CREW Applauds Sens. Leahy and Cornyn for Transparency Legislation
Washington, D.C.—Today, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced landmark legislation amending the Freedom of Information Act to align it with Congress’ original intent that government records should be available to the public. For years, Sens. Leahy and Cornyn have advocated for a more transparent and accountable government. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 goes a long way toward realizing that goal.
"Until today, the FOIA’s promise of transparency simply has not been fulfilled." - CREW Chief Counsel Anne Weismann.
"Agencies routinely and needlessly withhold important information from the public. This groundbreaking legislation will ensure the FOIA truly will be an effective tool for Americans to discover what our government is doing and why," Weismann said.
The new bill will require disclosure to cause a foreseeable harm before agencies can withhold information based on an exemption to the FOIA. Most significantly, today’s changes cut back the government’s expansive reading of an exemption that allows agencies to withhold information regarding "deliberative processes" to encompass nearly anything. The new bill allows requesters to overcome the exemption by showing their need for the requested information outweighs the government’s interest in protecting its internal deliberations and attorney work product. In addition, under the amendments a requester can overcome a claim of attorney client privilege by showing a compelling need for the requested document, and the exemption does not apply to documents more than 25 years old.
As a frequent requester and litigator under the FOIA, CREW welcomes these transformational changes. For many years, CREW has fought hard for the disclosure of government documents on a wide range of topics from nearly all government agencies. The legislation introduced today ensures that more government documents will be disclosed, allowing the public to engage in the kind of meaningful conversation the FOIA was enacted to advance.
Ms. Weismann continued, "In an age when so many high level government officials place such a high value on secrecy, Sens. Leahy and Cornyn understand that democracy requires transparency. CREW applauds and thanks both senators for introducing this important legislation and looks forward to working with them to secure its passage."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.