In an effort to reduce FOIA backlogs, some federal agencies are sending out letters to requesters – who have been waiting for responses to their requests for months or even years – that the agency will administratively close the request unless the requester quickly informs the agency they still want the information. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) alerted the FOIA Ombudsman, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), to this practice in a letter joined by several openness groups. As the letter points out, there is no basis for this practice in the law or in agency regulations, and it unfairly disadvantages requesters.
The letter is available at EPIC’s new site FOIA.Rocks, which hosts the wealth of EPIC’s FOIA resources, including recommendations, released documents, model regulations, and more.
The Sunlight Foundation is auditing the agencies’ compliance with the Obama administration’s 2013 open data executive order. The results are uneven, and the US government seems to be struggling with providing valid web URLS for those outside of government to access the data. Learn more about Sunlight’s findings and the Office of Management and Budget’s own ongoing review here.
The Senate Judiciary Committee intends to vote on the FOIA Improvement Act next week. The bipartisan bill, introduced by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Senator John Cornyn, locks in the presumption of openness in federal agencies, increases oversight of agency compliance, and much more. For a complete breakdown of S.2520, see OTG’s new one-pager. OTG isn’t alone in its enthusiasm for the bill. Fifty groups joined our letter expressing support for the legislation after its introduction in June. For even more analysis, check out pieces from our partners, including the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the National Security Archive.