National Security Archive’s FOIA Report Finds Some Agencies Noncompliant

Sixty two out of 99 government agencies still have outdated FOIA regulations on the books that leave them miles behind the federal government’s 2009 discretionary memorandum, issued by US Attorney General Eric Holder in March of that year, which urges them to disclose documents that are entitled to exemption on a case-by-case basis. Fifty six of those agencies still haven’t made five year old updates per the OPEN Government Act of 2007. Seventeen agencies still haven’t posted FOIA regulations on their websites, which was mandated by an amendment in 1996.

These and more findings come from a transparency audit by the National Security Archive published this month:

Three previous Knight Open Government Surveys conducted by the National Security Archive found that despite President Obama’s day-one clarion call to improve FOIA, results at the agency level have been extremely mixed at best. For example, after Obama’s first year in office, only 13 agencies could point to concrete changes to their FOIA practices; two years into the Obama presidency, and after a sharply-worded White House memo, only 49 agencies had taken concrete steps to improve their FOIA practices. The primary cause of this FOIA failure has been the inability of Congress and the White House to find a way to compel recalcitrant agencies to comply with FOIA.

The agency points out that President Obama has an opportunity in his second term to standardize FOIA regulations, and prescribes “best practices” that include issuing fee waivers and requiring most agencies to participate in the FOIAonline portal.

Read the full NSA report here.

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