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Freedom of Information a Joke to Some Agencies

NY Times: Survey Finds Action on Information Requests Can Take Years. The Freedom of Information Act requires a federal agency to provide an initial response to a request within 20 days and to provide the documents in a timely manner. But the oldest pending request uncovered in a new survey of 87 agencies and departments has been awaiting a response for 20 years, and 16 requesters have been waiting more than 15 years for results.

Given the utter lack of incentive to cooperate with FOI requests, this should not be surprising. Some state laws do it better, forcing taxpayers to pay the legal bills when agencies break the law. The feds ignore it because they can.

The story also notes that the State Department declined to comment because no one had reviewed the study. I wonder if any journalist will bother to keep after the department for an answer. But somehow I doubt it.

1 Comment on “Freedom of Information a Joke to Some Agencies”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jul 2nd, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Yes, I understand the timing of the law: it’s the 40th anniversary of FOIA going into effect. But the report and the article are hyping the edge cases rather than substantive numbers.

    A search for FOIA report reveals that every agency provides an annual report in a different format. There is no graph comparing the throughput or backlog of each agency. Nor can I find a trend graph showing the throughput and backlog over time.

    GWU’s National Security Archive March 2007 report on the slowness of E-FOIA adoption over the last ten yearsFile Not Found should interest more of your readers.