30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

FOIA Legislative History

1966 Passage

The FOIA was enacted in 1966 despite the opposition of President Johnson to the legislation.  Prior to enactment, there were several years of congressional hearings about the need for a disclosure law.   The FOIA went into effect in 1967.  To learn more about the enactment of the FOIA, click here.

CONGRESSIONAL REPORTS:

S. Rep. No. 1219, 88th Congress, 2nd Session (S. 1666)

S. Rep. No. 813, 89th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Oct. 4, 1965) (S. 1160)

H. Rep. No. 1497, 89th Congress, 2nd Session, House Committee on Government Operations (May 9, 1966) (S. 1160)

FLOOR CONSIDERATION OF S. 1160:

Considered and passed Senate, October 13, 1965, 111 Cong. Rec. 26820

Considered and passed House, June 20, 1966, 112 Cong. Rec. 13007. Excerpt from Congressional Record of June 20, 1966, "Clarifying and Protecting the Public's Right to Know", (Debate and Vote of the US House of Representatives on Senate Bill 1160, Featuring a Statement by US Rep. John Moss)

PRESIDENTIAL SIGNING STATEMENT:

President Lyndon Johnson's Statement upon Signing the FOIA (Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, "Statement by the President upon Signing S.1160", dated July 4, 1966

1974 Amendment

In the wake of the Watergate scandal and several court decisions, Congress sought to amend the FOIA.  After negotiations between Congress and the Ford Administration broke down, Congress passed significant amendments to the FOIA.  President Ford vetoed the amendments and Congress swiftly voted to override the veto.  To learn more about the 1974 Amendments to the FOIA, click here.

CONGRESSIONAL REPORTS:

H. Rep. No. 93-876 ( H.R. 12471) (Comm. on Gov't Op.)

S. Rep. No. 93-854 (S. 2543) (Comm. on the Judiciary)

H. Rep. No.  93-1380 and S. Rep. 93-1200 (Comm. of Conference)

FLOOR CONSIDERATION:

March 14, considered and passed House, 120 Cong. Rec. H1787-H1803 (1974)

May 30, considered and passed Senate, amendment in lieu of S. 2543, 120 Cong. Rec. S9310-S9343 (1974)

October 1, Senate agreed to conference report, 120 Cong. Rec. S17828-S17830, S17971-S17972 (1974)

October 7, House agreed to conference report, 120 Cong. Rec. H10001-H10009 (1974)

PRESIDENT FORD'S VETO MESSAGE:

October 17, vetoed; Presidential message, H. Doc. 93-383 (Nov. 18, 1974)

FLOOR DISCUSSION OF VETO:

November 18, Preliminary House action on Presidential Veto, 120 Cong. Rec. H10705-H10706 (1974)

November 20, House Action and Vote on Presidential Veto, 120 Cong. Rec. H10864-H10875 (1974)

November 21, Senate Action and Vote on Presidential Veto, 120 Cong. Rec. S19806-S19823 (1974)

1976 Amendment

In 1976, as part of the Government in Sunshine Act, Exemption 3 of the FOIA was amended. 

CONGRESSIONAL REPORTS:

H. Rep. No. 94-880, Part I (Comm. on Gov't Op.) (selected pages)

H. Rep. No. 94-880, Part II (Comm. on the Judiciary) (selected pages)

H. Rep. No. 94-1441 (Comm. of Conference)

PRESIDENTIAL SIGNING STATEMENT:

Sept. 13, 1976, signed; Presidential statements.

1986 Amendment

In 1986 Congress amended FOIA to address the fees charged by different categories of requesters and the scope of access to law enforcement and national security records.  The FOIA amendments were a small part of the bipartisan Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.  The amendments are not referenced in the congressional reports on the Act, so the floor statements provide an indication of Congressional intent.

CONGRESSIONAL REPORTS:

September 25, Senate bill introduced, 132 Cong. Rec. S13648, 13660-61 (1986)

September 27, Senator Leahy Amendment and Statement, 132 Cong. Rec. S14033 (1986)

September 27, Senator Hatch Statement, 132 Cong. Rec. S14038-40 (1986)

September 30, Senator Denton Statement, 132 Cong. Rec. S14252 (1986)

September 30, Senator Leahy Statement, 132 Cong. Rec. S14295-300 (1986)

September 30, Senate Technical Amendments, 132 Cong. Rec. S14277-78 (1986)

October 8, Reps. English and Kindness Statements, 132 Cong. Rec. H9462-68 (1986)

October 8, House approves amendments, 132 Cong. Rec. H9497-98 (1986)

October 10, Senate Amendment to House Amendment, 132 Cong. Rec. S15956 (1986)

October 10, Senator Leahy-Kerry Colloquy, 132 Cong. Rec. S16496-97 (1986)

October 15, Senate approves amendments, 132 Cong. Rec. S16502 (1986)

October 15, Senator Hatch Statement, 132 Cong. Rec. S16504-05 (1986)

October 17, House Amendment to Senate Amendment, 132 Cong. Rec. SH11233-34 (1986)

October 17, House approves amendments, 132 Cong. Rec. H10787 (1986)

October 17, Senate concurs in House amendments, 132 Cong. Rec. S16921 (1986)

1996 Amendment

The FOIA was significantly amended in 1996 with the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996.  There were separate Senate and House bills that were reconciled by their sponsors.  The public law includes a "Findings and Purposes" section that was not codified into the FOIA's text.

CONGRESSIONAL REPORTS:

H. Rep. No.104-175 (H.R.3802) (Committee on Government Reform and Oversight)

S. Rep. No. 104-272 (S. 1090) (Committee on the Judiciary)

PRESIDENTIAL SIGNING STATEMENT:

President Clinton's Statement Upon Signing the EFOIA Amendments (Press Release, Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, "Statement of the President", dated October 2, 1996)

2002 Amendment

In 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the FOIA was amended to limit the ability of foreign agents to request records from U.S. intelligence agencies.

CONGRESSIONAL REPORTS:

H. Rep. No. 107-592

2007 Amendment

The FOIA was amended in 2007 with the OPEN Government Act of 2007, which was passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate in December. The new law aimed to fix some of the most persistent problems in the FOIA system, including excessive delay, lack of responsiveness, and litigation gamesmanship by federal agencies.

FLOOR CONSIDERATION:

1. Introduced in house: January 17, introduced in House and referred to Oversight and Government Reform. H.R.541, 110 cong. (2007)

2. Referred in Senate: March 15, Introduction and Referral Senate H.R. 1309. 110 Cong. (2007)

3. Introduced in house: March 5, Introduced in House Referred to Subcommittee. H.R.1326. 110 Cong. (2007)

4. Reported in Senate:August 3, considered and passed in Senate. Amend. (S11071-11073). S. Rept. 110-59. (2007)

5. Introduced in Senate: December 6, Introduced to Senate, 110 Cong. Rec. S.2427 (2007)

6. Enrolled Bill: Considered and passed Senate, December 13, 110 Cong. Public Law No: 110-175. (2007)

CONGRESSIONAL REPORTS:

H.Rep. No. 110-45. (H.R. 1309) (Comm. on Oversight and Govt. Reform)

HOUSE REMARKS:

March, 15. Extensions of Remarks, Amendments (E553) (2007)

March, 14. House Amendments (H2500) (2007)

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD-HOUSE VOTE:

March, 14. House Vote (H2500 ) (2007)

2016 Amendment

The FOIA was amended in 2016 with the FOIA Improvement Act, which was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and signed by President Obama into law in June. The updates, among other fixes, applied a 25-year sunset to the (b)(5) exemption, required agencies to update their FOIA regulations within 180 days of the passage of the bill, improved public digital access to records, and strengthened the Office of Government Information Services.

SUMMARY:

S.337 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

TEXT OF BILL:

S.337 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)

CONGRESSIONAL REPORTS:

S. Rept. 114-4 - FOIA Improvement Act of 2015