FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

September 8, 2014 8:11 AM

The federal web development team 18F is building a one-stop portal for requests for government documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The move advances a key goal of the Obama administration's open government action plan -- the creation of a consolidated online FOIA service.

18F is developing the portal in collaboration with a FOIA Task Force with representatives of the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (an early participant in, a FOIA request portal that covers multiple agencies), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget.

18F has released an early prototype on what a government-wide FOIA portal might look like. According to a blog post, the new tools are designed to streamline the request process, and to provide access to records and materials that have already been released under previous FOIA requests. There's no timeline yet on when a portal might be ready for beta testing or public launch. Continue>>>

Army, foia portal, SANS, vistA
October 4, 2013 9:04 AM

From National Journal: Thursday morning's New York Times starts with a blockbuster story on Obamacare:

"A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance, they very kinds of people that the program was intended to help, according to an analysis of census data by The New York Times."

It's a major revelation for the nation's hotly contested policy, but it wouldn't have come to light without publicly available census data. But right now, because of the government shutdown, that's data that you can't find online.

Visit National Journal for more.



October 3, 2013 8:20 AM

From As hundreds of thousands of federal workers were sent home amid the first federal government shutdown since the 1990s, so too did many of the databases that provide government transparency and allow researchers to understand the social and economic fabric of the United States.

Because of a lack of staffing or because they were deemed non-essential services, much of the statistical information kept by the federal government will remain dormant as long as the shut down continues, if it hasn’t disappeared entirely.

The U.S. Census Bureau and – a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s open government initiative – shuttered entirely early Tuesday morning, while other agencies, such as the FEC and the Bureau of Labor Statistics will not update their websites, cutting off a flow of critical economic and political information.

Visit for more.



October 1, 2012 10:41 AM

From TechPresident:

A group of federal agencies on Monday unveiled a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request portal that they hope will greatly improve the processing of FOIA requests.

Located at FOIAonline, the new portal is a pilot project jointly developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commerce Department, and the National Archives and Records Administration. In addition to the Commerce, EPA, and NARA, two other federal agencies, the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Labor Relations Authority, have signed up to use the system to process FOIA requests.

The developers of the system are hoping that more federal agencies will start using the system once they see its benefits in action.

Also see:

Some thoughts about FOIAonline from our friends at Sunshine in Government, and a nice graphic from our friends at


March 30, 2012 2:32 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier.

Text messages enter public-records debate

Those supposedly private messages that public officials dash off on their government cellphones to friends and colleagues aren't necessarily private after all.

Courts, lawyers and states are increasingly treating these typed text messages as public documents subject to the same disclosure laws — including the federal Freedom of Information Act — that apply to e-mails and paper records.

Visit USA Today for the rest.

Judge calls for near-complete release of UC pepper-spray report

OAKLAND — A judge Wednesday rejected nearly all attempts by a campus police union to block release of portions of a report on the November pepper-spraying of UC Davis students by university officers.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo disagreed with assertions that large chunks of the report — designed to scrutinize the day's events and craft new policy — should be sealed because they contain the same kind of information as in officer personnel files compiled for disciplinary purposes. He also rejected union arguments that officers named in the report have a constitutional right to privacy.

Visit LA Times for the rest.

Justice accused of hindering multi-agency FOIA website

Open government watchdog groups are calling upon the White House to help resolve an apparent power struggle between the Justice Department and three other federal agencies over the creation of new websites for consolidating Freedom of Information Act requests and information.

The tussle is over, recently created by Justice, and a new FOIA Web portal being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency with assistance from the Commerce Department and the National Archives & Records Administration.

Visit Federal Computer Week for the rest.

FDA Gets High Marks for FOIA Request Transparency

A report by the House Oversight Committee has found many federal agencies to be deficient when it comes to tracking basic information regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, including the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Visit Regulatory Focus for the rest.

Bush and Cheney Are for Snooping In Everyone’s Library Records But Theirs

Libraries, you will recall, are playgrounds for terrorists—which is why George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made sure the that PATRIOT Act empowered the FBI to rummage through library records with impunity and without a warrant, confidentiality be damned. But now that there's a lawsuit seeking records from their presidential libraries, Bush and Cheney are hiding behind the Librarian's Code.

Visit Gawker for the rest.

CIA Withholds Documents Using Legal Exemption It Does Not Have Authority to Apply

For the past eight years, the CIA has used an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that "protects intelligence sources and methods" to justify the withholding of certain records from requesters.

But a federal lawsuit filed against the CIA charges that the agency does not have the authority to deny records under what is known as a (b)(3) exemption unless the Director of the CIA consulted with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and received specific authorization in each instance it had denied records under that rule, which it apparently has not done.

Visit TruthOut for the rest.

Records used in other states to uncover cheating on tests not open in Texas

While other states are finding evidence of school test score manipulation, the Texas Education Agency has managed to quash open records requests that would allow the public to investigate such a thing in this state.

Visit Texas Watchdog for the rest.

R text messages a loophole in Florida records law?

Florida public records laws are often called among the toughest in the nation. But that was b4 txt msging. The state updated its public records rules last year to advise that text messages, Facebook comments, Tweets and other communications on "emerging communications technologies'' might be public records, depending on their content.

Visit Orlando Sentinel for the rest.

March 29, 2012 1:30 AM

From Federal Computer Week

The Justice Department says it supports a multi-agency effort to create an online portal for Freedom of Information Act requests.

A department spokeswoman issued a statement on March 27 in response to a story published the previous day which reported on allegations from watchdog groups that the department was hindering the effort. The groups said DOJ was suspected of discouraging other agencies from participating in the FOIA Web portal development project led by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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