Advocates Hopeful About FOIA Oversight Office


Stakeholders in government information policy, including academics, lawyers, advocates and bureaucrats, are optimistic that the new administration and Congress might lower barriers to information access, reports the Columbia Journalism Review. Many of the interested parties gathered Thursday at a conference at American University's Washington College of Law to discuss the issue, a week after President Obama's high-profile executive actions on openness. The general mood at the conference was somewhere between excited and jubilant, CJR said. “This is an incredible, transformative opportunity for all of us,” says OMB director Gary Bass, a dean of the community.

During one talk, Gary Stern, general counsel of the National Archives and Records Administration, focused mostly on a bit of unfinished business from the Bush era: the Office of Government Information Services. OGIS has a short but tangled history. In 2007, Congress passed legislation calling for its creation, which President Bush signed it into law. The law intended to create an independent federal office to mediate Freedom of Information Act disputes–to rebuke agencies making indefensible decisions, and to help explain to users why unreasonable or poor requests were denied. But political and budget maneuvering has caused delays. Finally this week, the government released a job posting for the office's director, and Stern says the office may be up and running this fall.

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