Archives for June, 2013

Freedom of Information Act: Requests and denials climb, backlog slows

Posted: June 20, 2013 | Tags: FOIA

The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides that government agency records are open to the public. Access can provide insight into such things as how taxpayer money is spent and what correspondence reveals about relationships between Congress and government agencies or between the agencies and private parties. However, this flow of information can be limited by nine exemptions, including those for national security, privacy and law enforcement reasons.

The data below show FOIA activity by year based on the reporting by 13 federal agencies, with the exception of requests to Veterans Affairs and the Health and Human Services departments ...

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No, government is not too open

March 13-19 was Sunshine Week — a nationwide celebration of access to public information. Across the country, the week was marked by panel discussions, workshops and other events about using and understanding the latest developments in freedom-of-information resources. One of those was an event at the University of Missouri in which Charles Lewis, the Workshop's executive editor, argued that government has not become too transparent.

iFOIA's new site features tracking

Since 1996 the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has offered a free letter-generating service to provide users with the correct language and structure for FOIA requests. Over the past year the committee looked for ways to expand this tool to better serve reporters. In recognition of the fact that a single investigation can require hundreds of FOIA requests, they sought to make it easier for journalists to track and organize records requests.

“Reporters are always trying to remember where they’ve submitted requests, how much time has passed since they made the request and who they need to follow up with,” said Emily Grannis of the new ifOIA website.

Privacy vs. the public's right to know

Scholars and watchdog groups say the federal government — and the Supreme Court — have slowly expanded privacy rights beyond the guidelines established in FOIA. Supreme Court decisions in five FOIA cases shed light on how the government came to value privacy interests over the public’s right to know.


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