Washington, D.C. - On Thursday, March 18, at 2 p.m., members of the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a public hearing on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Obama administration compliance with transparency law. The hearing comes as transparency advocates celebrate Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of our nation's open government laws that features numerous events measuring the progress made in combating official secrecy.
Senior Counsel David Sobel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will testify at Thursday's hearing, urging the White House to fulfill its promises for open government. Despite President Obama's order to government agencies last year to renew their commitment to FOIA, EFF and other organizations still see delays in releasing relevant documents, excuses for not releasing other records, and excessive redactions, among other needless secrecy.
In one case, for example, EFF has compared heavily redacted documents from the FBI released to us under FOIA with documents leaked from a whistleblower containing no redactions. We found that much of the blacked-out content concerns the FBI's attempts to avoid court oversight of its inappropriate surveillance tactics through the use of generic and legally questionable "umbrella" authorizations. However, these umbrella authorizations had already been revealed to the public in a previous report by the Department of Justice's Inspector General. You can see a revealing side-by-side comparison at http://www.eff.org/pages/sunshine2010.
Senior Counsel, Electronic Frontier Foundation
"Administration of the Freedom of Information Act: Current Trends"
U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives
Thursday, March 18
Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
For more on the hearing:
For a side-by-side comparison of the FBI redactions:
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation