US reduces backlog of records requests, spends more in court
Here are findings from an analysis by The Associated Press of how the Obama administration responded during fiscal 2015 to requests for federal records under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act:
—There were about the same number of requests last year as the previous year, but the government reduced its backlog of leftover requests from a record 200,821 cases to 141,549 last year, or about 30 percent.
—The U.S. spent a record $449 million answering requests for government files, including a record $31.2 million on lawyers’ fees to keep records secret. Those increased costs coincided with a record number of lawsuits filed last year, including two by the AP.
—The administration reversed its initial decisions to withhold all or parts of records in 32 percent of appeals, about the same as the previous year. Departments that reversed themselves most often included Labor (in 87 percent of appeals), Interior (82 percent), Agriculture (69 percent), Homeland Security (64 percent) and Transportation and Defense (57 percent). The figures indicate that front-line records officers were making wrong decisions at some agencies more often than they made right ones, in those instances when they were subsequently challenged — generally fewer than 2 percent of cases.
—The government was a bit more hesitant about waiving the costs of searching or copying records. It collected $4.4 million in fees, up from $4.2 million a year earlier.
—The U.S. improved the number of times it granted speedy processing on requests about especially newsworthy subjects, such as Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state and the hacking at the Office of Personnel Management.
U.S. government data: http://www.foia.gov/data.html