[Congressional Record: June 25, 2008 (Senate)]
[Page S6148-S6149]                         


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, on July 4, our Nation will celebrate the 
42nd anniversary of the signing of the Freedom of Information Act, 
FOIA. While we mark this important anniversary, the country also 
celebrates the enactment earlier this year of the first major reforms 
to FOIA in over a decade--the OPEN Government Act--which will 
reinvigorate and strengthen this vital open government law for many 
years to come.
  Now in its fourth decade, the Freedom of Information Act remains an 
indispensable tool for shedding light on bad policies and Government 

[[Page S6149]]

The act has helped to guarantee the public's ``right to know'' for 
generations of Americans. Today, thanks to the reforms contained in the 
OPEN Government Act, which was signed into law on December 31, 
Americans who seek information under FIOA will experience a process 
that is much more transparent and less burdened by delays than it has 
been in the past. This is very good news. But there is still much more 
to be done to ensure that FOIA remains an effective tool for keeping 
our democracy open and free.
  A key component of the OPEN Government Act is the creation of an 
Office of Government Information Services, OGIS, within the National 
Archives and Records Administration. The office would mediate FOIA 
disputes, review agency compliance with FOIA, and house a newly created 
FOIA ombudsman. Establishing a fully funded OGIS is essential to 
reversing the troubling trend of the last 7 years towards lax FOIA 
compliance and excessive Government secrecy.
  I am pleased that the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on 
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies--a panel on which I 
serve--last week rejected the President's budget proposal to move the 
functions of OGIS to the Department of Justice. I will continue to work 
very hard to ensure that OGIS is fully funded within the National 
Archives--as Congress intended--so that this important office has the 
necessary resources to fully comply with the OPEN Government Act.
  There is also more work to be done to further strengthen FOIA. 
Earlier this year, I was pleased to join with Senator John Cornyn in 
introducing the OPEN FOIA Act, S. 2746, a bill that requires Congress 
to clearly and explicitly state its intention to create a statutory 
exemption to FOIA when it provides for such an exemption in new 
legislation. While there is a very real need to keep certain Government 
information secret to ensure the public good and safety, excessive 
Government secrecy is a constant temptation and the enemy of a vibrant 
  The OPEN FOIA Act provides a safeguard against the growing trend 
towards FOIA exemptions, and would make all FOIA exemptions clear and 
unambiguous, and vigorously debated, before they are enacted into law. 
The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider this bill at its business 
meeting this week, and I urge all members to support this legislation 
to further restore the public's trust in their Government.
  As we reflect upon the celebration of another FOIA anniversary, we in 
Congress must also reaffirm our commitment to open and transparent 
government. As I have said many times, open government is not a 
Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It is an American value and a 
virtue that all Americans hold dear. It is in this bipartisan spirit 
that I join Americans from across the political spectrum in celebrating 
the 42nd anniversary of the birth of FOIA and all that this law has 
come to symbolize about our vibrant democracy.