Sen Patrick Leahy is co-sponsoring legislation to increase the amount of information agencies release through FOIA requests. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Agencies would be required to release more information for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests than they do now, under legislation introduced June 24.
The FOIA improvement Act of 2014, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and John Cornyn, R- Texas, would narrow a FOIA exemption for documents that are “pre-decisional” requiring agencies to balance that exemption with the public interest.
The bill would also create “a presumption of openness” for when an agency is undecided about releasing information for a FOIA request. Agencies should withhold documents only if they can reasonably foresee harm to an interest protected by an exemption of if it’s illegal to do so, under the bill’s provisions.
“Open government is the hallmark of a healthy democracy, and the American people have a fundamental right to know what their government is doing. I’m pleased to once again team up with Senator Leahy to strengthen FOIA and promote greater transparency across the board,” Cornyn said in a statement.
The legislation would also:
■ Create a chief FOIA officer council to develop recommendations for increasing agency FOIA compliance and disseminate best practices among agency FOIA offices.
■ Require agencies to report how many times documents have been exempted from disclosure because of an ongoing criminal investigation, the number of times a FOIA requester disputed an agency FOIA finding and the number of records an agency proactively discloses.
■ Provide more independent for the Office of Government Information Services, which would be able to report directly to Congress and the President about agency FOIAs.