08:48 GMT27 February 2020
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    The Electronic Frontier Foundation said that the US Congress should pass reforms that would force the White House to disclose more records to the public by narrowing exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US Congress should pass reforms that would force the White House to disclose more records to the public by narrowing exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a press release.

    “The FOIA reform bills would force greater transparency by codifying the [US President Barack] Obama administration’s policy that agencies should implement FOIA under a presumption of openness and that records should only be withheld if the agencies can ‘reasonably foresee’ harm from disclosure,” the release, issued on Thursday, said.

    The FOIA law, enacted in 1966, allows the public to request information from US federal agencies. However, the White House announced on Tuesday that its Office of Administration will be exempted from fulfilling such requests.

    The EFF said in its statement that, although some level of confidentiality is required to promote candor among government employees, US state agencies have abused exemptions such as withholding documents that reflect the “deliberative process” before reaching decisions.

    Exemptions have allowed the US Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to deny information requests regarding legal opinions that authorized warrantless wiretapping, targeted killings and torture, according to the press release.

    “Without public access to OLC opinions … the federal government creates a body of secret law, which is antithetical to a democratic society,” the EFF said.

    EFF noted that FOIA reform would enhance government transparency and “advance the public’s right to know.”

    On Wednesday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the Obama administration was proud of its record of transparency. Earnest noted that the White House has responded to 91 percent of FOIA requests in a way that provided some or all of the requested documentation.

    The EFF is a digital and technology civil rights group that champions privacy, free expression and transparency.


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