[Congressional Record: March 5, 2007 (Extensions)]
[Page E460]

                        GOVERNMENT ACT OF 2007''


                            HON. LAMAR SMITH

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                         Monday, March 5, 2007

  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, today I introduced the ``Openness 
Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007'' (the 
``OPEN Government Act'').
  This legislation will give the public more information and better 
insight into the workings of government by strengthening the Freedom of 
Information Act (FOIA).
  The OPEN Government Act also creates a broader definition of ``news 
media'' so that additional types of news media can obtain government 
documents at minimal cost.
  The legislation establishes a system that assigns individualized 
tracking numbers to requests for information so individuals can track 
their requests.
  I want to protect our open system of government and ensure that the 
Federal government responds to the American people.
  Unfortunately, the process for obtaining government information is 
overly burdensome and federal agencies have become less and less 
responsive to requests for information.
  This deters citizens from obtaining information to which they are 
  Taxpayers should have the opportunity to obtain information quickly 
and easily from the Federal government.
  I had hoped to work with the Democrats to draft bipartisan 
legislation this year and we were able to compromise on several 
provisions of the bill.
  Unfortunately, we could not come to an agreement on all provisions.
  The bill I am introducing today includes provisions regarding 
recovery of attorneys' fees when an individual has been wrongly denied 
information, penalties for agencies that do not comply within the 
specified FOIA time limits, and additional agency reporting 
  However, the key issue the Democrats insisted on adding to the bill 
was a statutory presumption of disclosure surrounding FOIA.
  It would in essence reverse the FOIA guidelines set out by former 
Attorney General John Ashcroft.
  In 2001, then Attorney General Ashcroft established a policy that 
information from the government should not be provided if it was likely 
to threaten national security or invade personal privacy.
  My bill would continue this policy and make FOIA requests subject to 
these national security and personal privacy concerns.
  This bill makes it easier for citizens to get an answer to their 
requests for information. Citizens should have the opportunity to 
obtain information quickly and easily from the Federal government.