United States

What's New

  • 16 March 2017

    US Sunshine Week: Research, Legislation, Editorials, and Reporting

    Sunshine Week 2017 in the United States has generated many reports, advocacy articles and journalism about the FOIA. This selection includes only a representative selection of the many articles about FOIA in the states. FOI Research: “Forecasting Freedom of Information,” the work of University of Arizona associate professor of journalism David Cuillier, a survey of 300 […]

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  • 16 March 2017

    Forecasting Freedom of Information in the US

    Two excerpts from a report by David Cuillier of the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Based in part on a survey, the report was commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Cuiller also wrote an op-ed about the study. Below are the instruction and the conclusions sections.  INTRODUCTION People must have […]

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freedom of information: overview

On his first day of Office, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of all executive branch departments and agencies declaring, “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.”  He also issued a memorandum on agency FOIA practices, stating that “all agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure.”  On 8 December 2009 –after soliciting opinions from the public– Obama issued an “Open Government Directive.”  The Directive instructed executive departments and agencies to take multiple steps to “create and institutionalize a culture of open government.”  These steps included reducing FOIA backlogs by ten percent each year, and the online publication of agencies’ plans and methods for increased transparency.  On 29 December, Obama issued Executive Order Executive Order 13,526 which ordered the establishment of a National Declassification Center, and weakened the Intelligence Community’s ability to effectively veto declassification.  On the same day, he also issued a proclamation on “Original Classification Authority,” which cited the “backlog” of documents waiting to be declassified, and called for all agencies to permit “public access to all declassified records from this backlog no later than December 31, 2013.”

LEARN MORE: in-depth overview | news archive | ngos | chronology | further reading | excerpt from Global Survey

NGOs and civil society

American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP): a nongovernmental association dedicated to bringing government FOIA and Privacy Act personnel in touch with the requester community. ASAP is the leading organization providing professional educational programs for government FOIA and Privacy Act officials in an open forum with non-profit organizations, the media, business, and private citizen requesters.

Coalition of Journalists for Open Government has members from a variety of different media organizations and provides timely reports on efforts to achieve greater access to public records and meetings and a free flow of information, as well as background reports and lists of resources to assist journalists in seeking information from the government.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) – a publish interest research center focusing on emerging civil liberties issues and protecting privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values. EPIC publishes an online newsletter on civil liberties in the information age as well as reports and books about privacy, open government, free speech, and other important topics related to civil liberties and the authoritative Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws.

Federation of American Scientists, Project on Government Secrecy – works to challenge excessive government secrecy and promote public oversight, and maintains an extensive collection of FOIA documents, government resources, and judicial materials. The director of the project, Steven Aftergood, publishes Secrecy News, a regular newsletter providing informal coverage of new developments in secrecy, security and intelligence policies.

Freedom of Information Center – a reference and research library in the University of Missouri School of Journalism which has a collection of more than 1 million articles and documents about access to information at the state, federal and local levels, including a comprehensive listing of state FOI laws.

Freedom of Information Clearinghouse – a joint project of the Public Citizen Litigation Group and the Center for Study of Responsive Law that provides technical and legal assistance to individuals, public interest groups, and the media who seek access to information held by government agencies.

FOIAdvocates – a project of FOIA attorneys David Bahr & Daniel Stotter designed to assist the public in gaining access to records from federal, state and local governments using the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as well as state and local public records laws.

Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc., FOI and First Amendment Center – a central repository for IRE information about FOI activities and links to other valuable FOI resources, as well as examples and guidance for new FOI requests.

Memory Hole, FOIA Case Logs – posts case logs of requests received by federal agencies, departments, and offices, as received by The Memory Hole and others.

National Freedom of Information Coalition – an alliance of FOI groups in the U.S. that educates media professionals, attorneys, academics, students and the general public on freedom of information. The NFOIC nurtures start-up FOI organizations in U.S. states. Its website contains links to access to information regulations in various states as well as to other related publications.

National Security Archive – an independent research institute and library located in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. It also keeps track of the freedom of information movement worldwide.

OMB Watch is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting government accountability, citizen participation in public policy decisions, and the use of fiscal and regulatory policy to serve the public interest; project areas include the Federal Budget, Information & Access, Nonprofit Advocacy, and Regulatory Policy.

Openthegovernment.org – a coalition of journalists, consumer and good government groups, environmentalists, labor and others seeking greater openness in the federal government to make us safer, strengthen public trust in government, and support our democratic principles. The website offers an extensive Resource Center is for right-to-know advocates.

Project on Government Oversight– focuses on exposing wasteful military spending, contracting misconduct, and excessive government secrecy by conducting comprehensive research and advocating for pragmatic solutions to Congress, Government Agencies, and others.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press – created in 1970 at a time when the U.S. news media faced a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name confidential sources; since then, it has been at the forefront of press freedom battles. The Committee’s website has an FOI Services section that includes instructions for obtaining information under the U.S. FOIA and access to the FOI Center that helps journalists get information from government and aFOIA Letter Generator.

Society of Professional Journalists – conducts audits of information access practices in the United States. Its Project Sunshine organizes efforts by local and state journalists to obtain information from the government.

Sunshine in Government Initiative– a coalition of media groups committed to promoting policies that ensure the government is accessible, accountable and open, and works in particular to track legislative developments related to FOIA.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) – a data gathering, data research and data distribution organization associated with Syracuse University and dedicated to providing the public with comprehensive information about federal staffing, spending, and the enforcement activities of the federal government.


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News Archive

  • 8 September 2016

    Exempting Emails? Suggestion Bashed in US

    A column by a US journalist questioning whether emails should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act triggered an outpouring of rebuttals. “Treating email as public by default rather than private like phone calls does not serve the public interest,” wrote Matthew Yglesias in Vox, prompting numerous, mostly critical responses. One detailed reply came from […]

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  • 1 July 2016

    Obama Signs FOIA Bill; Defends Transparency Record

    President Barrack Obama on June 30 signed into law a package of Freedom of Information Act reforms, using the occasion to release a detailed defense of his FOI record. The amendments (S. 337, committee report) write into law a specific presumption of openness, strengthen the FOIA ombudsman, put a time limit on the use of the deliberative process exemption and […]

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  • 15 June 2016

    US Adopts FOIA Reforms; Outcome Weaker Than Hoped

    By Toby McIntosh Reforms are coming to the US Freedom of Information Act. The House on June 13 approved a Senate bill to amend FOIA and President Obama will sign it, the White House said. The bill writes into law a specific presumption of openness, strengthens the FOIA ombudsman, puts a time limit on the use of the […]

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  • 9 June 2016

    US Coalition Seeks Removal of Exemptions From Bill

    Pro-transparency groups in the United States have objected to provisions in a defense bill that would restrict access to information. More than 30 called for the removal of three exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the Senate National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017 (S. 2943). “The FOIA exemptions would severely undermine […]

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  • 9 June 2016

    The FOIA’s Best of Times, The FOIA’s Worst of Times

    By Lauren Harper The author writes a weekly round-us of US FOIA news. Click here to sign up for the weekly FRINFORMSUM email newsletter. Harper works for the National Security Archive, also the parent of FreedomInfo.org. Tom Blanton, the National Security Archive’s Executive Director, recently told a packed house at Columbia School of Journalism’s FOIA @ 50 conference […]

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  • 19 April 2016

    US Federal Advisors Urge More Leeway on Fee Waivers

    By Toby McIntosh An advisory committee on the US Freedom of Information Act has recommended that government agencies should be given more administrative discretion not to charge fees. Ending two years of work, the advisory committee (which will be reconstituted) made this suggestion and others as part of a call for the Office of Management […]

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  • 14 April 2016

    Three US Legislators Draft Open Data Legislation

    Several US legislators are planning to introduce legislation designed to open up more government data in useable formats. “Specifically, this bill defines open data without locking in yesterday’s technology; creates standards for making federal government data available to the public; requires the federal government to use open data to improve decision making; and ensures accountability […]

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  • 7 April 2016

    New Canadian Government Delays FOI Reform Plans

    The new Liberal government in Canada has decided to delay for two years making promised reforms to the Access to Information Act, according to a top official quoted an article by Jim Bronskill in The Globe and Mail and another, by Alexander Boutilier, in Cambridge Times Some short-term fixes, however, could be on the way soon, […]

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  • 15 March 2016

    US Senate Approves Reforms to 50-Year-Old FOI Act

    The US Senate on March 15 approved by unanimous consent a set of amendments to the Freedom of Information Act. The Senate bill (S 337) is different in some ways from a bill previously passed unanimously by the House of Representatives. These differences will have to be reconciled before the legislation is sent to President […]

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  • 9 March 2016

    Justice Department Opposed 2014 FOI Reform Legislation

    The Obama administration  lobbied against legislation to reform the Freedom of Information Act that died in late 2014. DOJ’s positions, unacknowledged at the time, are described in documents obtained through a FOIA lawsuit by Freedom of the Press Foundation. (Full DOJ memo laying out opposition to FOIA reform and 114 pages of other FOIA’d documents.) The […]

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  • 17 February 2016

    Civil Society Groups Score Obama on Open Government

    The Obama administration has made only “limited” progress toward achieving its stated goals to improve access to information, according to a detailed assessment issued Feb. 16 by the OpenTheGovernment.org. The report developed by 23 civil society organizations analyzes the administration’s efforts toward fulfilling 16 commitments. They were made in the second US national action plan created […]

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  • 4 February 2016

    Entrepreneur Aims to Map US Government Information

    Armed with a $35,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, New York entrepreneur Max Galka hopes to map the information available in US. federal agencies. Galka plans to populate his FOIA Mapper website with a catalogue of government information systems, indexed by subject and with descriptions of each system. For example, a user might enter “noise” […]

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  • 17 January 2016

    US FOIA Fee Survey Results

    By Lauren Harper This article was first published Jan. 15 in Unredacted, a sister blog from the National Security Archive. The Unredacted version includes some additional charts.  What percentage of agency FOIA costs did Congress intend agencies to recover through FOIA fees? All? Most? Half? Something else? It’s impossible to say since the Office of […]

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  • 12 January 2016

    US House Approves Bill to Reform FOIA Law

    The US House of Representatives Jan. 11 easily approved a bill (H.R. 653) that advocates say will improve the freedom of information act. A last-minute addition to the House bill would protect against disclosures that would “ad­versely af­fect in­tel­li­gence sources and meth­od,” but the changes largely codify existing practice, according to FOI experts, who nonetheless were […]

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  • 2 December 2015

    Washington Approves Policy On Body-Worn Camera Footage

    The Washington, D.C., City Council Dec. 1 approved a policy for the release of video from cameras worn by police officers. The policy covers release of body worn camera (BWC) footage outside the FOIA process in the following situations: To the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of Police […]

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  • 1 October 2015

    Coalition Says US Failing to Fulfill OGP Commitments

    A pro-transparency coalition in the United States has said in a report that the Obama administration is not living up to its commitments regarding freedom of information. OpenTheGovernment.org reviewed activity on the current U.S. National Action Plan prepared as a member of the Open Government Partnership. It found that “despite commendable efforts and some meaningful progress, the […]

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  • 14 September 2015

    MuckRock to let users track projects and contribute to costs

    By Joseph Lichterman The author is a staff writer at NiemanLab where article was first published under a Creative Commons license. For the past year, Beryl C.D. Lipton has been investigating the private prison system in the United States. She’s a reporter for MuckRock, a news site that covers government transparency issues and also helps its users access government documents. […]

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  • 22 July 2015

    Senior DHS FOIA Official Named as US Ombudsman

    James Holzer, Senior Director of FOIA Operations at the Department of Homeland Security, has been selected to be the next US FOIA ombudsman. The five-year veteran of the DHS FOIA office will be director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) beginning in August, filing a position vacant for eight months. He has been […]

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  • 21 July 2015

    DOJ Agnostic on Timing for Publishing FOIA’d Documents

    The Justice Department has no current position on whether first requesters should get a priority look at the documents released before they are made available to the public under a planned “release to one, release to all” policy, according to Melanie Ann Pustay, Director of the Office of Information Policy at the Justice Department. The […]

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  • 16 July 2015

    US to Experiment With Releasing FOIA Replies

    The Obama administration has announced that seven agencies will be putting online their responses to most Freedom of Information requests. The “Release-to-One: Release-to-All” pilot project will run for six months and then be evaluated, the Justice Department Office of Information Policy (OIP) said in a press release issued July 10. The effort is “designed to […]

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  • 28 May 2015

    New Florida Law Exempts Body Camera Footage

    Florida Governor Rick Scott on May 21 signed into law a bill that would substantially exempt from disclosure footage taken with cameras worn by police officers. Florida thus becomes the second state to create special exemptions for body camera footage. North Dakota passed such a law in April. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) In Texas, a […]

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  • 21 May 2015

    US Officials Still Support Central FOIA Request Portal

    The Obama administration is still committed to the goal of creating a consolidated portal from which citizens can make freedom of information requests, according to official statements made to FreedomInfo.org. The assurances come after the recent “soft launch” of OpenFOIA generated questions about how much progress was being made. The latest version of OpenFOIA provides […]

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  • 14 May 2015

    Pace on Body Camera Bills Slow; Restrictions Advance

    By Toby McIntosh Only two state legislatures so far have passed bills restricting the disclosure of videos taken with cameras worn by police officers as the topic has proven hot to handle. Debates on the competing claims for transparency and privacy remain ongoing in many state legislatures, however, with advancing bills all tilting in the […]

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  • 16 April 2015

    No Central Request Function In Planned US FOIA Portal

    By Toby McIntosh The “FOIA Portal” being developed by the Obama administration is underwhelming, according to persons interviewed by FreedomInfo.org. The portal will lack a key feature typically described as a “Consolidated Online Request Portal.” In particular, the yet unveiled portal will not provide a central place to file freedom of information requests. Nor will […]

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  • 16 April 2015

    North Dakota Bars Disclosure of Private Place Police Videos

    North Dakota appears to be the first state to have passed a new law restricting access to videos taken with body cameras worn by law enforcement officials. The bill signed April 15 by Gov. Jack Dalrymple states: “An image taken by a law enforcement officer or a firefighter with a body camera or similar device […]

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  • 16 April 2015

    Clinton Emails Raise Questions About Agency Record Obligations

    By Harry Hammit Hammit is editor and publisher of Access Reports, a bi-monthly report on U.S. and Canadian freedom of information legal developments. The recent revelation that Hillary Clinton used her personal email account to conduct government business while she was Secretary of State, retained custody of those emails on a personal server at her home in […]

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  • 8 April 2015

    US DOJ Preparing Toolkit About Body Cameras

    The Justice Department hopes to produce by late May a “toolkit” to help jurisdictions make decisions about adopting the use of body cameras, according to a DOJ spokesperson and a consultation on the project. President Obama’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing earlier this year issued a report that includes pro-transparency recommendations, and proposed creation of […]

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  • 26 March 2015

    Obama Task Force Suggests Study of Body Cam Policies

    President Obama’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing has issued a report that includes pro-transparency recommendations, and recommends creation of “best practices” for states on topics including the disclosure of video taken from cameras worn by police officers. Obama appointed the task force after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the fatal […]

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  • 23 March 2015

    Issa Says Banks Rejected FOIA Bill Compromise

    Major banks last year rejected a compromise proposal to resolve their concerns with freedom of information act reform legislation, according Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), to one of the leading House sponsors of the  bipartisan legislation that died in the final days of Congress. Issa described the proposed deal at panel discussion on “Fixing FOIA” March […]

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  • 17 March 2015

    White House Cements Exemption From FOIA

    The White House Office of Administration on March 17 officially exempted itself from the Freedom of Information Act, relying on a seven-year-old court decision. The Office of Administration amended its regulations, relying on a judicial decision from 2009 in which U.S. District Judge Coleen Kollar-Kotelly dismissed a government watchdog’s lawsuit seeking records on missing White House […]

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  • 13 March 2015

    Proactive Disclosure Lags in US, Archive Audit Finds

    Only 40 percent of US government agencies systematically post online the records released through Freedom of Information Act requests, according to an audit done by the National Security Archive. The Archive team audited 165 federal agencies and found only 67 with online libraries populated with significant numbers of released FOIA documents and regularly updated. Proactive […]

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  • 12 March 2015

    Department of State Email Preservation Rate Hovers under 0.000061%

    By Lauren Harper and Nate Jones This column appeared March 11 in Unredacted, a blog from the National Security Archive, the publisher of FreedomInfo.org. Harper and Jones are Archive staff members. Today’s Department of State Office of Inspector General report has some scary numbers on the number of emails the Department actually preserves. Hillary Clinton […]

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  • 11 March 2015

    US Agencies Improve Slightly in ATI Scorecard Ratings

    Eight of 15 major U.S. agencies improved their scores on an “Access to Information Scorecard,” according to a report by a nongovernmental organizational, which reported that federal agencies “are still struggling to effectively and consistently implement public disclosure rules.” The report was the second comparative study by the Center for Effective Government and it concerns […]

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  • 5 March 2015

    The Hillary Emails; and a Suggested Fix

    By Lauren Harper and Nate Jones The National Security Archive and other groups recently proposed an amendment to the House FOIA Reform bill that would allow all FOIA processors access to all electronic records systems for the processing of FOIA requests. This fix would have gone a long way in allowing  State Department FOIA processors and […]

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  • 5 March 2015

    The Perils and Paradoxes of FOI in Canada

    By Ken Rubin The author is an Ottawa-based investigative researcher and citizens’ advocate. This article first appeared in J-Source, March 3. This article is a condensed and edited version of “Tales from the front line: Canada’s FOI Warrior”, Rubin’s chapter in FOI 10 Years On: Freedom Fighting or Lazy Journalism?, just published by Abramis in […]

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  • 26 February 2015

    Backlash Develops Over Release of Body Cam Footage

    By Toby McIntosh and Lauren Harper Bills to restrict or prevent the public disclosure of videos taken by police officers wearing cameras are sparking debate in state legislatures around the United States. Anti-disclosure bills have been offered in half a dozen states, usually by legislators with law enforcement backgrounds. “Video recordings should not be subject […]

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  • 5 February 2015

    Analysis of and Prospects for New House and Senate FOIA Bills

    By Nate Jones This article first appeared in Unredacted, a blog of the National Security Archive, where Jones is the FOIA Coordinator. The Archive also publishes FreedomInfo.org. On Feb. 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Senate bill discussed in this report. The demise of FOIA reform bills in the last Congress is analyzed in […]

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  • 24 December 2014

    FOIA Bill Post Mortem: Mysteries, Multiple Causes

    By Toby McIntosh The final days of modest legislation to reform the Freedom of Information Act were surprisingly dramatic. Still lingering as a key mystery is why House Speaker John Boehner refused to bring the bill up, sealing its fate in 2014. Passage was widely considered “a no brainer,” as one supporter put it. Unusual […]

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  • 11 December 2014

    House Speaker Unaware of Plans to Bring Up FOIA Bill

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner Dec. 11 gave no encouragement to supporters of a freedom of information reform bill clinging to hope for last-minute House passage of a bill with no known congressional opponents. “I have no knowledge of what the plan is for that bill,” Boehner said when asked about it by a reporter […]

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  • 10 December 2014

    Banking Lobbyists Opposing FOIA Bill, Sources Say

    Banking lobbyists are urging House leaders not to bring up the Freedom of Information Act Improvement Act of 2014, according to House, Senate and pro-bill sources. The opposition, from unnamed banking interests, comes as the House nears adjournment. Supporters hope the House will squeeze the Senate bill (S 2520) on to the agenda in the […]

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  • 8 December 2014

    Senate Approves FOIA Bill; Leahy Makes Slight Change

    The US Senate Dec. 8 unanimously approved amendments to the freedom of information act, with a slight, time-limited concession to the lone senator who had withheld his support. Negotiations with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) resulted in “report language” – a non-binding, but influential description of Congress’s intent. Rockefeller had objected to a key provision in […]

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  • 8 December 2014

    Sen. Rockefeller Defends Objections to Senate FOI Bill

    A few more specifics have emerged about the substance of  a last-minute debate over a Senate freedom of information bill. Both sides say discussions are ongoing while time is running out. Holding up action on the bill (S 2520) is Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W-Va), whose office Dec. 8 provided FreedomInfo.org with a more detailed defense […]

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  • 5 December 2014

    Rockefeller Issues Statement Opposing FOIA Legislation

    Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia on Dec. 5 said he opposed a pending freedom of information reform bill because it would have the unintended consequence of impairing enforcement of laws protecting consumers from financial fraud. His four-page statement confirmed reports that he is opposing the widely supported, bipartisan bill (S 2520), apparently the […]

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  • 4 December 2014

    Senate Action on FOI Bill Delayed by Rockefeller

    The US Senate Dec. 4 came close to passing reform amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, but the day was suspenseful and inconclusive. With Congress about the leave for a holiday break, only a limited window is available for getting the bill (S 2520) through. Objections from even a single senator, known as “holds,” […]

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  • 20 November 2014

    Senate Panel Approves Reforms for US FOI Act

    The US Senate Judiciary Committee Nov. 20 unanimously approved reform amendments to the Freedom of Information Act. The bipartisan support for a somewhat modified version of the bill (S. 2520) is expected to improve the chances of passage in the Senate this year. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in an opening statement, “We have […]

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  • 18 November 2014

    Senate FOI Bill Stripped Of Deliberative Process Reform

    Sponsors of a Senate Freedom of Information Act reform bill have dropped a provision dear to the heart of supporters. Gone is a so-called “public interest balancing test” to evaluate agency claims that disclosures would interfere with the deliberative process, according to a revised text to be considered Nov. 20 by the Senate Judiciary Committee. […]

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  • 13 November 2014

    US Senate Panel Delays Markup, Chairman Optimistic

    The US Senate Judiciary Committee Nov. 13 delayed approval of a freedom of information amendments package, but the chairman predicted passage next week. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement issued to reporters:  “I have worked with Senator Cornyn for months on the FOIA Improvement Act. It has broad bipartisan support, including the […]

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  • 10 November 2014

    Senate Panel Schedules Meeting on FOI Legislation

    The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a meeting for 10 a.m. Nov. 13 to consider S.2520, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014. With limited time left in this session of Congress and new current swirled by the recent election, the hope is for “unanimous consent” passage in the Judiciary Committee and expeditious passage on the […]

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  • 6 November 2014

    Arkansas Judge Orders Public Official Arrested

    A judge in Arkansas on Nov. 5  issued an arrest warrant for a government agency official over claims he didn’t provide documents requested by an Arkansas newspaper. A prosecutor earlier this week had issued an arrest affidavit for the official, accused of a misdemeanor charge of violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Pulaski County […]

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  • 29 October 2014

    US FOIA Advisory Panel Tackles Variety of Topics

    By Lauren Harper The author writes for the National Security Archive Unredacted blog. The FOIA Advisory Committee, established by the second Open Government National Action Plan and tasked to “advise on improvements to FOIA administration,” held itssecond meeting last week. The Committee consists of ten government and ten non-governmental FOIA experts – including the Archive’s FOIA Coordinator Nate Jones […]

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  • 29 October 2014

    Court Finds Database Redaction Too Burdensome

    By Harry Hammit Hammit is publisher of Access Reports, a bi-monthly report on U.S. and Canadian freedom of information legal developments. A ruling by Judge Rudolph Contreras finding that personally identifying information contained in several FTC complaint databases is protected by Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy), while almost certainly correct based on case law interpretation, […]

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  • 29 October 2014

    Getting Serious About Protecting Access to Public Email

    By Emily Shaw The author is National Policy Manager at the Sunlight Foundation and oversees its state and local policy work. This article was published Oct. 21 on the Sunlight blog. Our legally-protected access to public email records — the most voluminous source of official written records — is failing. Broward County, Fla. charging journalists […]

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  • 23 October 2014

    50 US Groups Press Obama to Back FOI Legislation

    Concerned that the Obama administration has been largely mute on a pending bipartisan bill to reform the Freedom of Information Act, 50 groups Oct. 23 urged him to voice his support. The bill has support from both Republican and Democratic legislators, has already passed the House and would appear to have a god chance of passage, […]

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  • 16 September 2014

    Senate Judiciary Schedules Meeting on FOIA Legislation

    The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a Sept. 18 meeting at which one agenda item is S.2520, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014. Under Senate rules, a matter may be “held over” to the next meeting at the request of any committee member, so there is a possibility that approval of the bill will be […]

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  • 10 September 2014

    Why FOIA’s Loophole Needs Legislative Suture

    By Lauren Harper The author is a research assistant at the National Security Archive focusing on FOIA advocacy and open government, as well as on U.S.-Iraq relations. This article originally appeared in The Brechner Report. The Tampa Tribune reporter Howard Altman submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Veterans Affairs earlier this year to learn the […]

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  • 4 September 2014

    US Government Issues Prototype FOI Request Tool

    A U.S. government team has unveiled a prototype tool for making freedom of information requests online. The blog post about the consolidated request submission hub says the tool is part of an effort to: improve the FOIA request submission experience; create a scalable infrastructure for making requests to federal agencies; and make it easier for requesters […]

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  • 20 August 2014

    The CIA Resisting Disclosure About Policy Change

    By Nate Jones The author is a staff member at the National Security Archive, the parent organization of FreedomInfo.org, and writes the blog Unredacted where this article appeared Aug. 19 under the title “The CIA Misapplies FOIA Exemptions to Continue its Covert Attack on Mandatory Declassification Review. And Why it Matters.”   On Friday September 23, […]

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  • 14 August 2014

    Court Finds No Need? to Clarify Scope of Request

    By Harry Hammitt The author is the publisher of Access Reports, a biweekly newsletter on US and Canadian FOI developments. While disposing of most issues left outstanding in a series of lawsuits brought by University of Virginia graduate student Katelyn Sack, Judge Emmet Sullivan has inadvertently exposed the difficulty in making FOIA amendments designed to […]

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  • 5 August 2014

    New System Evaluates Four Countries’ Online Disclosures

    The adequacy of online information disclosure in four countries has been tested with a new methodology that the researchers hope can be refined for wider use. The study covers four countries – Russia, the United States, Georgia and Belarus. It examines whether their official websites provide information in 47 specific categories and rates the adequacy […]

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  • 4 August 2014

    OGIS Begins Posting its Final Response Letters

    By Nate Jones   This article is reprinted from the blog Unredacted, edited by Jones. Unredacted, like FreedomInfo.org, is published by the National Security Archive. The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the federal FOIA ombuds office that provides assistance in FOIA disputes, has begun posting its final response letters to FOIA problems it has mediated.  To date, OGIS has […]

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  • 24 July 2014

    Efforts to Amend US FOIA Law Moving Steadily Along

    Legislation to solve what many openness advocates say is a major problem with the way government officials interpret the US Freedom of Information Act seems to be progressing well, with three recent positive bits of information emerging. First, the Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to vote on proposed FOIA amendments in September, FreedomInfo.org has learned. […]

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  • 18 July 2014

    Connecticut Court Wrongly Reduces Access to Information

    By James H. Smith This article was first run July 15 in the Journal Inquirer and other Connecticut newspapers. Smith, a retired newspaper editor, is president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information. For more not the ruling see article in The Day. Why would seven judges decide that the police can keep information about crime […]

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  • 7 July 2014

    Freeing the US Freedom of Information Act

    By Nate Jones This article first appeared in the Detroit News July 3. Jones is the FOIA Coordinator for the National Security Archive.  Earlier this year, the Veterans Affairs Administration denied the Tampa Tribune’s Freedom of Information Act request for the names of VA hospitals where veterans died because of delays in medical screenings. To […]

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  • 24 June 2014

    Two US Senators Propose Bill to Strengthen FOIA

    This article was posted on the website of the National Security Archive, FreedomInfo.org’s parent organization. Congress may actually take action this year to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, according to the National Security Archive’s posting June 24 of the new bipartisan bill by leading U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX). The […]

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  • 20 June 2014

    Members Named to FOI Advisory Panel in US

    The Archivist of the United States David Ferriero has appointed the 20 members of the new FOIA Advisory Committee. Ten are from within government and 10 from outside. Committee members are appointed to serve two-year terms. The first meeting will be held June 24, according to an announcement. Office of Government Information Services Director Miriam […]

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  • 9 June 2014

    US FOI Ombudsman Urged to Issue Advisory Opinions

    A federal advisory group in the United States on June 5 recommended that the freedom of information act ombudsman should issue advisory opinions. Although this is permitted by law, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) has not issued any such opinions since being established in 2007. OGIS assists individuals with FOIA requests, including offering […]

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  • 6 June 2014

    California Voters Reinstate Local Records Law Coverage

    California voters June 3 approved a ballot measure requiring local governments to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA). Proposition 42 received 61.5 percent for, 38.5 percent against. The measure also mandates that local governments pay the cost of complying with the records and meetings law, an expense the state previously was required to pay, according […]

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  • 30 May 2014

    Model FOIA Regulations Being Drafted in United States

    By Lauren Harper This article was published in Unredacted, a blog of the National Security archive, with which FreedomInfo.org is affiliated. Harper is an NSA staff member. The National Security Archive has partnered with our colleagues at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), to publish a set […]

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  • 16 May 2014

    President Obama Signs Spending Transparency Bill

     President Barack Obama on May 9 signed legislation aimed at standardizing and publishing the federal government’s spending data. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, known as the DATA Act (S. 994) would require the Treasury secretary and the director of the Office of Management and Budget to establish government-wide financial data standards. (See previous FreedomInfo.org […]

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  • 9 May 2014

    New York Court OKs Release of Pensioners’ Names

    A New York state court has ruled that the names of retired public workers in public pension systems are releasable under the state’s freedom of information law. The Court of Appeals May 6 decided that disclosure of names is not an invasion of privacy, but that their addresses shouldn’t be made public. The state retirement […]

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  • 2 May 2014

    US Must Publish FOIA Releases Online

    By Lauren Harper This article was first published on the National Security Archive blog Unredacted. Harper is an Archive staff member. The US was the first country to enact a modern Freedom of Information Act, and was the model other countries looked towards when crafting their own FOI laws. Now, however, the US lags behind the […]

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  • 18 April 2014

    Virginia Judge Exempts Academic Work from FOIA

    The Virginia state Supreme Court ruled April 17 that emails and unpublished research by a university professor are proprietary records dealing with scholarly research and therefore exempt from disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Skeptics of global warming, State Del. Robert Marshall (R-Prince William) and the American Tradition Institute, had sought records from […]

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  • 11 April 2014

    US Senate Passes Bill on Spending Transparency

    The US Senate has passed bill intended to make government spending more transparent. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 994), passed April 10 by unimous consent, would require the treasury secretary and the director of the Office of Management and Budget to establish government-wide financial data standards as a first step toward more robust […]

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  • 26 March 2014

    Connecticut Lawmakers Scale Back Right-to-Know Curbs

    By Ed Jacovino Jacovino is a reporter with the Journal Inquirer, of Connecticut, where this article first appeared on March 25, 2014. Reprinted with permission. HARTFORD — A legislative committee on Monday balked at a measure that would have kept from the public certain crime scene photos and 911 calls, stripping several right-to-know restrictions from […]

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  • 21 March 2014

    FOI Notes: US, India, Legislative Openness, Research, More

    (Ed. Note: FOI Notes is unusually U.S.-centric this week because of Sunshine Week. Send submissions for FOI Notes to freeinfo@gwu.edu) United States: “The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding […]

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