The push for open government and open data by federal officials, as well as authorities across many states and cities, can seem an unmitigated good. Talk to journalists, however, and there are myriad areas where they believe government at all levels is still being less than transparent — and less than helpful in revealing facts that the public is entitled to know.
The Freedom of Information Act is one of the crown jewels of the modern American republic. The law, which requires public access to most government documents and communications, has made it significantly easier for Americans and the journalists who inform them to hold government officials accountable.
In a day and age when government gets ever-bigger, FOIA protects Americans from being ruled in secret. Or at least, it does so when officials actually follow the law — which, unfortunately, they often do not.
Of the 15 federal agencies that receive the most Freedom of Information Act requests –nine-tenths of the total government-wide – eight improved their compliance in the most recent annual report card by a watchdog group, but only two, Agriculture and SSA, scored as high as a B.
Heli-skiing: it’s the holy grail for thrill-seeking skiers and snowboarders. Ride to the roof of the world aboard a helicopter. Descend thousands of vertical feet through fresh, untracked powder. No lift lines, no ski patrol.
This is what heli-skiers pay upwards of $1,000 per day to see. What they don’t see is the heli-ski tour company owner, back at the office fretting over his trade secrets.
Early this year, the Air Force cracked down on FOIA requests for unfiltered radar records tracking air traffic across the United States. In its decision to withhold data that had been accessible for god knows how long, Air Combat Command implied that the release of certain computerized documents — in this case, known as En Route Intelligence Tool, or ERIT data — would expose vulnerabilities in coverage.
In response to recent emails and phone calls I have received regarding my “yes” vote on HB 3796, I would like to explain why this legislation will, in fact, increase access to public records and improve the way voluminous or large Freedom of Information Act requests are processed.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn stopped a $20 million state construction grant to the College of DuPage last June when a troubling email surfaced from President Robert Breuder to the Board of Trustees. The email outlined a political strategy helpful to the incumbent governor in an effort to procure the millions of dollars. Furthermore, Breuder suggested “bank it until we figure out how to use it, and then building something.” It was the first in a long line of irregularities uncovered during our seven-month investigation of the $300 million-per-year community college.
Those seeking documents from the Department of Homeland Security will likely have to wait for their requests to be filled. According to a new report released this month from the DHS Privacy Office, the agency now has a backlog of more than 50,000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, The Hill reported, with most of those related to immigration records.
A review of the Internal Revenue Service's compliance with the Freedom of Information Act found the agency intentionally withheld or failed to "adequately search" for requested information in hundreds of cases.