Sunshine and Shadows

The Clear Obama Message for Freedom of Information Meets Mixed Results

Published on National Security Archive, by Tom Blanton, NSA Director (for more info call him on 202/994-7000), March 15, 2010.

Despite President Barack Obama’s and Attorney General Eric Holder’s 2009 memoranda calling for reform in government agencies’ administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the latest government-wide FOIA Audit released today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University found:

  • Ancient requests – as old as 18 years – still persist in the FOIA system.
  • A minority of agencies have responded to the Obama and Holder Memos with concrete changes in their FOIA practices.
  • Only four out of 28 agencies reporting–including Holder’s own Justice Department–show releases up and denials down under the FOIA. 

The Audit (28 pdf-pages), which is based on data obtained from government agencies through FOIA requests filed by the Archive in September 2009, found that federal agencies had a wide range of responses to the Obama and Holder Memos. Some agencies (13 out of 90) implemented concrete changes in practice as a result of the memos; some (14 out of 90) have made changes in staff training; and still others (11 out of 90)  have merely circulated and discussed the memos. The remaining agencies (52) either told the Archive that they have no records that demonstrate how they implemented the Obama and Holder Memos or did not respond at all to the FOIA request … (full text).

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