House Oversight Full Committee FOIA Hearings Wrap-Up

Published: Jun 4, 2015

“Ensuring Transparency through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)”
Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 2:00 p.m.

“Ensuring Agency Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)”
Wednesday, June 3, 2015, 9:00 a.m.

“This is a pattern of stonewalling”

Takeaways: 

Purpose of Hearings:

  • To examine the use of FOIA requests as a tool for government transparency and explore barriers to accessing public documents from the user’s perspective.
  • To examine the processes agencies use to meet FOIA’s legal requirements and explore barriers to effective and efficient compliance from the FOIA officer’s perspective.
  • To hear from witnesses that use FOIA in news reporting, academic research, and to conduct government oversight.
  • To hear from the witnesses tasked with implementing FOIA at several agencies that need to improve response efforts.

Background:

  • Enacted in 1966, FOIA is a transparency tool for individuals to ensure government accountability. Under FOIA, requesters may ask federal agencies for information about any matter. An agency has 20 business days to respond to a request (and an additional ten days for unusual circumstances) and must release non-exempt records to the requester.
  • In Fiscal Year 2014, the federal government received 714,231 FOIA requests. The backlog of FOIA cases that had not been processed within the statutory time limit increased by 67 percent to a total of 159,741 backlogged cases.

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Sharyl Attkisson, Investigative Reporter
  • Mr. Jason Leopold, Investigative Reporter , Vice News
  • Mr. David E. McCraw, VP and Assistant General Counsel, New York Times
  • Ms. Leah Goodman, Investigative Reporter, Newsweek
  • Mr. Terry Anderson, Honorary Chairman, Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Mr. Tom Fitton, President, Judicial Watch
  • Ms. Cleta Mitchell, Partner, Foley & Lardner LLP
  • Mr. Nate Jones, Director of the Freedom of Information Act Project, National Security Archive
  • Ms. Lisette Garcia, FOIA Resource Center
  • Mr. Gabriel Rottman, Legislative Counsel/Policy Advisor, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Ms. Anne Weismann, Executive Director, Campaign for Accountability
  • Ms. Karen Neuman, Chief Privacy Officer/Chief FOIA Officer, Department of Homeland Security
  • Ms. Joyce A. Barr, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Administration/Chief FOIA Officer, U.S. Department of State
  • Ms. Melanie Ann Pustay, Director, Office of Information Policy, Department of Justice
  • Ms. Mary Howard, Director Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure, IRS
  • Mr. Brodi Fontenot, Assistant Secretary for Management/Chief FOIA Officer, Department of Treasury