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Archive General Counsel Testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee on FOIA

Notes backlogs in FY 2008 went back as far as 17 Years

Urges Additional Steps for Congress and Obama Administration to Improve FOIA

For more information contact:
Meredith Fuchs / Kristin Adair - 202/994-7000

Washington, DC, September 30, 2009 - At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on “Advancing Freedom of Information in the New Era of Responsibility,” Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs reported on improvements in FOIA processing since the 2007 FOIA amendments went into effect, but said the most recent statistics demonstrated that excessive backlogs still plague the system. Citing requests as old as 17 years, Ms. Fuchs asked the Committee to look closely at FY 2009 data when it is reported to determine whether anything has improved. 

Ms. Fuchs said the results of the new Obama administration transparency policies are mixed so far.  She commented, “Have we entered a new era of open government?  The door has been unlocked and pushed open, and I hope the Obama Administration walks all the way out into the sunshine with complete and improved policies on FOIA, state secrets privilege, classification and declassification, and sensitive but unclassified information.” 

The Archive recommended that the committee use its oversight power to help ensure that agencies commit to mediation before the new Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).  In her testimony, Fuchs also suggested further steps that the administration should take to fully implement the 2007 amendments and use technology to make FOIA processing more efficient and effective.

The hearing, chaired by Judiciary Committee Chairman and longtime open government advocate Patrick Leahy (D-VT), comes on the heels of the Obama administration releasing new policy statements on FOIA in January and March and pursuing several processes to gather public input on transparency policy, to culminate in the anticipated release in the near future of the Open Government Directive. 

The other witnesses at today’s hearing included Thomas J. Perrelli, Associate Attorney General, Miriam Nisbet, Director of the Office of Government Information Services, and Tom Curley, President and CEO of the Associated Press (representing the Sunshine in Government Initiative).

 

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