FOIA Should be Stronger, SGI Tells Senate

Secrecy Reflex Firmly in Place at Some Federal Agencies, AP's Curley tells Senate Judiciary Committee

September 30, 2009

Rick Blum
SGI Coordinator
rblum (at)
202-309-2654 (cell)

In spite of strong statements from the White House supporting open government, “the secrecy reflex at some agencies remains firmly in place,” the leader of The Associated Press said in prepared remarks to a Senate panel examining the state of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Wednesday.

“This hearing shows a president can’t solve problems of secrecy in a day,” said SGI coordinator Rick Blum. “Without better controls on new FOIA exemptions and a strong FOIA ombudsman, promises of openness can easily fall on deaf ears.”

Testifying on behalf of the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI), The Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Obama message to agencies to be more transparent whenever possible has not yet translated into big changes when federal agencies process FOIA requests. The new Office of Government Information Services shows promise to help mediate despites and spur improvements, but the FOIA needs to be strengthened. Before new exemptions are enacted into law, for example, Congress and the White House could ensure new exemptions are justified, publicly debated, and limited in time and scope.

About the Sunshine in Government Initiative

The Sunshine in Government Initiative is a coalition of nine media groups promoting openness and accountability in government. Members of the SGI coalition include: American Society of News Editors, Associated Press, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association, Newspaper Association of America, Radio-Television News Directors Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Society of Professional Journalists.

The Sunshine in Government Initiative is a coalition of media groups committed to promoting policies that ensure the government is accessible, accountable and open. Public oversight is the ultimate safeguard of democracy. It is the inalienable right of citizens to examine and judge their government; and that right is served when news media act on behalf of the public to gain access to information. More information is online at