ACLU, Citizens United call for better access to government information

Government transparency could be getting even worse, according to Citizens United and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I think the state of transparency is getting worse in a lot of respects and it’s not just Freedom of Information Act requests. We’re seeing systemic efforts by the government to withhold information from the public,” Neema Guliani, the ACLU's legislative counsel, told the Hill.TV’s “Rising” on Monday.

The ACLU shares a common goal with the conservative Citizens United in gaining better access to government information.

The groups, which have opposing views on multiple issues, have both run into problems from the government when seeking information through Freedom of Information Act requests.

In one instance, Citizens United Chief General Counsel Michael Boos said the State Department told the group it would take “40 to 50 years” to fulfill the organizations’s request.

Boos blames the government’s failure to update its system for processing these information requests.

“The government process of dealing with Freedom of Information Act requests has not kept up with technology. The State Department is using antiquated technology,” Boos said.

Guliani thinks the government’s inability to keep up with information requests prevents policymakers and organizations alike from making informed decisions on key issues. It also leaves many Americans unaware of what’s really going on inside Washington, she said.

“In many cases you’re talking about policies and guidelines — secret law that’s being created inside agencies that the public has a right to know about and the inability to get this information — whether it’s through Freedom of Information Act requests or other avenues," she said. “It essentially leaves everyone in the dark about what the government is doing.”