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Freedom of information overload

John Dimsdale Jul 4, 2007
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Freedom of information overload

John Dimsdale Jul 4, 2007
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TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Today is the 40th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act. FOIA requires the government to release unclassified documents to people who ask for them. A new study says it’s taking a long time for some people to get what they want. John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: Some government agencies have pending requests that are 20 years old, according to the nonprofit National Security Archive.

Director Tom Blanton filed dozens of FOIA requests early this year, asking government agencies for their oldest outstanding requests. And in many cases, the answer was, a€˜We don’t know.a€™

Tom Blanton: None of these agencies seem to have one of those basic things we take for granted when we send a FedEx package or a UPS ground box — which is a tracking number so you can check, where’s your box.

Blanton says veterans and senior citizens are the most frequent filers of FOIA requests, to find out about benefits and service records. Companies are the next biggest group.

Blanton: American business uses the Freedom of Information Act to find out about one, regulations, and second, contracts. Where is the government gonna let a contract that I can bid on.

Congressional legislation to speed up the government’s response to Freedom of Information requests is stalled in the Senate, where some lawmakers are raising national security objections.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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