Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Amendments: 110th Congress
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Enacted in 1966 after 11 years of investigation, legislative development, and deliberation in the House and half as many years of such consideration in the Senate, the Freedom of Information Act FOIA displaced the ineffective public information section of the Administrative Procedure Act. The FOIA was designed to enable any person -- individual or corporate, regardless of citizenship -- to request, without explanation or justification, presumptive access to existing, identifiable, unpublished, executive branch agency records on any topic. The statute specified nine categories of information that may be permissibly exempted from the rule of disclosure. Disputes over the accessibility of requested records could be ultimately settled in court. Not supported as legislation or enthusiastically received as law by the executive branch, the FOIA was subsequently refined with direct amendments in 1974, 1976, 1986, and 1996. The statute has become a somewhat popular tool of inquiry and information gathering for various quarters of American society -- the press, business, scholars, attorneys, consumers, and environmentalists, among others -- as well as some foreign interests. The response to a request may involve a few sheets of paper, several linear feet of records, or perhaps information in an electronic format. Such responses require staff time, search and duplication efforts, and other resource commitments. Agency information management professionals must efficiently and economically service FOIA requests, doing so, of late, in the sensitized homeland security milieu. Requesters must be satisfied through timely supply, brokerage, or explanation. Simultaneously, agency FOIA costs must be kept reasonable. The perception that these conditions are not operative can result in proposed new corrective amendments to the statute. Several bills were offered in this regard in the 109th Congress. This report will be updated as events warrant.
- Information Science
- Government and Political Science
- Sociology and Law