Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senate Judiciary Committee
Hearing on “The
Freedom of Information Act: Improving Transparency and
the American Public’s Right to Know for the 21st Century”
March 29, 2022
this Committee turns its attention to an important issue that unfortunately
doesn’t usually get the attention it deserves.
transparency is fundamental to good governance. The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, is supposed to help ensure
has a responsibility to ensure that both the letter and spirit of FOIA are
being faithfully carried out—by administrations of both parties.
is our nation’s primary transparency law. It gives the American public a
statutory right to request government records. Americans have a right to know
what their government is doing.
Congress enacted FOIA, much more government waste, fraud, and abuse could’ve
remained hidden from public scrutiny.
Committee has a bipartisan history of confronting FOIA challenges and
strengthening the public’s ‘right to know.’ In 2016 a bipartisan effort led to
the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. As
Chairman then, I worked with Senators Cornyn and Leahy to get that bill
there’re still significant issues with the FOIA system. Federal agencies seem
determined to disclose as little as possible.
want to acknowledge that the Department of Justice recently published FOIA
guidelines for federal agencies. However, I’m disappointed that it took more
than a year for the Administration to issue these guidelines.
heard similar promises before with no real improvement in transparency.
when I hear any administration make promises of transparency, I take it with a
grain of salt.
there’re still delays and backlogs of FOIA requests. The GAO found that
backlogged requests increased 18 percent from 2019 to 2020. Since 2012
backlogged requests have nearly doubled.
recent GAO review of FOIA found that federal agencies’ use of what’s known as a
“B3” exemption has doubled since 2012. Instead of increased disclosures,
federal agencies have doubled their use of this exemption to withhold
information from the public.
proactive disclosure. The GAO found that 25 federal agencies didn’t report a
single proactive disclosure. How’s this possible?
clearly substantial room for improvement, so I look forward to hearing those
it’s not just the public who can’t get answers from federal agencies.
year I asked the Department of Veterans Affairs for information about
allegations that VA employees leaked potentially market-sensitive information
and then retaliated against whistleblowers. Nearly one year later I still
haven’t received a single document. And that’s just one of many examples I
thank the witnesses for being here, and I look forward to their testimony.