Two senators are proposing the most significant reforms to the Freedom of Information Act in four decades, including altering a key exemption that government agencies frequently use to deny access to a vast swath of Executive Branch documents.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and fellow panel member Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced legislation Tuesday that would allow the press and other public requesters to pierce the deliberative process privilege, a broad protection the courts give to records detailing the policymaking process as well as virtually any action leading up to any kind of decision by agency officials. In recent years, the provision—known as Exemption 5—has been ridiculed by transparency advocates as the 'withhold it because you want to' exception to FOIA.
The legislation would also shut down that exemption after 25 years. Federal agencies have sometimes used it to withhold records created 40 years ago or more. However, with respect to presidential records, similar protection falls away after just 12 years unless a formal executive privilege claim is made. (Here, via Leahy's office, are a rundown of the bill and the full text.) Continue>>>