Still waiting for FOIA reforms to surface


Roger Strother writes at OMB Watch’s Fine Print blog about the latest noise coming out of the Office of Information Policy about the “sea change in the way transparency is viewed across the government.” That sea change is supposed to lift a lot of FOIA requests that, unlike boats, seem to sink the bottom with incredible rapidity, then burrow down into the muck at the bottom. We’ve found that the only way to surface those FOIA requests is the application of vigorous effort (including regularly calling FOIA officers to make sure they haven’t forgotten us). Waiting–for months or years at a time–is also a necessary skill to master. In any case, Roger notes:

We are still waiting for agencies to begin acting on the proactive disclosure elements of the FOIA guidelines. One of the Holder memo directions was to not wait for specific requests from the public but to act in advance of public requests in releasing information. The recently released OIP guidance goes further to suggest that agencies implement systems to routinely identify and systematically post such information.

While I’m curious whether people are seeing proactive disclosure from government Web sites, I’m always more interested in how long it takes for government to release the information people are asking for. There’s a line about a murder defendant wanting a parade of people who didn’t see him strangle the victim to testify on his behalf. I wonder whether proactive disclosures will have that character.