The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to make it easier for journalists and ordinary Americans to obtain documents and other information about how the federal government conducts its business. As such, it is one of the bedrocks of our democracy. “It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government,” boasts FOIA.gov, a website dedicated to the law.
Unfortunately, as has been woefully apparent for years, the law is not particularly user-friendly, and instead of making information more accessible, its application has resulted too often in information that should be made public becoming nearly impossible to obtain. In a May 2010 column for The New York Times, I wrote about my own difficulties in obtaining public documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve.
I also recounted President Obama’s determination, on his first full day in office, to change FOIA’s bad reputation by issuing an executive order to make the law easier to use by encouraging bureaucrats to err on the side of releasing information. His optimism was palpable. Continue>>>