Last week the Associated Press reported on the U.S. Department of Defense awarding a $1 million grant to St. Mary's University School of Law to research the Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) statute. According to the Associated Press, some of the revisions will address the need to prevent terrorists from getting information from the federal government about electricity, sewer and water, and transportation systems. Dallas Morning News, 7/7/06.
FOIA was enacted in 1966. FOIA allows requestors to get information from the federal government within specified timeframes. The original aim of FOIA was to ensure an "informed citizenry." Although individuals use FOIA to get information, many businesses also use FOIA to get information about other businesses. A wide variety of individuals and entities make requests for information from the federal government. Some of these requests can mean thousands of copies of documents. There is an obvious economic cost to government in terms of workload to respond to these requests.
Open government proponents expressed some concerns this week regarding the project to draft a model FOIA statute. The Austin-American Statesman ran an editorial to that effect. However the research seeks to determine how the spirit of FOIA – facilitating information's free flow – may have been compromised by new state laws. Several major newspapers also reported on the project.