Feds Trust Private Contractors To Make Calls on FOIA Secrets

October 17, 2012

A lot of the Freedom of Information Act work that federal agencies do is routine, and many have relied on help from private contractors for years. But that reliance is reportedly growing, and in some cases contractors make decisions on what government records the public can or can not see. In essence, the government trusts companies more than it trusts the public.

Danielle Ivory reported this story for Bloomberg on October 8, 2012. "At least 25 federal agencies are outsourcing parts of the FOIA process. The contractors, sometimes using workers with security clearances, are building FOIA software, corresponding with requesters, redacting documents and recommending what information should be withheld."

It may even come as news to some that agencies use software programs to handle FOIA requests, but they do.

While both FOIA software and FOIA contracting pre-dated the Obama administration, Ivory reports: "Since fiscal 2009, the year President Barack Obama took office, spending on FOIA-related contracts has jumped about 40 percent, leaving transparency advocates wondering who’s making the decisions on whether records should be kept secret." Ironically, perhaps, the outsourcing push may be a sign of the administration's effort to reduce FOIA request backlogs.