FOIA Futility

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As law librarians, I’m sure most of us have a FOIA request horror story or two (hundred): requests that took months to fill, required numerous follow-ups, or were never fulfilled at all. Unfortunately, our FOIA experiences are not out-of-the-ordinary. According to a recent study most government agencies are doing a poor job of handling FOIA requests. The Center for Effective Government, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the transparency of government, recently compiled the results of a study they conducted to measure how quickly and accurately 15 government agencies responded to FOIA requests. The agencies’ performance was assessed under three criteria: processing requests for information, establishing rules for information access, and creating user-friendly access. Seven of the 15 agencies received failing grades:

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The Center for Effective Government’s summary of the study is available here, and a .pdf of the full study can be accessed here. And FOIA.gov provides data about its information requests right here.

To its credit, the Federal Government has taken steps to streamline the FOIA request process electronically, providing an electronic dashboard at foiaonline, and information about how to make a request at foia.gov.

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