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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Times Weighs in on FOIA Reform...

It's always helpful to legislative inertia when the NYT takes a look...

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.

1 comment:

Hill said...

Boggles the mind the damage DubyaCo has done.

The few real reporters that still exist have to fight tooth & nail to get any information, and then to have our beloved FOIA trampled on is just beyond outrage.