03.28.19

Leahy, With Bipartisan, Bicameral Group, Asks GAO To Review Agencies’ FOIA Compliance

Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Chuck E. Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a comprehensive review of agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“In 2016, Congress passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 to expand public access to government records,” the Members wrote.  “Among other reforms, the 2016 Act codified a presumption of openness, allowing agencies to withhold records only when there is foreseeable harm to an interest protected by an exemption or a legal requirement preventing their release.  Some agencies are not fully implementing the 2016 improvements and continue to burden requesters with unlawful delays and denials.  For these reasons, we request GAO build on its 2018 assessment and conduct a comprehensive review of compliance with FOIA since the 2016 amendments.”

GAO’s 2018 assessment revealed inconsistent and incomplete agency compliance with FOIA between 2012 and 2016.  GAO found that 18 agencies had implemented only half of the FOIA requirements reviewed, and several agencies had backlogs of more than 1,000 FOIA requests during the same time period.

Click here to read today’s letter.

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