Feb. 5, 2015

Sen. John Cornyn
Sen. Patrick Leahy

Rep. Darrell Issa
Rep. Elijah Cummings

Dear Sens. Cornyn and Leahy and Reps. Issa and Cummings:

The undersigned organizations announce their support for the bicameral, bipartisan movement toward reforming the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We thank you and your staffs for your continued leadership and perseverance in updating this cornerstone of government accountability and transparency. Congress must act this year to ensure that FOIA stays current with people’s need to access government information and resilient in the face of attempts to subvert that access.

Public oversight is critical to ensuring accountability, and the reforms embodied in both the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act (H.R. 653), introduced by Reps. Issa and Cummings, and the FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 (S.337), introduced by Sens. Cornyn and Leahy, are necessary to enable that oversight. The undersigned groups therefore strongly support these bipartisan efforts.

Both pieces of legislation would:

The bill introduced in the Senate, which is virtually identical to the bill that passed through unanimous consent last year, is the product of months of negotiations, which were unfortunately undermined by last-minute agency objections designed to stall FOIA reform. The House bill is very similar to last year’s, but includes additional language designed to further reduce the record-breaking overuse of exemption (b)(5). With the removal of the public interest balancing test, however, neither bill goes as far as the Senate’s original FOIA Improvement Act did last year. Given the disturbing, and increasing, misuse of the (b)(5) exemption, the undersigned organizations call on both chambers to pass the strongest reform possible.

We look forward to working with our allies on the Hill to make this happen.

Please contact Patrice McDermott of OpenTheGovernment.org (202.332.6736; [email protected]) with any questions or to follow up.
American Civil Liberties Union
American Association of Law Libraries
American Booksellers for Free Expression
American Commitment
American Library Association
American Society of News Editors
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Appeal for Justice
Associated Press Media Editors
Association of Alternative News Media
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Campaign for Digital Fourth Amendment Rights
Campaign for Liberty
Cause of Action
Center for Effective Government
Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Data Transparency Coalition
Defending Dissent Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
FOIA Project
Food & Water Watch
Government Accountability Project
Human Rights Watch
International Justice Network
Less Government
Media Alliance
Mine Safety and Health News
National Coalition for History
National Security Archive
National Security Counselors
National Taxpayers Union
People for the American Way
Project on Government Oversight
R Street Institute
Society of Professional Journalists
Sunlight Foundation
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University
Cc: Sen. Charles E. Grassley, chair, Senate Judiciary Committee
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Featured Publications