National Security Archive Marks 45th Birthday of U.S. Freedom of Information Act, Exposes Backlog Problems
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** Army 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.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.