FOIA's Foil

Friday, February 08, 2008


Tucked away into President Bush's 2009 budget was language that eliminates the FOIA ombudsman. The newly-created position was at the heart of legislation that Bush recently signed into law, and was intended to expedite government's response to Freedom of Information Act requests. Cox Newspapers' Rebecca Carr explains that without the ombudsman position we shouldn't expect any improvements in the painfully slow FOIA process.

Comments [7]

Rick Blum from Rosslyn, VA (near Washington, DC)

Delays in processing FOIA requests can last years. It's unclear to reuesters whether an agencies is playing games to avoid releasing embarrassing documents or whether the delays are because of understaffing and too many requests. Both happen. Also, an agency person may interpret the rules or the protections in place and deny access to a document that should be public. An ombudsman at the Archives can help address these problems.

The ombudsman will be important to provide a separate, independent "set of eyes" when the public has disputes with federal agencies when trying to obtain documents held by the government under the Freedom of Information Act. While the office needs to sit somewhere within the federal government, the Archives is not as subject to the preferences of any administration as the Justice Department. Sponsors of the new law that the President signed on Dec. 31, 2007 saw the wisdom of setting up this relatively independent office, now another set of people in Congress -- the ones who actually write and pass the budget -- will have to understand its importance and actually fund it.

Rick Blum
Sunshine in Government Initiative

Feb. 19 2008 01:13 PM
Jack from Chicago

Whining about the possibility that this post won't be funded because it's not in the budget the President brings to Congress is pathetic. If Congress wants the post funded, let them include it in the budget they finally pass. If they don't, it will be because they see little call for or value in the concept. Frankly the piece didn't convince me of the need for this position.

Feb. 16 2008 02:09 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Whining about tough times and having to set budget priorities and confidence in the process to sort out value is sort of lame. Do we have any evidence to support that?

These are the same folks who brought us a war, ruined our military preparedness and wrecked our economy over imaginary weapons.

Feb. 13 2008 02:33 AM
Eric Goebelbecker from Maywood, NJ

"In tough budget times, priorities have to be set."

If anyone thinks that elimination of the FOIA ombudsman was about money, then I'm sure he or she believes that the Obamas and Clintons will be exchanging Christmas cards this December too.

Feb. 11 2008 03:23 PM
I-AM-Toasted from Penn

If you go back in history, you will find many many ways in which The Government has been blocking knowledge to what they've been up to. Our search to gain that knowledge and turn our country into the one that WE want has been a long-haul indeed. May we all find the courage to stand up for what we believe and put an end to these oppressive behaviors, and truly spread love around the world instead of hate and oppression.

Feb. 11 2008 02:02 PM
Jack from Chicago

In tough budget times, priorities have to be set.
Anyway, all presidents' budgets are changed dramatically before being approved. It's all part of the process. If this post has some value, it's more than likely to be funded.

Feb. 11 2008 12:23 PM
andrew hennessy from WAMU

When On the Media tells us about things previously unperceived (like the FOIA Ombudsman), but contained with the weekly stories inundating us, On the Media is at its best.

The 1st is pretty clear, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. …”

Your guest says yes, but you can make a law against blackmail etc… We can make laws against blackmail because blackmail involves one person extorting another. Activist conservative courts have reinterpreted our laws. In Schenck v. United States, Holmes wrote, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” Schenck had been prosecuted for distributing anti war pamphlets in which he equated WWI with death in an imperialist war. The Holmes analogy is a contradiction peddling ideology?

Feb. 09 2008 11:34 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.