We can begin to glean at least the outlines of what happened when Donald Trump met the law that the late New York Times columnist William Safire said “has done more to inhibit the abuse of Government power… than any legislation in our lifetime.” The results of that clash are as revealing about the 45th president as they are about FOIA.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is leading a coalition of 38 media organizations, including RTDNA, in arguing against the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed changes to its Freedom of Information Act regulations.
Normally, when you submit a FOIA request to a government agency, one of three things happens: You get the records you want, the agency says no such records exist or the agency says the records are exempt from disclosure. But there’s another possible outcome: You might be told that the agency can “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence” of the records. That’s now permissible in New York where, for the first time, an appellate court has affirmed the use of such a response under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
Things look especially gloomy for FOIA these days. The act celebrates its 50th birthday this year, and it isn’t aging gracefully. It’s a post-9/11 world, and despite promises to the contrary, the Obama administration is as tightfisted as administrations get; meanwhile, depleted newsrooms don’t have the resources to fight for access to information. So perhaps FOIA journalists — and curious folks with a penchant for paperwork — should be forgiven for getting a little frisky once in awhile. Here are five examples of them doing just that.
The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to expand the public’s access to government records, after a year of delay. The Senate’s move means both chambers have now passed similar proposals to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Differences will still need to be resolved before the measure makes it to President Obama’s desk — potentially forcing the administration’s hand on a bill it has previously lobbied against.
A bill that would make significant changes to the Freedom of Information Act got a lift this morning when it was approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This legislation represents the biggest amendment to America’s federal open records act since 2007 and comes months after a similar proposal failed to clear Congress near the end of last year. Here’s what you need to know.