The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the implementation of freedom of information legislation in the United States. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 4, 1966 (Amended 1996, 2002, 2007), and went into effect the following year. This act allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States Government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures and grants nine exemptions to the statute.
However, the sensitivity of some government information and private interests clash with this view. Therefore, Congress attempted to enact a Freedom of Information Act in 1966 that would effectively deal with requests for government records, consistent with the belief that the people have the “right to know” about them. The Privacy Act of 1974 additionally covered government documents charting individuals.
However, it is in the exemptions to solicitation of information under these acts that problems and discrepancies arise. The nine exemptions to the FOIA address issues of sensitivity and personal rights. They are (as listed in Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552):
These amendments to the FOIA regulate government control of documents which concern a citizen. It gives one “(1) the right to see records about [one]self, subject to the Privacy Act's exemptions, (2) the right to amend that record if it is inaccurate, irrelevant, untimely, or incomplete, and (3) the right to sue the government for violations of the statute including permitting others to see [one’s] records unless specifically permitted by the Act.” In conjunction with the FOIA, the PA is used to further the rights of an individual gaining access to information held by the government. The Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy and federal district courts are the two channels of appeal available to seekers of information.
In 1976, as part of the Government in the Sunshine Act, Exemption 3 of the FOIA was amended so that several exemptions were specified:
1) information relating to national defense, 2) related solely to internal personnel rules and practices, 3) related to accusing a person of a crime, 4) related to information where disclosure would constitute a breach of privacy, 5) related to investigatory records where the information would harm the proceedings, 6) related to information which would lead to financial speculation or endanger the stability of any financial institution, and 7) related to the agency's participation in legal proceedings.
The FOIA amendments were a small part of the bipartisan Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Congress amended FOIA to address the fees charged by different categories of requesters and the scope of access to law enforcement and national security records. The amendments are not referenced in the congressional reports on the Act, so the floor statements provide an indication of Congressional intent.
Section 552(a)(3) of title 5, United States Code, is amended: (1) in subparagraph (A) by inserting "and except as provided in subparagraph (E)," after "of this subsection,"; and (2) by adding at the end the following: "(E) An agency, or part of an agency, that is an element of the intelligence community (as that term is defined in section 3(4) of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 401a(4))) shall not make any record available under this paragraph to-- "(i) any government entity, other than a State, territory, commonwealth, or district of the United States, or any subdivision thereof; or "(ii) a representative of a government entity described in clause (i).".
In effect, this new language precluded any covered US intelligence agency from disclosing records in response to FOIA requests made by foreign governments or international governmental organizations. By its terms, it prohibits disclosure in response to requests made by such other-than-U.S. governmental entities either directly or through a "representative." This means that for any FOIA request that by its nature appears as if it might have been made by or on behalf of a non-U.S. governmental entity, a covered agency may inquire into the particular circumstances of the requester in order to properly implement this new FOIA provision.
The agencies affected by this amendment are those that are part of, or contain "an element of," the "intelligence community." As defined in the National Security Act of 1947 (as amended), they consist of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office (and certain other reconnaissance offices within the Department of Defense), the intelligence elements of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Energy, and the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the Department of State, and "such other elements of any other department or agency as may be designated by the President, or designated jointly by the Director of Central Intelligence and the head of the department or agency concerned, as an element of the intelligence community."
establishing a definition of "a representative of the news media;" (2) directing that required attorney fees be paid from an agency's own appropriation rather than from the Judgment Fund; (3) prohibiting an agency from assessing certain fees if it fails to comply with FOIA deadlines; and (4) establishing an Office of Government Information Services in the National Archives and Records Administration to review agency compliance with FOIA.
The law recognizes electronic media specifically and defines "News Media" as "any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience."
The law extends the 20 day deadline by allowing for up to 10 days between the FOIA office of the agency and the component of the agency holding the records and specifically allows for clarification of requests by the FOIA office (Effective 12/31/2007).
And call for each agency to designate a FOIA Public Liaison, "who shall assist in the resolution of any disputes" (Effective 12/31/2008).
Requires agencies to assign tracking numbers to FOIA requests that take longer than 10 day, and to provide systems determining the status of a request.
Modifies and defines annual reporting requirements for each agencies FOIA program.
Specifically addresses data sources used to generate reports; "shall make the raw statistical data used in its reports available electronically..."
Redefines the definition of an agency "record" to include information held for an agency by a government contractor.
The newly established Office of Government Information Services will offer mediation services to resolve disputes as non-exclusive alternative to litigation.
Requires agencies to make recommendations personnel matters related to FOIA such as whether FOIA performance should be used as a merit factor.
Requires agencies to specify the specific exemption for each deletion(redaction) in disclosed documents.
"While most individual sources may expect confidentiality, the Government offers no explanation, other than administrative ease, why that expectation always should be presumed." Thus, when Theoharis and company were in the middle of fighting in court to obtain J. Edgar Hoover files, they may well have benefited from Landano and also Janet Reno's assertions of the government's need for "greater openness" and "discretionary releases" in 1993.
Richey gave a further injunction to prevent a purging of the G.H.W. Bush administration records as well. On counts of leaving the White House clean for the new Clinton Administration, the Bush group appealed but was denied its request. Finally, the Clinton Administration appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, stating that the National Security Council was not truly an agency but a group of aides to the President and thus not subject to FOIA regulations. Under the Presidential Records Act, "FOIA requests for NSC [could] not be filed until five years after the president ha[d] left office… or twelve years if the records [were] classified." [– pg. 156] The Clinton administration won, and the National Security Archive was not granted a writ of certiorari by the Supreme Court on these grounds. According to Scott Armstrong, taking into account labor and material costs, the three presidential administrations spent almost $9.3 million on contesting the National Security Archive FOIA requests for PROFS e-mail records. (- pg. 159)
Schwarz believes, and her requests are aimed to prove, that rather than having been born in Germany her actual birth was around 1956 inside a secret government submarine base called Chattanooga under the Great Salt Lake. She further believes herself to be daughter of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, himself the son of Dwight Eisenhower. Further saying that she was then kidnapped, taken to Germany, and given a false identity including a German birth certificate which was doctored to conceal her actual birth in Utah.
Working from her Salt Lake City, Utah home or a nearby library at least one of Schwarz's lawsuits has been considered by a U.S. District or U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals somewhere in the nation every year since 1993 and has filed unsuccessful appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. One of her complaints to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., set a record for voluminous litigation at 2,370 pages, naming 3,087 defendants, all of whom were employed as FOIA or "Privacy Act" officers in the federal government claiming their denials to be part of a conspiracy to keep the truth from her. U.S. District Court Judge John Bates said the FOIA's "admirable purpose is abused when misguided individuals are allowed (in this case repeatedly) to submit requests to every agency and subdivision of the government, seeking information about an imaginary conspiracy," in a ruling against her.
Schwarz has filed pro se litigation in the hopes of forcing these agencies to do more detailed searches and to waive the costs, claiming poverty, so far without success. The Justice Department has advised federal employees charged with responding to FOIA requests that until Schwarz satisfies outstanding search and copying fees incurred by previous filings, future requests may legally be denied.
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