Whistleblower Law Blog
President Signs Legislation Amending FOIA
On December 31, 2007, President Bush signed into law the “Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007,” which amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by providing an online mechanism for FOIA requesters to track their requests; establishes an ombudsman program to resolve FOIA disputes; imposes penalties for failure to comply with the response times set forth in the FOIA; clarifies that FOIA encompasses records maintained by government contractors; and requiring agencies to pay attorney fees from their own budgets. While this legislation addresses many critical issues, it remains to be seen whether it will result in improved response times absent increased appropriations for agency FOIA offices. In whistleblower litigation, FOIA can be a critical means of obtaining documents that corroborate the whistleblower’s concerns. However, when it takes more than a year to get a response to a FOIA request, the case may have already been tried on the merits. Hopefully, this new legislation will enable whistleblowers to promptly obtain documents.