The Fourth of July is an opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of our nation. In these turbulent times amidst a pandemic and social unrest, we look back to the laws that continue to define our freedoms.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) could not stand without a constitution that guarantees power to the citizenry. Despite growing concerns over government secrecy during the Cold War, FOIA initially met opposition when it was first introduced in 1955, with politicians fearing national security could suffer in the wake of transparency.
Yet the bill eventually passed in the house with a vote of 307-0. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law, releasing a statement in which he wrote, “[t]his legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the nation will permit.”
Since then, FOIA has proved time and again to be a triumph for our democracy. Nineteen FOIA cases have gone before the Supreme Court and the law has been amended by Congress six times since 1966. Any government document not protected by an exemption must be released to the public if requested, proving that the U.S. can maintain government transparency and national security at the same time. Over the decades, the volume of annual FOIA requests has increased steadily, as agencies process upwards of 863,000 requests per year.
Citizens can request FOIA documents on all types of matters, from disaster relief, to contracts and grants, and even aliens—which, in fact, are one of the most popular topics for FOIA requests at DHS. With current trends, health agencies like CDC and HHS continue to see a rise in FOIA requests for COVID-19 related documents, while law enforcement agencies will likely see an increase in FOIA requests for police records. As evidenced in the past, FOIA requests continue to go up.
Agencies unable to process increasing FOIA demand should look to software to manage their growing backlog of requests. Our FOIA request management software, FOIAXpress, employs a number of features like our intuitive Public Access Link (PAL) request portal which integrates with the National FOIA Portal, Electronic Document Review (EDR) to cull large datasets, and an AI-assisted redaction module. We offer state-of-the-art FOIA services and a bench of FOIA professionals to assist agencies with unmanageable backlogs. FOIAXpress continues to be the number one FOIA solution in the U.S. federal government, and is quickly rising in U.S. state and local governments as well as across Canada.
Like achieving independence in the American Revolution, the passing of the Freedom of Information Act stands as one of the nation’s greatest triumphs for democracy. Despite President Johnson’s early opposition to the Act, his final statement stands the test of time: “I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society.”