The U.S. Department of Justice today announced a trial of a program that will publish documents online that have been successfully requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a move that would vastly expand access to documents that are public records.
Called “Release-to-One Release-to-All” policy, the six month long trial will give the public online access to almost any FOIA request from many federal agencies including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and some areas of the Department of Homeland Security, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Department of Justice and Defense,, the Department of Justice Defense.
The media release announcing the trial noted it came just days after the July 4th 49th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act which " embodies the Federal
Government’s commitment to public accountability through transparency.”
The release said the Department of Justice already encouraged federal agencies to publish FOIA responses online when there had been three or more requests for the information, but the trial expands that policy allowing for the on-line publishing of FOIA responses after just one request
It said such policy "raises implementation challenges and questions" and that is why the program is only a trial at this stage to "determine the viability of implementing such a policy for all Federal agencies subject to the FOIA".
The release invited the public to give feedback and welcomed "innovative ideas and suggestions for overcoming the implementation challenges.”
Its unclear how expansive the program would become if successful or what precisely will happen at the end of the six months. The program is likely to prove popular with users, who increasingly access all their information online and may even result in digital files being delivered, a step that would make examining public records easier as presently they must be examined manually, without the use of Find tools or digital comparison software.