We live in a nakedly transparent age. Celebrities live out loud, companies routinely have their business spilled all over the Web and anybody can find out an awful lot about you or me with a click of the mouse.
Not so in Washington, however, where the mechanism for releasing information has all but ground to a halt.
Four decades ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson reluctantly signed the Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.) into law, requiring federal agencies to respond to any request for documents within 20 days and provide them within a reasonable time afterward. The law held that information gathered on our behalf — paid for and owned by you and me, at least theoretically — should be ours for the asking.
But it hasn’t worked out that way. While the mandate for disclosure is still there, it is overwhelmed by a Rube Goldberg apparatus that clanks and wheezes, but rarely turns up the data.
Freedom of Information requests have been caught in the gears for decades, and journalists working on timely stories about lead in school lunch boxes, FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina and delays in the delivery of veterans’ benefits have all been stymied by agencies that flout the law through recalcitrance or ineptitude.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The Times Weighs in on FOIA Reform...
It's always helpful to legislative inertia when the NYT takes a look...