“People that have called me prior to this hearing say that on a number of occasions they feel like they just get stonewalled,” Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows (NC-11).
Chairman Meadows questions Fred Sadler, Former
FDA Freedom of Information Officer and Senior Official for Privacy
Congressman Thomas Massie Questions Former Director of the
Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) Miriam Nisbet
Miriam Nisbet: “OGIS is part of an executive branch agency. Agencies have to go through an intra and inter agency review process in order to make recommendations, particularly legislative recommendations. I can tell you that in a number of instances, that was a rather arduous process.”
Rep. Massie: “That sort of defeats the purpose of OGIS if it [recommendations to improve FOIA] has to be filtered in that way before it comes to Congress.”
Miriam Nisbet: “You said that perfectly.”
Chairman Mark Meadows’ Opening Statement
“Ensuring Government Transparency through FOIA Reform”
February 27, 2015
[AS PREPARED] Transparency is the lifeblood of democracy. If our government is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people, the American people need to know what our government is doing on their behalf.
Transparency gives our citizens the opportunity to make informed decisions and to hold accountable those in the government that will abuse or mismanage public resources.
Enacted in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act is one of our foundational transparency laws.
FOIA established the presumption that federal records are accessible to the public. Americans no longer needed to show a “need to know” to access what are essentially their own records.
This Committee, and the Government Operations Subcommittee in particular, is responsible for overseeing FOIA and ensuring that the public has access to federal records.
Under former Chairman Issa’s leadership, this Committee conducted extensive oversight of FOIA.
The work of Mr. Issa and Ranking Member Cummings culminated in a bill that passed the House unanimously a year ago this week. Unfortunately that bill was not considered in the Senate.
This year, Mr. Issa and Mr. Cummings have introduced a similar bill, H.R. 653 the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act.
This revised bill will establish a presumption that agencies won’t withhold documents just because they can technically find an exemption. Instead, if agencies want to withhold documents from the public, they’ll need to show that a specific harm would result from disclosure.
Under the current administration, only 30% of all FOIA requests result in full disclosure of requested documents. We can do better.
Today, I look forward to an interesting and helpful dialogue on FOIA and potential reforms.