I’m an admitted [[FOIA]] geek. So it was really cool to see Rachel Maddow highlight the positive changes coming to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. The House passed UNANIMOUSLY(!) 410 – 0 H.R.1211 FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2014 co-sponsored by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). According to the UPI, the bill would “create a centralized online portal for FOIA requests through the Office of Management and Budget and establish a group that would recommend improvements to the request process.” And the Feds have already set up a site to track the FOIA process, FOIA.gov.
I wholeheartedly support these rules changes to make the FOIA process less cumbersome. The only thing I’d quibble with is to ask why something has to be requested 3 times in order for it to become publicly available on agency FOIA reading room sites — which I’ve been collecting since 2007 over at Archive-it.org? Why not put a system in place that automatically puts the scanned document/record into the agency’s FOIA reading room? It’s frankly stupid to make already-overburdened FOIA staff at each agency do something 3 times before making that document available on the Web. By my calculations — and I’m NOT a mathematician ok?! — that would potentially cut the number of FOIA requests by 1/3 since the public wouldn’t have to ask 3 times in order to gain access to important public domain documents and records.
If you agree, then please contact OMB’s FOIA office at OMBFOIA@omb.eop.gov. Send them your suggestions for making FOIA run smoothly and quickly, including doing away with the “3 times” rule which only adds to the burden on agency FOIA staff and the public in their right to know the workings of their government.
Rachel Maddow explains why a new bill streamlining the Freedom of Information Act request process is the best new thing today.