An overview of Freedom of Information Act Requests can be found in a previous post, here. In this post, we focus on the Freedom of Information Act updates.
The most important step that the updates have taken is specifically codifying a presumption of openness. While the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was always intended to make records more open to the public, this update specifically states that intention. The update provides that records are required to be released unless there is a legal requirement to withhold them or a specific, foreseeable harm would arise from releasing them.
The law further sets a specific, 25 year time limit for the length of time that federal agencies can keep internal deliberations confidential.
The law establishes a Chief FOIA Officers Council which will be responsible for helping to increase compliance and efficiency with FOIA requests. Currently, there is an extensive backlog of requests due to agencies being unprepared to handle the amount of information requested.
It is expected that updated guidance will be issued to federal agencies later this year detailing the new requirements and expectations, as well as best practices for handling FOIA requests moving forward.
Finally, it is expected that the FOIA.gov portal will be updated by 2017. The updates are expected to streamline the FOIA request process, moving it to a central, online location. A guide for making requests will be provided, and those submitting requests will be able to track their requests online. Additionally, the portal will be designed to make it easier for the public to locate information which is already posted and available.
More information, including a link to the the bill itself, can be found here.
While these improvements are designed for increased transparency and an easier FOIA Request process, knowing what to request can be a more difficult task. The federal employee attorneys at Melville Johnson, P.C. can help you determine what to request and can guide you through the process. Contact us today using the form on this page below.