January 25, 2022

National Security Archive Marks 45th Birthday of U.S. Freedom of Information Act, Exposes Backlog Problems

From the National Security Archive at George Washington University:

Forty-five years after President Johnson signed the U.S. Freedom of Information Act into law in 1966, federal agency backlogs of FOIA requests are growing, with the oldest requests at eight agencies dating back over a decade and the single oldest request now 20 years old, according to the Knight Open Government Survey by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org).

The Knight Survey of the oldest requests utilized the FOIA to examine the actual copies of the oldest requests from the 35 federal agencies and components that process more than 90 percent of all FOIAs.  It shows that the oldest requests in the U.S. government were submitted before the fall of the Soviet Union.  These unfulfilled requests – some are for documents that are themselves more than 50 years old – are victims of an endless referral process in which any agency that claims “equity” can censor their release.

Ten Agencies with the Oldest Outstanding FOIA Requests in response to our December 2010 requests:

National Archives
May 8, 1991*
Defense Intelligence Agency
August 31, 1993*
Air Force
April 19, 1995*
National Security Agency
May 2, 1996*
Central Intelligence Agency
October 7, 1998**
January 30, 2001**
Department of State
February 8, 2001**
Department of Energy
February 14, 2001**
Dpt Health Human Services
October 9, 2001**
Department of the Interior
October 9, 2002*
*=Oldest request provided to National Security Archive was different than reported in annual FOIA report.
**=Did not provide final response to National Security Archive request for oldest documents.

Read the Complete Report

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.