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only the two that we put in together, but a third bill to restore the FOIA Act, which will be introduced today.
You know, the enactment of FOIA was a watershed moment for democracy. This is one of those areas that can unite liberals and conservatives. We recognize a dangerous trend toward over-classi- fication. On March 3, 2005, J. William Leonard, the Director of In- formation Security Oversight, testified before a House Committee the number of classification decisions has increased from nine mil- lion in 2001 to 16 million in 2004, and the cost alone in 2003 was $7 billion to classify them. It is almost getting, if a story is in one of our major newspapers about something that went wrong in the government, somebody is going to mark the newspaper ‘‘top secret’’ to try and classify it. We have to have open government.
I mentioned that Parade magazine story about Linda and Mike Raymond in Woburn, Massachusetts. In the 1980s, after rates of leukemia spiked upward, the local industries were sued for pol- luting the area’s water. Four years ago, the Raymonds discovered the city’s landfill that has been dormant for 15 years was bustling with truck traffic. They contacted the local officials who stonewalled her. They relied on a State FOIA law to get answers, putting the light on what is going on.
That is why a law can be done at the States. I am delighted to see one of your successors is the Attorney General from Texas here, and we are glad to have you here, Attorney General. That is why when Senator Cornyn and I introduced S. 394, the OPEN Govern- ment Act, it is just common sense things.
One thing it does is talk about agency delay. The oldest requests we know of date back to the late 1980s. They were filed before the collapse of the Soviet Union. A lot has gone on in the world since then.
The oldest we know of was a FOIA request at the FBI for infor- mation on the Bureau’s activities at the University of California. It was filed in November 1987. You had a bunch of court cases, five rulings that the FBI had violated FOIA by withholding records, and then after you had this 2002 article in the San Francisco Chronicle and inquiries from Senator Feinstein, the FBI acknowl- edged that, whoops, we are withholding some records. Well, how much? A few. How much? Seventeen-thousand pages, and appar- ently 15,000 still out today. Now, that is an extreme case, but we have introduced legislation to speed these things up.
We have, with all good intention, in the Homeland Security law a provision that allows big polluters or other offenders to hide mis- takes from public view. They just stamp it ‘‘critical infrastructure information.’’ We have got to do better than that. We have got to make sure that people know what is going on.
FOIA is a cornerstone of our democracy. It guarantees a free flow of information. When you get—I mentioned two people, Mr. Chair- man, are going to be here. One is Walter Mears. I have known Mr. Mears for many, many years. His hair was dark and I had hair when we first met. He joined the Associated Press when he was a student at Middlebury College in Vermont, became the AP’s first correspondent at the State House in Montpelier. He came down here to Washington, won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the 1976 Presidential campaign. He has covered 11 of those for the AP.
09:04 Nov 08, 2005