Congress requests GAO investigation into federal FOIA shortcomings
By Alex Howard, Sunlight Foundation, Apr. 29, 2016
On April 28, the leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary sent Gene L. Dodaro, the U.S. comptroller general, a letterrequesting the General Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a comprehensive review of the federal government's compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a vital tool that protects one of the cornerstones of our Nation: the American public's right to know what its government is up to. Given FOIA's importance, effective and complete implementation of its statutory requirements is necessary to ensure that the public can exercise its right to know.
Requesters repeatedly report to Congress the problems they have encountered with the FOIA process. These problems include indefinite delays, excessive redactions, and other unnecessary barriers to accessing information. According to a recent report, people who sought records under FOIA in Fiscal Year 2015 received censored files or simply nothing at all in response to 77 percent of all requests—a record high, according to the Associated Press. During the same period, the number of FOIA lawsuits filed in federal court reached an all-time high. These are troubling statistics that warrant further investigation into how, and the extent to which, the federal government responds to FOIA requests.
The authors of the letter — Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Elijah Cummings and Darrell Issa along with Sens. Charles Grassley, Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn — requested that the GAO produce reports on the following topics:
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