Governments, even the most democratic, are reflexively determined to keep as many secrets as they can. The Freedom of Information Act, enacted 45 years ago, is an essential corrective. The process is still too daunting and bureaucratic and in many cases far too slow — with some requests languishing for more than a decade.
The Obama administration has prodded noticeable improvements. But 14 of the 35 busiest agencies fielding FOIA requests have backlogs older than two years and continue to lose ground, according to the latest watchdog accounting by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Eight bureaucracies had requests more than a decade old.
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