House Hearing on FOIA Policy

The Freedom of Information Act “continues to be a valuable tool for citizens to obtain information about the operation and decisions of the federal government,” the Government Accountability Office reported at a July 26 House hearing.

“Since 2002, agencies have received increasing numbers of requests and have also continued to increase the number of requests that they process. In addition, agencies continue to grant most requests in full. However, the rate of increase in pending requests is accelerating,” the GAO concluded in its testimony (pdf), which provided substantial new data on individual agency FOIA practices.

Critical assessments of FOIA policy were also presented by Patrice McDermott of OpenTheGovernment.org and by Tonda Rush of the Sunshine in Government Initiative. Dan Metcalfe presented the viewpoint of the Department of Justice at the hearing, which also featured Senator Patrick Leahy, Sen. John Cornyn, and Rep. Brad Sherman.

See the prepared statements from “Implementing FOIA– Does the Bush Administration’s Executive Order Improve Processing?” hearing before the Subcommittee on Government Management of the House Government Reform Committee, July 26, here.

On July 24, a federal court told the National Reconnaissance Office that it could not use the “operational files” exemption to withhold its Congressional Budget Justification Book from processing under the FOIA.

But on July 25, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency denied a FOIA request for a copy of its Congressional Budget Justification Book. Why? Because, NGA said, it is an “operational file” that is exempt from FOIA processing. Sigh. An appeal was filed explaining that this claim has been found unlawful.

See, relatedly, “Judge: Spy satellite budget can be FOIA-ed,” by Shaun Waterman, United Press International, July 27.

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