The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was made as a way for citizens to gain access to government files which they would never otherwise see. However, a new report by the Associated Press claims that the Obama administration cannot keep pace with the overwhelming demand for government documents.
The legality of the act claims that any citizen or foreigner can request to see copies of federal records so long as disclosure of said document won’t hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose confidential decision making in certain areas.
More than 576,000 requests were filed by the government in 2011, a 5 percent increase from the year before. The report also states that government agencies responded to requests much faster than last year, with the average response being one month on “simple” requests and 3 months on more complex ones. One third of all requests were rejected due to the agency not being able to find a record, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was not allowed under the FOIA law. The White House itself claimed that it released part or entire records for 93 percent of requests.
According to the Associated Press, the government is becoming more transparent and, as White House spokesperson Eric Shultz said they are “making a strong effort to keep up with that demand by devoting more resources to it.”
The tumultuous year for U.S. operations abroad, with Osama bin Laden, trouble in Libya and the constant battle against the Taliban, makes it impressive that such an effort has been placed in sharing information with the public. Nonetheless, 4,244 times, the United States government denied a file due to national security reasons, with the majority of those denials coming from the CIA and Director of National Intelligence.