Opinion: A Stronger Freedom of Information Act

Congress came tantalizingly close last year to passing a bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, which allows journalists and the public to access federal government records. The legislation, which would have brought more transparency, was blocked in December when the House speaker, John Boehner, refused to hold a vote on the Senate bill with no explanation. Two months later, lawmakers have a second chance.

Both the Senate and the House have bills pending that would put into law a “presumption of openness” and a rule against withholding information absent “foreseeable harm” to protected government interests — two things the Obama administration called for in 2009 but failed to carry out.

Both bills would both impose a 25-year limit on the withholding of documents that the government asserts are part of an internal deliberative process; there is no limit in the current law. The bills would allow more room for judicial review of whether a record request was properly denied and also give the public easier access to records that are released. Frequently requested records would be made available online. Continue>>>