By Elizabeth Holland
AALL has joined more than dozen groups in endorsing model Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations released last week by a coalition of transparency advocates. The authors of the model regulations—Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and the National Security Archive—are experts in FOIA litigation.
The proposed model FOIA regulations aim to standardize FOIA processes at federal agencies to improve public access to government records. The coalition’s recommendations draw on best practices among agencies, including:
- Making disclosure the default by formalizing the president’s directive for an agency to release information in response to a request except when it clearly identifies specific, foreseeable harm arising from the disclosure.
- Reducing unnecessary secrecy by requiring agencies to review classified documents that are the subject of a FOIA request to see whether they now can be disclosed.
- Saving taxpayer resources by encouraging agencies to post documents released through the FOIA process online.
- Encouraging dispute mediation by informing the public that the Office of Government Information Services can help settle disputes.
The Office of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice is set to develop common FOIA regulations that all agencies can adopt as set forth in the administration’s Second Open Government National Action Plan. AALL urges OIP to consider the input of the requester community and transparency groups in its development of common regulations, including the thoughtful recommendations outlined in these model regulations.