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. 

The letters shine a spotlight on the reforms passed in the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, which codified important policies, including the presumption of openness — requiring records be released unless there is a foreseeable harm or legal requirement to withhold them. The reforms, among other important changes, also mandated the government create a “central online request portal”; required proactive disclosure of material released to any person that has or might “become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records” or if the information has been requested three or more times; and further strengthened the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), by giving it the authority to report directly to Congress and provide legislative recommendations without approval from other executive branch agencies.

Open government advocates have pointed out that some of these reforms have been slow to implement. According to an audit conducted by the National Security Archive, for example, only 38 of 99 federal agencies have updated their FOIA regulations in compliance with the FOIA reforms – which required agencies to update their FOIA regulations within 180 days of passage of the bill in June of last year.  

The letters are addressed to three agencies with key roles in the implementation and oversight of FOIA – the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Read the FOIA oversight letters here:

Letter to the Office of Information Policy (OIP)

Letter to the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)

Letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

Read Senator Grassley’s press release on the letters, here.

Other Sunshine Week Highlights: 

OpenTheGovernment Executive Director, Patrice McDermott, presented a keynote address, entitled Secrecy and Accountability – Looking Forward, Looking Back, at this year’s John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award, presented by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI).

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) released its 2017 FOIA Gallery, highlighting the cases and documents released through FOIA to EPIC over the last year.  

The National Security Archive released its audit: Three out of Five Federal Agencies Flout New FOIA Law


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