This week the Department of Justice is proud to celebrate Sunshine Week – a celebration of openness in government. Today is not only the start of the week, but the one year anniversary of the FOIA.gov.
FOIA.gov is a site dedicated to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a law at the very heart of open government. Congress passed the FOIA in 1966 and since then it has been known as the law that keeps citizens “in the know” about what their government is doing. Any citizen can make a FOIA request about any topic.
As the flagship initiative of the Department of Justice’s Open Government Plan, FOIA.gov continues to be the government’s comprehensive resource on how the law works, where to make requests, and what to expect in response.
FOIA.gov graphically displaying all agencies FOIA statistics for all government agencies, which are reported in each agency’s Annual FOIA Report.
Data examples include:
- How many requests were received?
- How many requests were processed?
- How old is an agency’s oldest request?
- How much did it cost the government to answer requests?
This information has been collected for years, but until FOIA.gov came along analyzing the data was difficult and time-consuming. FOIA.gov takes the data and lets you search, sort and compare the information with just a few clicks. You can compare one agency to another. You can even compare the data from within the offices of a single agency.
In addition to the annual reports, each agency now files a Chief FOIA Officer report. These reports go beyond the numerical data to describe the wide variety of concrete steps they have taken to make their agencies more open and transparent. The department’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) analyzes data and trends in these reports. This year, we are especially encouraged to see how much information agencies are already posting for public consumption online.
FOIA.gov’s Find feature offers a convenient way to search across all agency websites to see what information is already available on a topic, without the need to submit a FOIA request. Because agencies are constantly providing the public with new information on a proactive and on-going basis, FOIA.gov’s dedicated Find feature is a useful tool to quickly gather these proactive disclosures from various agency websites and to stay on top of information as it becomes available.
In addition to the Find feature, two other important enhancements have recently been added to FOIA.gov. Earlier this month, links to online request forms for the FOIA offices were added, including the Office of the Attorney General here at the Justice Department. This will make it easier than ever for individuals to find and make requests electronically. Additionally, FOIA.Gov has just been made more accessible than ever with the recent translation of critical FOIA information into Spanish, or “FOIA en Español.”
As FOIA.gov begins its second year, we look forward to new and dynamic developments for FOIA.gov 2.0 which will make learning about your right to access government records, finding government information and measuring the government’s progress on FOIA more meaningful than ever.