The 1966 Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)

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The 1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was drafted in response to demands from leaders in the press and key individuals within Congress for greater access to government information in order to strengthen accountability in its personnel practices, domestic and foreign intelligence gathering efforts, foreign policy decisions, and other activities. The FOIA serves as a mechanism for the public?s right to know which in effect threatens the government?s right to protect state secrets and other privileged information. As a result, the process of implementing, interpreting, and applying the FOIA over time has been shaped by these competing interests. This article begins with a brief history of the origins of the act, followed by a description…show more content…
The FOIA functions as a decentralized system in which individual requests for information are made to the agency that an individual or group believes is likely to have the record(s) in question. These requests are then processed by that agency. Federal agencies provide their own guidelines for FOIA requests, often as part of comprehensive web pages dedicated to the FOIA with information about the requested records and other related information. Individual agencies are responsible for responding to requests within the established timeline of 20 days, with 10-day or longer extensions allowable in cases where the agency faces a burden due to the need for additional research or lack of adequate resources for an overstretched agency. They are also responsible for issuing requested information or denying requests as well as being accountable for appeals of denied requests in federal courts. Agencies also list their FOIA contacts through the Justice Department though they maintain their own individual staff dedicated to FOIA requests. The Department of Justice administers the FOIA and their Office of Information Policy monitors agency activity to ensure compliance. To aid in this process, they provide summaries and access to information about court cases addressing the FOIA, run workshops for interested parties such as attorneys, post frequent updates on their ?OIPGuidance? website,[8] and publish a full-length ?DOJ Guide to the Freedom of Information Act,?[9] the…show more content…
The FOIA can be viewed as a successful tool for civil society by viewing the change in the frequency of requests over time.[11] In 1990, there were a total of 491,000 requests filed, with the Defense Department receiving the highest number at 118,000.[11] By 2012, there were a total of 651,254 filed requests, with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) receiving the highest number at 190,589.[12] However, when comparing the rate of backlogged requests remaining at the end of a year compared to the number of total requests received in the same year, DHS comes in at only 14.98% compared to the Department of State at 56.5% with 10,464 backlogged requests, and the National Archives and Records Administration at 57% with 7610 backlogged requests at the end of 2012. This is in contrast with agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, which reported 741 backlogged requests at 3.34% of its total annual requests for the same
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