Issa, Cummings target failings in Freedom of Information transparency

The top two lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee are demanding information about obstacles they say are limiting government transparency. 

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Scores of agencies across the federal government have failed to update their regulations involving the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), despite a 2009 directive from Attorney Gen. Eric Holder ordering them to adopt a “presumption of openness,” Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said. 

Additionally, the lawmakers pointed to a backlog of requests for information at some agencies, an excessive use of exemptions allowing officials to withhold information and exorbitant — and potentially illegal — fee assessments. 


In a six-page letter sent this week to the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy, Issa and Cummings sought information on 23 points related to the perceived problems with the flow of information to the American public.

Chief among them is the committee’s finding that at least 56 agencies have neglected to update their regulations to reflect a 2007 law that made changes to FOIA.

“DOJs own regulations have not been updated since 2003,” the lawmakers note.

The 2007 law authorized fee waivers for certain requests, and agencies that have not updated their policies may be violating that statute, they said.

Issa and Cummings also pointed to delays in agency responses to requests for information under FOIA. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, receives about 27 percent of all FOIA requests, but the agency is responsible for over half of more than 83,000 backlogged requests government-wide.

The lawmakers are requesting a response and a briefing on the issues by Feb. 22.