This past Fourth of July marked the 49th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which as President Obama declared, "is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government." In celebration of this milestone in the history of this important law, today, the Department of Justice is pleased to announce the launch of a new pilot program at seven agencies designed to test the feasibility of posting online FOIA responses so that they are available not just to the individual requester, but to the general public as well.
The significance of the FOIA was emphasized from the very beginning with Attorney General Clark’s June 1967 memorandum on the implementation of the FOIA. Issued to executive departments and agencies one month before the law took effect, the Attorney General declared:
“If the government is to be truly of, by, and for the people, the people must know in detail the activities of government. Nothing so diminishes democracy as secrecy. Self-government, the maximum participation of the citizenry in affairs of state, is meaningful only with an informed public.”
During the pilot, we seek to answer many important questions, including: costs associated with such a policy, effect on staff time required to process requests, effect on interactions with government stakeholders, and the justification for exceptions to such a policy, such as for personal privacy. For privacy reasons, participating agencies will not post online responses to requests in which individuals seek access to information about themselves.
The agencies participating in the pilot are the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and components or offices of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice, and the National Archives and Records Administration, with OIP leading the effort.
The results of this six-month pilot program will be made available to the public, and we intend to be transparent about the pilots and their implementation by participating agencies. We also invite the public’s feedback as we explore this proposed policy shift, and welcome innovative ideas and suggestions for overcoming the implementation challenges. Comments should be sent to OIP at ReleaseToAll@usdoj.gov.