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Report Published: Jan 11, 2016

Freedom of Information Act is Broken: A Report


  • The Executive Branch culture encourages an unlawful presumption in favor of secrecy when responding to FOIA requests.
  • The administration is unaware that FOIA is systemically broken. 
  • Agencies create and follow FOIA policies that appear to be designed to deter requesters from pursuing requests and create barriers to accessing records.
  • FOIA requesters have good reason to mistrust even fair and earnest attempts by agencies to fulfill requests. In the words of one requester, “something is desperately wrong with the process.” 
  • The Department of State had numerous open requests that are nearly a decade old, making them arguably the worst agency with respect to FOIA compliance. 


During the investigative process, the Committee sought input from numerous stakeholders, including members of the media. Their insights brought to light many frustrating experiences, and allowed interested parties to offer suggested reforms.  In June 2015, the Oversight Committee conducted a two-day hearing where the public heard firsthand accounts of the ineffective and inefficient FOIA process.

Later today, the House will vote on bipartisan legislation to bring much needed changes to FOIA. H.R. 653, the FOIA Act, is sponsored by former Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and current Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD).   

Related Documents
Name Document
The Freedom of Information Act is Broken: A Report Document
Final Appendix to Report Document