Office of Information Policy | New Search Tool Improves User Experience

“, the government’s central resource for information about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), was updated today with a new Search Tool that helps the public more quickly locate commonly requested information.  This update reflects one of the most significant improvements to the site since the release of the National FOIA Portal in 2018 and fulfills one of the Department of Justice’s commitments made in the United States Fifth Open Government National Action Plan.

The Search Tool is designed to simplify the process of making FOIA requests and finding federal government documents. It can help a user connect with the right agency to make a request or find publicly available information quickly and easily.  With over 100 agencies subject to FOIA and hundreds of FOIA offices, it can often be difficult for the public to find information efficiently.  We developed the search tool after in-depth research and information gathering from agencies and public users to help identify the best solution.  Through these efforts, we identified six topical areas that comprise the largest portion of FOIA requests.  These “common topics” launch users into logic-based pathways that ask a series of questions to help get the user to the right place.  Alternatively, users can enter their own search terms.  The tool relies on a combination of logic and machine learning to provide a user with publicly available documents and/or a suggestion of where to request information.  Click here to learn more about how the Search Tool works….”

Workshop on Using, Sharing Resources Set for October 25 – The FOIA Ombudsman

“Federal government employees are invited to a Chief FOIA Officers (CFO) Council best practices workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 25. The Council’s Committee on Cross-Agency Collaboration and Innovation (COCACI) Resources Working Group is hosting  the virtual workshop on “Innovative Methods for Using and Sharing Resources.” Registration is required and is limited to those with a .gov or .mil email address.”

We Make Access Happen: FOIA Q&A with OGIS Director Alina M. Semo | National Archives

“Sunshine Week (March 12-18) marks the moment every year when researchers, journalists, non-profit groups, and the people who make access to federal records happen spread the word about the importance of open access to public information.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides a right of access to federal records, is an important tool for viewing government information.

When Congress amended the FOIA in 2007, it created the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), which is part of the National Archives.

This part of the agency is tasked with reviewing FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance across federal agencies, and also with resolving FOIA disputes between federal agencies and requesters.

OGIS Director Alina M. Semo shares with National Archives News why Sunshine Week is important at the National Archives, what FOIA is, and how the National Archives makes access happen in light of so many requests for information….”

Response to the proposed themes for a 5th U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government – Governing Digital

“Last week, the U.S. government posted a summary of the feedback they have heard on making government more inclusive and responsive and invited the American public to read and share these summaries, and let the White House know what we thought of them by December 9, 2022 by emailing The following is the response we sent today….

A new Open Government Directive issued by President Biden that explicitly requires all federal employees to embrace the spirit and principles of open government, from the administration of the Freedom of Information Act to the proactive disclosure of public information to the public in the open, accessible formats required by the Open Government Act to the responsive, collaborative approach to civic engagement and public information that Americans should expect from our public officials and civil servants. Make in press freedom and Internet freedom the planks of a bridge to the next century of access to information. Enshrine public access to public information as a defining priority of this administration, building on the foundations laid by generations past to erect an enduring architecture of open governance for our democracy….”

Ige’s Rationale To Veto The Public Records Bill Doesn’t Pass The Smell Test – Honolulu Civil Beat

“And yet Gov. David Ige is using tortured logic and ignoring solid data in determining that he may veto a bill that would go a long way in increasing transparency in government.

Instead of respecting the facts, the compromises and the hard work that went into the unanimous passage by the Hawaii Legislature in May of Senate Bill 3252 — as well as the broad support from public interest, good government and media groups — Ige appears to have been swayed instead by the irrational fear from his own department heads that the legislation would somehow place an enormous burden on them to respond to public records requests.

SB 3252 would cap the costs charged for reproduction of certain government records and waive all charges when an electronic format is available and when the record’s disclosure is in the public interest….”

Merrick Garland Orders More Open Access to Government Documents – WSJ

“Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal agencies to “apply a presumption of openness” when fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests, after lawmakers pressed him to increase transparency as the denial rate for such inquiries has risen in recent years.

Information that might be considered exempted from release shouldn’t be withheld unless an agency can identify a “foreseeable harm or legal bar to disclosure,” Mr. Garland said in a memo Tuesday….”

Merrick Garland Orders More Open Access to Government Documents – WSJ

“Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal agencies to “apply a presumption of openness” when fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests, after lawmakers pressed him to increase transparency as the denial rate for such inquiries has risen in recent years.

Information that might be considered exempted from release shouldn’t be withheld unless an agency can identify a “foreseeable harm or legal bar to disclosure,” Mr. Garland said in a memo Tuesday….”

The FBI Is Hiding an Unpublished Police Use-of-Force Database From FOIA Requesters

“For the past several years, the FBI has been trying to collect information from police departments around the country on their use of force, but it has yet to publish any reports or statistics based on that data because of lackluster participation from law enforcement. Now, a civil rights group says the FBI and Justice Department are stonewalling its attempts to get the underlying reports submitted to the program.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has been trying to obtain raw reports from law enforcement agencies submitted to the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection program. However, the FBI has rejected its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and the Justice Department has denied the Leadership Conference’s appeal.”

Line-by-line data of clinical trial audit – a Freedom of Information request to Health Research Authority – WhatDoTheyKnow

“This FOI is filed on behalf of TranspariMED.

The FOI relates to the HRA’s “Clinical Trial Registration Audit Report” covering trials receiving ethics approval during H1 2018:…

Please provide the following information:

1. A copy of the full data set that formed the basis for the report of September 2015, including all lines and columns included in the original data set. Please provide the data in Excel format. In case you do not provide the full data set, please redact (rather than delete) the data fields not released, leaving intact the corresponding line and/or column headings.

2. An estimate of the total HRA staff workload involved in performing this audit, using FTE person-days as the metric.

Please note that in response to a similar previous request, the HRA found that it is in the public interest to release this information:…

Please also note that in its previous response (linked above), the HRA provided a data set that was barely usable. Please provide a data set that is comprehensible and fully usable in order to avoid the need to manage a request for internal review….”

Open Access: A citizen’s guide to discovering who holds your info – and what’s in there

“When people think of getting information from public bodies, they often think of Freedom of Information (FOI). But when it comes to accessing records which contain your personal information, there are now more avenues than FOI.

Of course, it’s still a useful route – while many think of the FOI request as the preserve of journalists for stories about politicians’ expenses or the behind the scenes of some dubious government decision, in fact of the nearly 40,000 FOI requests last year, nearly 60% were for personal information….”


Prime minister’s department says granting FOI request on taxpayer-funded research would ‘prejudice’ government | Scott Morrison | The Guardian

“Scott Morrison’s department and his political office have rejected freedom of information requests for access to taxpayer-funded research undertaken by Jim Reed, a long-term researcher for Liberal party pollster Crosby Textor.

Reed, who now runs his own agency, Resolve Strategic, was awarded a $541,750 contract by limited tender in April to undertake market research related to Covid-19 for the prime minister’s department.


Another contract of similar value was awarded to Reed by the Treasury on a recommendation from Morrison’s department. Officials have confirmed the market research has been shared with both the prime minister and treasurer’s offices.

Guardian Australia requested access to the market research and correspondence pertaining to it, but Morrison’s department rejected the application on a number of grounds, including that disclosure would “substantially prejudice the Australia government’s ability and capacity to effectively respond to the most critical issues facing Australia at the current time”. …”

Contracts Library – SPARC

“A number of libraries and consortia have provided the full text of Big Deal licenses. These provide useful information about the terms and conditions publisher may seek to include in their standard agreements. For tips on how to acquire additional contracts not listed here, see our “Freedom of Information Requests” guide. If you have an agreement that can be lawfully shared here, please contact us. We’ve also compilled tips on pushing back against confidentiality clauses and NDAs. …”