Government Information Still Not Free

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The Freedom of Information Act imposed requirements on federal agencies to make more information publicly available, without requiring people to jump through hoops via FOIA requests to get it.

Ten years later, the National Security Archive at George Washington University found in its Knight Open Government Survey that "massive non-compliance" ruled the day.

The Survey reviewed agency Web sites to cover all 91 federal agencies that have Chief FOIA Officers and the additional 58 agency components each of which handles more than 500 FOIA requests a year, according to the report.

They found plenty of darkness where sunshine laws should be having an effect instead.

"Federal agencies are flunking the online test and keeping us in the dark," said Thomas Blanton, the Archive’s director. "Some government sites just link to each other in an endless empty loop."

Although the researchers hope that their work and prodding from the Democratic Congress will wake up the laggards among federal agencies, it will take plenty of work for the worst of them to become beacons of information.

Five agencies received approval from the auditors:

  • Education
  • Justice
  • NASA
  • FTC
  • The National Labor Relations Board

A dozen received criticism for issues like poor navigation, bad organization, or simply a lack of required documents being available.

Military and law enforcement agencies held several places in the "worst of" list: Air Force, Defense, Director of National Intelligence, and a couple of Homeland Security agencies, the Transportation Security Administration and Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

"No authority has compelled federal agencies to comply with the E-FOIA Amendments," the report said. "This dearth of Executive Branch leadership and Congressional oversight on E-FOIA matters has allowed many agencies to remain far out of compliance for far too long."

Government Information Still Not Free
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