Congress may be ready to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act

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tags: Congress, Freedom of Information Act



Congress may actually take action this year to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, according to the National Security Archive's posting today of the new bipartisan bill by leading U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX). The Leahy-Cornyn bill, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, would reign in the government's ability to withhold "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters" merely by citing the Exemption Five "pre-decisional" black hole, an exemption most recently stretched to include a 30-year-old CIA draft history of the 53-year-old Bay of Pigs Invasion.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 also strengthens the FOIA ombuds Office of Government Information Services, promotes more proactive online access to government information, and pushes back on agency attempts to weaken the 2007 Open Government Act's fee improvements (also authored by Cornyn and Leahy). The Senate bill directly addresses regulatory shortcomings exposed by three National Security Archive government-wide FOIA audits.

The Senate bill comes after the House unanimously passed its own bipartisan FOIA reform bill, cosponsored by Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Mike Quigley (D-IL). The FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, passed by the House in February 2014, also strengthens OGIS, encourages proactive disclosure, and requires agencies to update their FOIA regulations within 180 days of the bill's passage...




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