Rep. Issa asks federal agencies for all FOIA filers
In an era where the word “transparency” is a favorite bell to ring, a Congressional committee chair has asked federal agencies to provide a complete list of names of every person that has made a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The New York Times reports Congressman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has sent letters to every federal agency demanding they turn over the lists of names of people who have requested information in the last three year’s of George W. Bush’s administration and the first two year’s of President Barack Obama’s administration. Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Under federal law, any person can request information on the operation of the federal government. The law is called the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. The feds say the various departments process 600,000 FOIA requests a year, but Issa wants to make sure that the responses to those requests are done in a timely manner. Under his request, departments will have to turn over any communications with requesters whose requests have taken more than 45 days to process.
Here’s how a spokesperson for Issa classified the request:
“Our interest is not in the private citizens who make the requests,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Mr. Issa. “We are looking at government responses to these Freedom of Information requests and the only way to measure that is to tally all that information.”
But others worry about the broad request and the potential political impacts:
It “just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking,” said David Cuillier, a University of Arizona journalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. “It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good.”
Issa’s spokesperson and Committee staff say there should be no concerns about the identities of persons being used improperly. They promise not to allow that to happen. But don’t plan on getting anything but a promise from the Committee on that issue. Congress is not covered by FOIA, so you will have to trust Issa et al, that they will be transparent on the use of the names.