FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Recap of yesterday's Senate FOIA hearing

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Culture of Secrecy in Federal Government Increasingly Undermines Freedom of Information Act

By Jack Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service, July 13, 2016

President Barack Obama recently signed a law to improve the Freedom of Information Act, but the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Tuesday that the all-time low for unfulfilled requests occurred just last year.

The committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, convened this morning to look at FOIA 50 years after its adoption by President Lyndon Johnson.

"Over time, the government has found waits of undermining FOIA," Grassley said. "We still find a culture of secrecy, in both Democratic and Republican administrations. The Obama administration set a new record in 2015 for failing to fulfill FOIA requests. And several of his top officials used personal email accounts to avoid having their communications on the public record."

Grassley's thinly veiled dig at former secretary of state Hillary Clinton came as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president rallied in New Hampshire with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Republicans have been abuzz for the last week after the FBI recommended no charges against Clinton for her careless handling of classified State Department emails.

Though FBI Director James Comey saw no criminal intent, the State Department is conducting its own probe of the controversy.

Rick Blum, director of the Sunshine Institute, testified before the committee about the unacceptable length of time it takes for FOIA requestors to get a reply.

"Journalists who use FOIA have to anticipate doing something with the requested information months or even years down the line," Blum said.

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