The upcoming Independence Day holiday marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but has its impact lived up to its promise?
FOIA is a federal law that opens up government data and documents. Yet even as large unofficial data releases, like the Edward Snowden leaks and the Panama Papers, have become a part of the journalism landscape, getting information from government agencies can be alarmingly difficult for reporters. The Obama administration promised to be the “most transparent” in history, but journalists have increasingly faced denied requests, long delays, heavily redacted documents, and other frustrations with the FOIA process.
But despite all its obstacles, it’s undeniable FOIA remains one of the most important tools in the investigator’s toolbox. As Congress passes the first major overhaul of the FOIA law in nearly a decade, what will the next 50 years of government information look like?