The FOIA – Right to Know Law

In the United States, every citizen, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA, Right to Know Law), can request any information from the executive authorities, no matter in what form it is stored – it can be a letter or message, received by email or messenger, police report, expense report, or any other government document.

A right to know law that came into force in 1967 requires federal agencies, state and local governments to provide the information requested, other than those subject to specific personal data or national security exceptions. A right to know law is legal in PA and other US states.

The FOIA has declared the transparency in government. Prior to the this law adoption, there was no specific procedure for responding to requests for information. Prior to its adoption, government agencies were guided by the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act.

The goal of the law was to provide an opportunity to obtain information about the government. The best way is to‘ shed some light ’on his work. People need to be making informed decisions when it comes to elected office and the direction of government, and they need to know what is going on “behind the scenes.”

FOIA regulations provide that written requests may be directed to any government agency that has relevant information. The order of their satisfaction varies from state to state and municipality to municipality.

As far as the federal government is concerned, a response must generally be provided within 20 days of receiving the request. In case of denial of information, the applicant has the right to appeal this decision.

According to the Department of Justice, the federal government received 858,952 requests under the FOIA last year, slightly less than the year before, when it received 863,729 requests.

Although the law was passed in the interests of better informing the public about the activities of the authorities, an analysis carried out in 2017 showed that the majority of requests were sent not by journalists, but by representatives of business, including law firms (229,000 requests received by government agencies were analyzed).