EFF: Improve the Freedom of Information Act!

July 15th, 2007 11:21 pm by Kelly Garbato

UPDATE, 7/20/07:

See also: Protecting the Public’s Right to Know, Strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), from the ACLU:

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has placed a not-so-secret hold on bipartisan legislation that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the public’s right to know. The OPEN Government Act (S. 849) would, among other things, provide FOIA requesters a tracking number enabling them to follow the status of their request and impose reasonable consequences on federal agencies that missed deadlines for complying with FOIA.

The bill, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee. And the House of Representatives recently passed similar legislation by an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Senator Kyl’s hold is now the only thing stopping this bill’s passage.

Please contact your Senators and urge them to pressure Senator Kyl and the Senate Republican leadership to take his hold off this popular bipartisan bill.

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The following is an excerpt from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s latest newsletter:

An Independence Day Resolution: Reform FOIA!

On July 4, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed the FOIA into law. FOIA gave weight to a principle that is fundamental to any democracy: the right of the people to know what the government is doing. Forty-one years later, FOIA remains an essential tool used by the public, public advocacy groups (including EFF), and news organizations to uncover information that would otherwise remain hidden from public view.

But a recent report from the George Washington University’s National Security Archive and the Knight Foundation shows that FOIA is far from a perfect tool of transparency in government. The study found that requests for information often languish in bureaucratic limbo for years — the oldest dates back to 1987! The National Security Archive actually had to use FOIA to find out how many FOIA requests were still pending.

Luckily, a new bill to reform FOIA is working its way through Congress, supported by a broad coalition of organizations that spans the political spectrum. The OPEN Government Act (S. 849) brings much needed reform to FOIA and puts in place incentives for federal agencies to process FOIA requests in a timely fashion. The bill would create a tracking system for FOIA requests so that they don’t get lost in the bowels of federal agencies, as well as allowing requesters who prevail in FOIA litigation to recover reasonable attorney fees.

Meanwhile, EFF’s FOIA lawsuits are making steady strides. Along with uncovering information about National Security Letters, we’ve filed suit seeking orders, rules and guidelines issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the Administration’s warrantless surveillance program. There will be a hearing in the case on July 26 in Washington, DC.

Take action to support the OPEN Government Act: http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=285

For this post and related links: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/005346.php

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