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Judicial Watch • Government Access Order Ignored

Government Access Order Ignored

Government Access Order Ignored

JULY 26, 2006

Most U.S. Federal Government agencies have failed to comply with a presidential order to develop plans that will eliminate backlogs and delays in the public’s access to government information.

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) federal agencies must provide the public with access to information that enables citizens to learn about operations and decisions. However, many agencies were quite negligent in following through with requests and the president signed an order to correct the problem by June 2006.

However, a 66-page report from the Congressional investigative agency, Government Accountability Office, reveals that most agencies have not yet created improvement plans for reducing the severe backlogs that deny the public information and violate the 40-year-old FOIA.

The report focuses on 25 major agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Treasury, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Central Intelligence Agency. Investigators found that deficiencies in complying with FOIA requests are mainly due to difficulties in coordinating responses among components in large, decentralized agencies and limitations on systems that track FOIA processing.

Additionally, the informative report includes tables, graphs and charts explaining how the FOIA process works and explains in detail how various agencies process requests, some in one main office and others in separate FOIA branches. It also reveals that the Department of Justice oversees compliance with FOIA and is the primary source of policy guidance for the agencies.

An interesting note left out of the report is that the Government Accountability Office, publisher of this and many informative investigative documents, is not subject to FOIA.

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