“Free” information is not always free
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), called “FOY-ah” by journalists, is at the heart of public demands for government accountability. This federal law says anyone can make a freedom of information request. Many states have similar legislation, often called sunshine laws.
Sounds easy, right?
But there’s a catch: FOIA is riddled with exceptions, its rules differ widely from agency to agency and state to state, it often requires legal expertise to surmount bureaucratic brick walls, and “free” requests can end up costing a bundle of money. Those who have abused public trust often are able to hide behind all of this bureaucracy. Their secrets, held in millions of government documents, simply won’t reveal themselves.