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The FOIA Grows Teeth! Enforced discipline will work wonders

The Freedom of Information Act is an important tool with which citizens can challenge governmental actions and expose them to public view. But the agencies receiving these requests for information are frequently less than forthright in their responses. This behavior is disdainful of the law and undermines a cardinal plank of the republic: the rule of law.

But this breakdown of law can be quickly remedied by an order from the new States’ Compact. Here is an example of how the Compact could handle this problem.

It could set the stage by requiring that all federal departments and agencies designate an official to act as the FOIA Coordinator of the group. Then it would require that all requests for information under the FOIA be submitted to the new Compact; after a review and establishment of the legitimacy of the request a representative of the Compact, accompanied by the requestor, would pay an unannounced visit to the Coordinator of the targeted department. There they would present the request, discuss its scope, and establish deadlines for production of the material that would fully satisfy the request. The Compact would monitor compliance and take punitive action in the event of failure to comply with the negotiated agreement. The threat of disciplinary action by the Compact would provide a strong incentive for officials to comply promptly.

And this increased transparency would automatically invoke a measure of accountability for the individuals involved.

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