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FOIA: The Lock and Key to Government Records

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The Freedom of Information Act (1966), an amendment altering Section Three of the Administrative Procedure Act (1964), outlines the rules and regulations for United States citizens to obtain federal government records. The act, written with the guidance of journalists, was

The Freedom of Information Act (1966), an amendment altering Section Three of the Administrative Procedure Act (1964), outlines the rules and regulations for United States citizens to obtain federal government records. The act, written with the guidance of journalists, was created for all members of the public, but with the intent that the press would be the primary users of the legislation. The authors of the act believed the press would utilize FOIA to enhance its ability to accomplish its duty of keeping the public informed. Now, 51 years after the act was passed into law, critics say FOIA has not satisfactorily allowed the press or the public in general to inform and be informed. Issues with demand rates, unorganized systems and subjective interpretations of the act have combined to lock information from public access through an act that was intended to be the key to it. The data from annual federal agency FOIA reports to the attorney general from 2008 to 2015 have indicated that, in multiple metrics, FOIA has increasingly struggled to fulfill and often has failed to provide records to requesting parties. These trends have inspired a discussion among journalists and right-to-information advocates about how to best resolve the issues that have contributed to them. Proposed solutions range from adjustments to requesters' approaches to the act, amendments to the act and even abandoning the act entirely in favor of constructing a new law.

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Date Created
2016-12