House of Reps OKs FOI and whistleblower bills

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The House of Representatives has approved and sent to the Senate amendments to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and to provide protection for whistleblowers.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), a sponsor of both bills, said their approval was “an important step toward restoring openness and transparency in government. Over the past six years, the Bush administration has done everything it can to operate in secret, to avoid public scrutiny, and to limit congressional oversight.”

The FOI Act Amendments of 2007 (HR 1309), contain provisions to increase public access to government information. Waxman’s background statement on the bill says it will reaffirm the presumption that records should be released to the public if disclosure is allowable under law and the agency cannot foresee a harm from such disclosure.

The amendments would ensure that the 20-day statutory clock for agency responses starts immediately when an agency receives an FOI request and would impose consequences for missing deadlines. The bill strengthens requirements to identify excessive delays and requires agencies to make raw data publicly available.  

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