Improving Access

Watch Now: OGIS at 5

In creating the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Congress charged the office with the dual responsibility of mediating disputes regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests between requesters and federal agencies, and providing Congress and the President with recommendations on how to improve agencies compliance with the FOIA. At five years old, OGIS faces challenges and changes.

Making FOIA Work Needs More than a DATA Act Model

A recent article in Federal Computer Week started off with the questions, "Could FOIA Work on a DATA Act Model?" The short answer to that question is no. The more complete version of the answer is no, but it would help the FOIA system work better for the public. Turning FOIA into a law that actually provides timely access to records the public wants to help it better understand what the government is doing and why, however, requires other reforms.

Groups Urge President Obama to Commit to Legislative FOIA Reforms

On October 23, fifty organizations joined an effort headed by Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington (CREW) to ask the President to publicly go on record in support of legislative reforms to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As the letter points out, these reforms -- all of which are included in the bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act currently pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- are critical for achieving the unprecedented levels of openness promised by the President on his first day in office.

EPIC Files FOIA Lawsuit on CIA Surveillance of Congress

n response to reports the CIA infiltrated computers used by Senate staff to investigate the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a FOIA request for the CIA Inspector General’s report on the infiltration. After receiving no response, EPIC sued for the report to be released.

RSVP for "OGIS at Five" on October 31

On October 31st, OpenTheGovernment.org, the Newseum Institute, and the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) will host a half-day event examining OGIS’s successes and challenges in its first five years of operation. OGIS is tasked with mediating FOIA disputes and monitoring agency compliance with the law.

5 Assumptions You Might Make about the FOIA Improvement Act

Earlier this summer longtime champions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S. 2520, the FOIA Improvement Act. The bill builds on several reforms that were included in a bill passed unanimously by the House (HR 1211) and, crucially, puts limits around the use of one of the most overused and abused exemptions in the law. The fact that more than 50 organizations from across the political spectrum and with a wide variety of missions joined in supporting the bill shortly after its release is a tribute to how important it is for the Senate to pass S. 2520. It’s important to understand, though, exactly what the bill will and will not do. Below we take you through some assumptions that you might make about the possible effect of passing the bill.