Senators Seek Cost of FOIA Suits

Query Stems From Testimony That Government Witholds Info

WASHINGTON — A pair of powerful U.S. senators are trying to find out whether the government is reflexively withholding Freedom of Information Act requests from journalists and others — and how much that approach is costing taxpayers.

In a letter to Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member and former chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) requested a Government Accountability Office report on the tax dollars spent on lawsuits in which the government is found to have wrongly withheld information in FOIA requests.

The request stems from a Judiciary Committee hearing at which some witnesses said the government's default position is to deny requests until sued. Those witnesses said the government loses those cases almost one-third of the time, according to the Associated Press — and that’s when the party denied the information takes the time and expense to sue.