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Freedom of Information Act strengthened
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Baltimore Sun/Associated Press

Baltimore Sun/Associated Press, December 19, 2007
Posted: December 27th, 2007,0...

Congress struck back yesterday at the Bush administration's trend toward secrecy since the 2001 terrorist attacks, passing legislation to toughen the Freedom of Information Act and increasing penalties on agencies that don't comply. It [will] be the first makeover of the FOIA in a decade, among other things bringing nonproprietary information held by government contractors under the law. The legislation also is aimed at reversing an order by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, in which he instructed agencies to tend against releasing information when there was uncertainty about how doing so would affect national security. "No matter who is the next president, he will have to run a government that is more open than in the past" ... said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee. Supporting changes in the law were dozens of news outlets, including the Associated Press. "After years of growing government secrecy, today's vote reaffirms the public's fundamental right to know," said Rick Blum of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, which represents 10 news organizations. The bill restores a presumption of disclosure standard committing government agencies to releasing requested information unless there is a finding that such disclosure could do harm. Agencies would be required to meet a 20-day deadline for responding to FOIA requests. If they fail to meet the 20-day deadline, agencies would have to refund search and duplication fees for noncommercial requesters. They also would have to explain any redaction by citing the specific exemption under which the deletion qualifies. Nonproprietary information held by government contractors also would be subject to the law.

Note: For powerful reports exposing government secrecy, click here.

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