January 2, 2008 | By Marcia Hofmann

Key Open Government Reform Legislation Becomes Law

In one of his last official acts of 2007, President Bush signed into law the first major overhaul of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in more than a decade. The Open Government Act of 2007 makes much-needed changes to the FOIA process that will give Americans better access to information about their government at work, such as:

  • Ensuring that freelance and alternative journalists are considered representatives of the media, making it less expensive for them to get information from the government.
  • Providing for attorney fees when a requester's lawsuit prompts an agency to change its position on a request, even if a court doesn't order it.
  • Creating a tracking system to help make sure that FOIA requests don't become hopelessly tangled in red tape.
  • Establishing the Office of Government Information Services, which will be tasked with helping to resolve conflicts between agencies and requesters.
  • Penalizing agencies that don't process FOIA requests on time.
  • Making it clear that requesters can get government records maintained by private contractors, not just the agencies themselves.
  • Imposing greater reporting requirements to let Congress and the public know more about how agencies handle requests.

The changes made by the OPEN Government Act are a hard-fought victory that will help EFF and other requesters make better use of the FOIA and keep the government accountable to the people.

In the past few months, EFF's FOIA requests have uncovered illegal government demands for phone customers' "communities of interest" and revealed details about the FBI's misuse of National Security Letters. Our work was also cited in a congressional call for an investigation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. To learn more about EFF's FOIA efforts, visit our FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government (FLAG) Project page.


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