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?
Stephen Engelberg @SteveEngelberg
Editor in Chief, ProPublica
Rebecca Williams @internetrebecca
Senior Implementation Advisor, Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University
Brett Max Kaufman @brettmaxkaufman
Staff Attorney, Center for Democracy, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Sarah Cohen @sarahcnyt
Editor, Computer-Assisted Reporting, The New York Times
President, Board of Directors, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE)
Talia Buford @taliabuford
Reporter, The Center for Public Integrity