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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 10, 2007

If You Haven't Seen This Yet...

The National Security Archives' wonderful collection of pending FOI requests...

The oldest Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests still pending in the federal government were first filed two decades ago, during the Reagan presidency, according to the Knight Open Government Survey released today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

"Forty years after the law went into effect, we're seeing twenty years of delay," said Tom Blanton, the Archive's director, noting the July 4, 1967 implementation date for FOIA. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant, but this kind of inexcusable delay by federal agencies just keeps us in the dark."

In January 2007, the Archive filed FOIA requests with the 87 leading federal agencies and components for copies of their "ten oldest open or pending" FOIA requests. The Department of State, responding to an Archive "ten oldest" request for the first time, reported ten pending requests older than 15 years--the majority of the oldest requests in the entire federal government. Other agencies with the oldest requests include the Air Force, CIA, and two components of the Justice Department, the Criminal Division and the FBI.

"A lot can happen in 20 years. The Internet grew to adulthood in less time than it has taken our federal government to deal with these outstanding Freedom of Information requests," said Eric Newton, vice president of the journalism program at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which supports the Archive's FOIA audits. "Americans once said they had the best open government laws in the world. Is that still true?"

The Knight Open Government Survey also identifies ten federal agencies that misrepresented their FOIA backlogs to Congress. For example, the Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy--which is leading the opposition to current FOIA reform legislation passed by the U.S. House and pending in the Senate--claimed in its most recent report to Congress that its oldest request was from 2002, but provided the Archive with a package of oldest requests dating back to 2001.

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