA exemptions in the NDAA. In June, OTG and a broad coalition of partners called for the removal of the exemptions, included at the request of the Department of Defense (DoD), from the Senate version of the NDAA. Of particular concern was a proposal to exempt “the public disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to risk impairment of the effective operation of Department of Defense,” that would have permitted concealing information about the military’s interrogation and treatment of prisoners, the handling of sexual assault complaints, the oversight of contractors, and other matters of compelling public interest.

"The removal of the Pentagon’s proposed FOIA carve-out from the NDAA marks an important win for the defense of the public’s right to know," according to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. "We are grateful to our allies on the Hill who helped ensure the removal of these exemptions. Now more than ever, it is critically important to protect the integrity of the FOIA, which we will continue to defend and rely on as a central tool, as we prepare to challenge secrecy and defend against government overreach going forward."  

Additional Resources:

FOIA exemptions in the NDAA for FY 2017: Protecting the Freedom of Information Act (OTG one-page memo)

Openness groups call for removal of new FOIA exemptions from NDAA

Coalition calls for removal of harmful FOIA exemptions from Senate NDAA

OTG joins groups in opposing DoD FOIA change

Time to End the Senate’s NDAA Secrecy

Submitted by jfranzblau on 11/30/2016