FOIA lawsuits on the rise

A recent study has found that more federal court complaints were filed to force government entities to abide by the Freedom of Information Act in in the first term of the Obama administration than in second term of the George W. Bush administration.

The study was conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. Results showed that FOIA complaint filings increased by 28% between the last two years of Bush’s second term and the last two years of Obama’s first term- jumping from 562 filings to 720 filings. Overall there was a 6% increase in FOIA court cases from Bush’s second term to Obama’s first term.

Melanie Ann Pustay, director of the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice, said that these figures may reflect the overall increase in the number of FOIA requests made to agencies since 2009. She said, “the individual cases would need to be reviewed to determine which raised valid FOIA claims.”

These results come in the wake of recent criticism by transparency activists of the Obama administration’s failure to follow through on pledges the president made when he took office to create “an unprecedented level of openness in government.” A government-wide Freedom of Information Act audit by the National Security Archive found that little concrete action had been taken to uphold the guidelines in Attorney General Eric Holder’s March 2009  FOIA memo to all heads of executive departments instructing them to remove “unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles” and release more documents sought by the public.

What inferences do you draw from the finding that FOIA lawsuits are increasing? What is your opinion of the current state of transparency in the United States?