Obama Signs FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, But Government Still Classifies Too Many Documents
President Obama just signed into law the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. Here Are The Improvements
The New Changes to FOIA Should Mean More Open and Transparent Government
It should mean more openness and transparency in government. Most importantly, there should be faster compliance with FOIA requests by lawyers, journalists and the public. That means more evidence faster for accident, injury, and abuse victims. It means more government accountability to the people. And it means more direct participation in democracy.
Problems With Government Classification Now
The government does not decide whether to classify documents based on an exact science. These are judgment calls and officials making classification decisions have broad discretion. They have no requirement to explain their thinking unless someone files a specific lawsuit challenging the classification decision. Since the analysis is subjective, agencies sometimes differ about whether to classify the same document. 50 to 90 percent of classified documents could safely be released.
How Does FOIA Help People Who Got Hurt?
Federal and state government agencies generate records regarding major corporate powers, their own activities, and many other entities that function in our society. Those records can be key evidence in personal injury, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. They can assist in serious civil rights investigations. They help uncover wrongdoing and keep the public informed. For instance, the FDA produces records regarding dangerous drugs and devices. OSHA has records regarding unsafe workplaces. New York City has records regarding the New York City Police Department and Fire Department (among a host of other city agencies) may have records about dangerous or abusive conduct. The list goes on and on for where government records may be held under FOIA.
If you have questions about FOIA requests, call us.