Important New Study Examines the “Other” Exemptions in FOIA

Propublica has done the FOI world a tremendous favor, compiling all of the ways beyond the FOIA that the federal government can hide information:

Anyone can request information from U.S. officials under the Freedom of Information Act, a law designed to allow people to know what their government is up to.

When a government agency withholds information from a requester, it typically must invoke one of nine FOIA exemptions that cover everything from national security to personal privacy. But among that list is an exemption—known as b(3) for its section in the FOI Act—that allows an agency to apply other statutes when denying information requests.

Until now, no one has known just how extensively these other laws were used across the federal government. New data compiled by the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of journalism and transparency groups, shows that agencies have applied more than 240 other laws in withholding information over the last decade.

There is even a nifty database application to examine them all.