On June 24th, Senators Leahy and Cornyn released the FOIA Improvement Act. OpenTheGovernment.org outlined reasons why we strongly support the bill here. Excerpts from our partners' responses and links to news coverage and analysis are below.
"The FOIA Improvement Act is an important bill that would make our government more transparent," said Sean Moulton, Director of Open Government Policy at the Center for Effective Government. "Since its original passage nearly 50 years ago, FOIA has been a cornerstone of the public's right to know, but we have also struggled to implement the law to its fullest extent."
"'Agencies routinely and needlessly withhold important information from the public. This groundbreaking legislation will ensure the FOIA truly will be an effective tool for Americans to discover what our government is doing and why,' Weismann said."
"The National Security Archive strongly supports the Senate and House bills, and is deeply impressed that Representatives and Senators Issa, Cummings, Quigley, Leahy, and Cornyn realized the importance of substantive FOIA reform and worked together to improve the law so that –among other improvements– agencies will no longer be able to withhold information –Department diversity studies, histories of the Bay of Pigs invasion, or abuses at Veterans Affairs– merely 'because they want to.'"
"[The bill] establishes a stronger presumption of openness, prohibiting withholding of information only if "the agency foresees that disclosure would harm an interest" protected by an exemption. This means that the mere plausibility that an exemption could apply isn’t enough — an argument many public interest organizations have had for far too long."
"FOIA already recognizes interests in keeping information confidential, such as national security, trade secrets and personal privacy. While the executive branch can do much to strengthen FOIA, certain improvements to FOIA can only come about by an act of Congress. These commonsense approaches will strengthen FOIA and make it easier to get access to information the public deserves."
"We all know that the public needs and deserves better access to information. In a perfect world, FOIA would almost be an after-thought, a process you went through only for obscure information. Both House and Senate bills affirm that government information ought to be disclosed unless there’s a very good reason for confidentiality."
In the News:
From Politico's Josh Gerstein: Senators Push Major FOIA Change
From Al Jazeera's Jason Leopold: Lawmakers Unveil Major Changes to FOIA
From The Washington Free Beacon's CJ Ciarmarella: Senate Judiciary Committee Introduces FOIA Reform Bill
From The Washington Post's Josh Hicks: Bipartisan FOIA Bill Aims to Improve Government Transparency
From The Washington Examiner's Mark Tapscott: Patrick Leahy, John Cornyn Introduce Much-Needed FOIA Improvement Bill, But Still No Penalties for Violating Public's Right to Know
From Broadcasting and Cable's John Eggerton: New FOIA Bill Introduced
From the LA Times' Rebecca Bratek: Senate Bill Seeks to Increase Access to Government Records
From GovExec's Charles S. Clark: Bipartisan Bill Would Make It Harder for Agencies to Claim FOIA Exemptions