Shut the Door on Open Government Act
President Bush may love freedom, but he continues to express reservations about freedom of information. In today’s Washington Post, Elizabeth Williamson picks up on a part of the President’s 2009 budget proposal that tweaks a month-old law requiring government agency’s prompt response to Freedom of Information Requests.
The Open Government Act requires government agencies to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests within 20 days or get fined. If the agency- be it the State Department or EPA- doesn’t produce the FOIA documents, an omsbudsman at the National Archives and Record Administration investigates what’s going on.
Bush wants to move the omsbudsman over from the National Archives to the Justice Department- the agency that represents other agencies when citizens sue them for not responding to FOIA queries. And since 9/11, Justice has explicitly told agencies refuse as many FOIA requests as possible in the name of national security.
Bush signed the law in December after it passed the Senate and House by unanimous consent. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., now says he is following it in a way contrary to its intent. Apparently the intent wasn’t to further complicate FOIA requests.