On the Fourth of July, the Freedom of Information Act will mark its 39th birthday, just as a growing number of people think it’s time for a facelift, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Amid growing complaints about delays and difficulties in obtaining information from federal agencies, Congress is considering six bills to give the act more teeth.
Over the years, the act, which underwent its last major overhaul 1996, has been credited with the release of a host of information. A Government Accountability Office report released in May says such requests have led to disclosure of “waste, fraud, abuse and wrongdoing in the government, as well as the identification of unsafe consumer products, harmful drugs and serious health hazards.” The report says agencies reported a 71% jump in FOIA requests from 2002 to 2004; a 68% rise in requests processed during that period; and a 14% rise in the backlog, which is to say, requests carried over from year to year. The report, examining requests processed in 2004, says 92% of them resulted in “responsive records” being provided in full.