Back in December of 2005 with the White House coming under increasing criticism for its secrecy, President George W. Bush ordered federal agencies to speed up their responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
A new FOIA report card by a coalition of journalists groups makes it clear that Bush's directive did not produce a "surge" in the response rate by the agencies.
The study by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government concludes the Bush directive did nothing to speed up responses by agencies that have been systematically cutting back the personnel assigned to FOIA work, even as backlogs of requests grow and the cost of fulfilling requests increases.
"Requests remain heavily backlogged," the study says. "Requesters still have long wait times for a response from many agencies. And people seeking records and information remain less likely to get the information they seek than in the past."
The coalition assembled the FOIA performance reports from 15 Cabinet-level departments and 15 agencies dating back to 1998, when agency reporting was first required. The 13 agencies that had reported 2006 performance by Feb. 9 were also included in the study.
Overall, the groups said, FOIA performance remains at the lowest point since 1998.
One of the biggest problem is the growing backlog of requests. In 2005, the overall backlog was a record 31% of the requests, a percentage that was 138% above the 1998 level. And the agencies that have so far reported 2006 results are showing an even higher average backlog, the coalition said.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
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