In 1996, Congress sought to revolutionize disclosure of government information to the public by directing federal agencies to use the Internet to make more information publicly available. To assess compliance with the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA) 10 years after the provisions came into force, Knight Foundation created The Knight Open Government Survey, conducted by the National Security Archive (NSA).
ASSESSMENT PURPOSE & APPROACH
The report examines:
• Have federal agencies kept pace with the revolution in access to information?
• What are the best and worst agencies for E-FOIA compliance?
• Have federal agencies incorporated useful online tools to ease their processing burden?
Approach: Insights gained are the result of four previous NSA audits, each of which submitted 46 policy requests and 46 data requests from agencies for analysis. After receiving “no records” responses, the NSA designed a methodology to review 149 federal agency’s component websites. Website analysis was done by three Website reviewers who sought to identity the online availability of four specific categories of records required by the stature, guidance for FOIA requesters and basic elements of a good FOIA Website suggested by DOJ guidance and common Web design practice.
Assessment Partners: This report was produced by Kristin Adair, with additional writing by Catherine Nielsen and Meredith Fuchs, for Knight Foundation.
• Only 21 percent of agencies reviewed had on its FOIA site all four categories of records that Congress explicitly required them to post; Only 6 percent posted all ten elements of essential FOIA guidance; Only 35 percent provided required indexes and guides to agency records; Only 26 percent provided online forms for submitting FOIA requests; Many agency FOIA websites are poorly organized and difficult to navigate.
• The E-Stars: Best Overall Agencies – the Department of Education, Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, National Aeronautics & Space Administration and National Labor Relations Board websites exhibited extensive information in easily navigable electronic reading rooms.
• The E-Delinquents: Worst Overall Agencies – the Air Force, Department of Defense, Department of the Interior, Department of Labor, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Small Business Administration, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Veterans Affairs offered poorly organized websites with limited information.
FOIA Website are poorly organized and difficult to use.
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Field Research is primary and secondary research done for Knight Foundation.