WASHINGTON, D.C.–The federal government still has a long way to go toward making government information easily accessible to the public on the Internet. So said two U.S. senators, and two public interest groups, the Center for Democracy and Technology and OMB Watch, at an early August press conference in Washington.
The press conference marked the release of the groups’ report, “10 Most Wanted Government Documents,” identifying “most wanted” records that are not currently available online. Under the 1996 Electronic FOI Act, executive branch agencies are required to make many records, including frequently requested records, easily available in electronic form.
However, many federal agencies have yet to comply with the requirements of E-FOIA, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, adding that they will face questioning about their noncompliance during upcoming appropriations hearings.
“The Supreme Court of Mongolia has a web site, but the Supreme Court of the United States does not. That’s unacceptable,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) added.
Both McCain and Leahy, who sponsored the E-FOIA legislation, used the conference to highlight their recently introduced legislation that would require that some additional congressional records be available on the Internet.
Sponsored by ten senators, the Congressional Openness Act would require that Congressional Research Service reports, lobbyist disclosure reports and selected Senate disclosure reports be accessible online.
Electronic dissemination of information is cost-effective, Leahy added, noting that it costs the government about $3 to mail a document to a requestor and one cent to place it online.
Among the documents identified by citizens as those that should be accessible on the Internet were reports of the Congressional Research Service, the Environmental Protection Agency’s pesticide safety database, and the Department of Justice’s court briefs. The report also highlighted the lack of an official Supreme Court web site and incomplete free access to all federal circuit court opinions. (S.B. 393)