Another federal office … but could this one be helpful?

Got tipped off to this by The FOIA Blog: A new federal office just opened that is supposed to help mediate disputes that arise from federal agencies’ responses to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Federal Computer Week reported that the Office of Government Information Services has opened about 40 cases and wants to help find alternatives to lawsuits that can develop after agency responses to FOIA requests.
“What we’re looking for is to try to keep cases out of the courts that really don’t need to be there,” Miriam Nisbet, OGIS director, is quoted as saying in the story.

About Scott Blanchard

Sunday editor at the York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.
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3 Responses to Another federal office … but could this one be helpful?

  1. Rick Blum says:

    Scott– For the record, Pennsylvania’s own Rep. Platts deserves credit for helping create this office. Several years ago he held hearings on FOIA that laid the basis for Congress to amend FOIA in 2007 and create this office.
    All the best,
    Rick Blum
    Sunshine in Government Initiative

  2. Rick, excellent, thanks much for noting that. We may well have written about that and I just didn’t make the connection.

  3. For more info, here’s a related story from the YDR/SN in March 2007:
    Headline: Whistleblower, open records measures pass/Todd Platts was lead Republican co-sponsor of both bills
    Text: U.S. Rep. Todd Platts was one of the few Republicans to break party lines to champion two pieces of legislation intended to make the federal government more open and accountable.
    Wednesday, the House passed both bills — one that restores legal protection to whistleblowers and another that expands the federal open records law, called the Freedom of Information Act — with Platts, a York County Republican, leading the effort on his side of the aisle.
    Platts, the lead Republican co-sponsor of both bills, said in a statement, “These two pieces of legislation go a long way towards making the federal government more open and accountable to its citizens.”
    Platts’ victory may be short-lived, though. The Bush administration has threatened to veto both bills.
    The amendments to the Whistleblower Protection Act remove weaknesses in the law that resulted from federal court rulings that watered down protection of federal employees who disclose waste, fraud and abuse.
    The Freedom of Information Act amendments close loopholes in the law, help those filing information requests get more timely responses and expand the law to cover independent journalists and bloggers. The changes are intended to bring the law into the 21st century, Platts said.
    The whistleblower bill passed the House by a 331-94 vote, with most opposition coming from Republicans. The Freedom of Information Act bill passed by a 308-117 vote.
    Tom Devine, legal director of the non-profit Government
    Accountability Project, praised Platts for his support of the measures. Platts had championed the bills during the two previous congressional sessions, but both times the bills never came to a vote on the House floor.
    “This legislation is really Mr. Platts’ baby,” he said in a statement released by Platts’ office. “He was carrying water for this bill when it was difficult for us to find any Republicans to give us the time of day.”
    Both bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

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