Bush signs FOIA reform bill

On New Year’s Eve, President Bush signed into law a bill designed to bolster the Freedom of Information Act.

The OPEN Government Act of 2007 will establish a Web-based tracking system for FOIA requests and require agencies to report any delays or redactions they make while filling requests. Congress passed the law Dec. 19.

Requests will also be overseen by the National Archives and Records Administration’s Government Services Office, essentially establishing what bill sponsor Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) called a governmentwide ombudsman to ensure that agencies handle cases smoothly.

“No matter who is the next president, he will have to run a government that is more open than in the past,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), said on the Senate floor during passage of the bill. The measure is the first legislation to amend the act in almost a decade.

Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966, FOIA allows the public to force the government to fully or partially disclose unreleased information and documents.

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