According to the U.S. Government:
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.
The FOIA also requires agencies to proactively post online certain categories of information, including frequently requested records. As Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court have all recognized, the FOIA is a vital part of our democracy.
President Obama and Attorney General Holder have directed agencies to apply a presumption of openness in responding to FOIA requests. Attorney General Holder emphasized that the President has called on agencies to work in a spirit of cooperation with FOIA requesters. The Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice oversees agency compliance with these directives and encourages all agencies to fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of the FOIA.
Although it works, the system is not working to the full potential and intent of the law. So on June 2, 2015, a hearing was held by some of the nation’s top experts (non-government) on the act.
- To examine the use of FOIA requests as a tool for government transparency and explore barriers to accessing public documents from the user’s perspective.
- The Committee will hear from witnesses that use FOIA in news reporting, academic research, and to conduct government oversight.
- Enacted in 1966, FOIA is a transparency tool for individuals to ensure government accountability. Under FOIA, requesters may ask federal agencies for information about any matter.
- An agency has 20 business days to respond to a request (and an additional ten days for unusual circumstances) and must release non-exempt records to the requester.
- In Fiscal Year 2014, the federal government received 714,231 FOIA requests.
- The backlog of FOIA cases that had not been processed within the statutory time limit increased by 67 percent to a total of 159,741 backlogged cases.