Study Finds Government Not So Concerned with FOIA Compliance

A study by the National Security Archive at George Washington University found gross noncompliance through government agencies with the Freedom of Information Act.


The 2007 Cornyn-Leahy OPEN Government Act streamlined the FOIA request process, and Attorney General Eric Holder issued a 2009 memo to agencies directing them to remove “unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.”

Fifty-six agencies have not updated their Freedom of Information Act regulations since the passage of the OPEN Government Act of 2007, and 62 out of 99 government agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations since the Holder directive.

“When President Obama took office, he pledged that his administration would be the most transparent in history,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “This report reveals how hollow that pledge was, and can be added to the long list of broken promises from his Administration.”

The research institute noted, though, that just updating procedures doesn’t mean the government is using best practices in getting legally available information to the public.

“The Federal Reserve System which updated its regulations in October 2012 continues to stiff requesters by allowing just ten days to appeal FOIA denials including postal transit time!” said the National Security Archive in a release of its findings. “The Department of Justice recently received the National Security Archive’s “Rosemary Award” for worst open government performance by a federal agency for attempting to sneak through regulations that would allow lying to FOIA requesters, exempting online publications from being considered news media, and disqualifying most students from receiving FOIA fee waivers.”


“The oldest FOIA regulation on the books belongs to the Federal Trade Commission, which has not been updated since 1975. The FTC does have a FOIA website and online submission form. However, the website’s ‘What’s new with FOIA’ section lists a 2005 George W. Bush Executive Order.”


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