Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Issues for the 111th Congress
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Enacted in 1966 after 11 years of investigation and legislative development in the House - and nearly 6 years of such consideration in the Senate - the Freedom of Information Act FOIA 5 U.S.C. - 552 replaced the public information section of the Administrative Procedure Act. FOIA was designed to enable any person to request, without explanation or justification, access to existing, identifiable, unpublished, executive branch agency records. The statute specified nine categories of information that may be exempted from the rule of disclosure. Pursuant to FOIA, disputes over the accessibility of requested records could be settled ultimately in court. The statute has become a widely used tool of inquiry and information gathering for various sectors of American society - particularly the press, businesses, scholars, attorneys, consumers, and activistsas well as some foreign interests. The response to a request may ultimately involve a few sheets of paper, several linear feet of records, or information in an electronic format. Assembling responses requires staff time, search and duplication efforts, and other resource commitments. Agency information management professionals are responsible for efficiently and economically responding to FOIA requests, doing so in the sensitized homeland security milieu. Agencies may negotiate with a requester to narrow a requests scope, or the agency may explain and justify why certain records cannot be supplied. Simultaneously, agency FOIA response costs need to be kept reasonable. The perception that FOIA standards are not properly met may result in proposed new corrective amendments to the statute.
- Information Science
- Defense Systems