It was in 1967 when the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted into law, allowing for the full (or partial) disclosure of previously unreleased government records. The act outlines which records can be released, the procedures for releasing them to the public, and the exemptions to information requests.
While those exemptions are meant to allow federal agencies to withhold information — that, if released, could endanger national security or compromise governmental decision making — the current version of FOIA allows federal agencies to interpret them broadly. Agencies can decline requests to disclose information because it technically falls under an exemption, even if the agency deems disclosing the information will not cause any foreseeable harm.
If passed, this bill would amend FOIA, requiring agencies to act under a “presumption of openness” — meaning government agencies can withhold documents requested under FOIA, only if disclosing those documents would violate the law or pose identifiable harm. Under this bill, exemptions would not apply to documents older than 25 years.
Additionally, this bill would create a single website where people can request documents from any agency, without having to go through many different websites. Agencies would also have to make more documents available online — and publicly post documents that have been requested three or more times.
"The first would require all agencies to set up an email address to accept FOIA requests after lawmakers discovered not all agencies currently do this. The second would require the government to pay the legal fees of a plaintiff who successfully challenged the government's withholding of documents in court. Current law gives the courts discretion to award legal fees but does not require it."