Obama signs bill to speed up Freedom of Information process

By Martin Smith  |  July 1, 2016 at 4:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama signed a bill Thursday aimed at speeding up the government's response time to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

With his own administration often criticized for failing to respond to FOIA requests quickly or fully, the president said the reform law will make it "easier, faster and cheaper" for citizens to obtain government information under the 50-year-old law.

"Congress on a bipartisan basis has provided the tools to legislation to codify some of the reforms we've already made and to expand more of these reforms so government is more responsive," Obama told reporters.

"I I am very proud of all the work we've done to try to make government more open and responsive, but I know that people haven't always been satisfied with the speed with which they're getting responses and requests. Hopefully this is going to help and be an important initiative for us to continue on the reform path."

The bill also makes it harder for government to withhold certain kinds of information that is more than 25 years old.

Obama acknowledged that while arguments continue over what should and shouldn't be released, federal agencies are struggling to keep up with the requests that are streaming in.

The bill contains measures designed to speed the process and make it easier to file FOIA requests.

"We're actually getting many more requests for FOIA than ever before. And so we've had to figure out ways that we can reform this to make it easier, faster, cheaper for people to get the information that they want," Obama said.

The Freedom of Information Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. Its aim was to make government more transparent.

One of the sponsors of the legislation, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), hailed the signing of the bill.

"The FOIA Improvement Act brings FOIA into the digital age and ensures that sunshine, not secrecy, is the default setting of our government," Leahy said.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who introduced the bipartisan legislation with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement: "From day one, my biggest priority in Congress has been to make government more open and responsive to the people it's supposed to serve. I'm proud to finally see these bipartisan reforms, which I've been fighting to implement for years, become a reality."

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