VerDate 0ct 09 2002
STATEMENT OF THOMAS M. SUSMAN, ROPES AND GRAY LLP, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Mr. SUSMAN. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, I am honored to ap- pear today with such an esteemed group of colleagues to support S. 394. This legislation is balanced and modest, but it is extremely valuable and would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act in many important respects.
Senator Cornyn, you mentioned that this was the first hearing on freedom of information in the Senate since 1992. I sit in this chair somewhat nostalgically. I testified in 1992 before Senator Leahy on what became the Electronic Freedom of Information Amendments. I had a chance to testify a decade before that on what became the set of amendments in the mid-1980s. And I began my career with freedom of information sitting where Jim Ho is back there in the Subcommittee in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Frankly, you read a lot about how Congress and the Senate has changed through the decades, but one thing that seems to be im- proving with age is the quality of staff in the Judiciary Committee.
[Laughter.] Mr. SUSMAN. In my prepared testimony, I begin with a discus- sion of how the business community has made use of the Freedom of Information Act. I intend that as a complement to the media, ad- vocacy groups, think tanks, public interest groups, that business requestors as well as individuals and non-governmental organiza- tions serve an important public interest by bringing about disclo- sure of how policy decisions are made in agencies, how programs work, how products are regulated, how laws are enforced, and how contracts are awarded.
On a broader plain, the marketplace generally functions more ef- ficiently through enhanced access to information, and especially government information. Clearly, businesses benefit both directly and indirectly from open government information.
S. 394 addresses some of the really important issues that frus- trate freedom of information administration today, but it does so carefully. It recognizes that FOIA isn’t a game of ‘‘us’’ versus ‘‘them,’’ and it approaches responsibly and sensitively the issue so that it serves the needs of both ‘‘us’’ and ‘‘them,’’ that is, the re- questor community and government agencies that have to admin- ister this law.
In my prepared testimony, I go through each of the sections and review all of the provisions of this statute, but for my few minutes of oral testimony, I would like to concentrate on three issues.
The first is the Office of Government Information Services. Sec- tion 11 of the bill establishing this new office is to me the most im- portant provision in the legislation. This new office has a number of functions, all of which are important. It will assist the public in resolving disputes with agencies as an alternative to litigation. It has the authority to review and to audit agency compliance with the Act. And it can make recommendations and reports on freedom of information administration. A number of States have this kind of function, including the State of Texas where the Attorney Gen- eral plays this important role.
Appropriations for the Administrative Conference, where this new office would be located, must be restored for this to work the
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