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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Call To Action: Freedom Of Information Act

A CALL TO ACTION: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA)

Michael Kuzma, Esq.
March 15, 2005
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On February 16, 2005, two bills were introduced in the Senate and House of the United States Congress that would strengthen FOIA (HR867 & S. 394, respectively).

Known as the Open Government Act of 2005, the proposed legislation would ensure that FOIA requests to all government agencies are promptly & thoroughly handled. A system would be
implemented to enable individuals to track their FOIA requests. Time limits for government agency response would be tightened up. In addition, this new law would improve a citizen’s ability to recover attorney fees & court costs when they are on the winning side of litigation to secure information from the government.

On March 10, 2005, U. S. Senators Leahy & Cornyn introduced the Faster FOIA Act of 2005, S. 589. This bill would create a 16-member commission to study ways to speed processing of FOIA requests. More specifically, the Commission would be responsible for producing a study to identify methods to reduce delays in the processing of FOIA requests & to ensure
the efficient & equitable administration of FOIA requests throughout the federal government. The Commission would also be charged with examining whether the system for charging fees
& granting fee waivers under FOIA should be reformed in order to reduce delays in processing requests.

For the complete text of these bills, go to http://thomas.loc.gov.

Supporters are urged to contact their representatives in the House & Senate & urge them to support S. 394, S. 589, & HR 867. To identify your representatives & locate contact
Information, go to: www.house.gov & www.senate.gov.

Also, March 13-19, 2005, marks “Sunshine Week.” It is a weeklong campaign to promote accessible, accountable, & open government. This campaign for government openness is being
spearheaded by Associated Press, more than 50 news outlets, journalist groups, universities, & the American Library Association. On March 14, 2005, an Associated Press story made reference to Leonard’s ongoing struggle to secure his files from the FBI under FOIA in an effort to overturn his conviction:
http://timesunion.com.

For additional information concerning "Sunshine Week," go to www.sunshineweek.org.