Secrecy News

FOIA Performance is Deteriorating, Journalists Say

If the Leahy-Cornyn bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act that was adopted in the Senate last week becomes law, as expected, it will not happen a moment too soon, because current government handling of FOIA requests is deteriorating, according to a new analysis from the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government.

“Over the past nine years, the number of FOIA requests processed has fallen 20%, the number of FOIA personnel is down 10%, the backlog [of pending requests] has tripled, and costs of handling a request are up 79%,” the CJOG study (pdf) reported.

In fact, “the cost of processing FOIA requests is up 40% since 1998, even though agencies are processing 20% fewer requests.”

Productivity of FOIA requests has dropped in other respects as well.

“The number of denials [of FOIA requests] increased 10% in 2006 and the number of full grants, in which the requester got all the information sought, hit an all-time low.”

See “Still Waiting After All These Years: An in-depth analysis of FOIA performance from 1998 to 2006,” principally authored by Pete Weitzel, Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, August 8, 2007.

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