Leahy To Chair Sunshine Week Hearing On FOIA

WASHINGTON  (Monday, March 7, 2011) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has scheduled an oversight hearing on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which will be held during  Sunshine Week 2011.  The hearing is entitled, “The Freedom of Information Act: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age.”

The seventh annual Sunshine Week will be celebrated the week of March 14.  It is a national observance of the importance of an open and transparent government, and participants include the news media, civic groups, libraries and schools.  The Leahy-chaired hearing will be held Tuesday, March 15, at 10:15 a.m. 

Leahy is a longtime advocate of open, transparent government, and has been a leader in Congress in pushing for reforms to update and strengthen FOIA.  He is the co-author of the OPEN Government Act, which was signed into law in 2007, made the first major reforms to FOIA in more than a decade.  He is also the co-author of the OPEN FOIA Act, which requires greater transparency for legislative exemptions to FOIA.  The legislation was signed into law in October 2009. 

Witnesses testifying at the March 15 hearing will include Miriam Nisbet, Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS); Melanie Pustay, Director of the Office of Information Policy; Sarah Cohen, Professor at Duke University; John Podesta, President and Chief Executive at the Center for American Progress; and Thomas Fitton, the President of Judicial Watch.

The hearing will be webcast live on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website.  Member statements and witness testimony will also be available online.

# # # # #


Background on Witnesses Testifying
At The Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing
On “The Freedom of Information Act:
Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age”


Miriam Nisbet, Director
Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration
The Office of Government Information Services was established with the enactment of the OPEN Government Act.  The office mediates FOIA disputes with federal agencies.  Nisbet is the office’s first Director.  She previously served as the Director of the Information Society Division for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); as the Legislative Counsel for the American Library Association; and as the Deputy Director of the Office of Information Policy for the Department of Justice.

Melanie Pustay, Director
Office of Information Policy, Department of Justice
The Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice has statutory responsibility for encouraging agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  The office is responsible for issuing government wide FOIA policy across the Executive Branch, and serves as the oversight office for agency FOIA compliance.  Pustay is responsible for developing policy guidance for agency personnel on all issues related to the implementation of FOIA.  Before becoming the office’s director, Pustay served for eight years as the Deputy Director.  She also has extensive experience in FOIA litigation.

Sarah Cohen, Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy
Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
Cohen is testifying on behalf of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of media groups which promote policies to ensure open, accessible, and accountable government.  Cohen joined the Sanford School of Public Policy in 2009 after working for 15 years as a reporter and editor.  She has shared in many major awards in journalism, including the Pulitzer Price, the Goldsmith Prize, the Selden Ring award, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Gold Medal.  She is active in open government and government transparency initiatives.

John Podesta, President and Chief Executive
Center for American Progress
Podesta is the founder of the Center for American Progress.  Prior to establishing the Center, he served as White House Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton.  He also served as an assistant to the President, deputy chief of staff, staff secretary, and as a senior policy advisor on government information, privacy, telecommunications security and regulatory policy.  Prior to his service in the White House, he held several positions on Capitol Hill.

Thomas Fitton, President
Judicial Watch
Fitton has been affiliated with Judicial Watch since 1998.  He is a former talk radio and television host and analyst, and is the author of server published articles.  He also formerly worked at the International Policy Forum, the Leadership Institute, and Accuracy in Media.

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693