Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (09/17/1996)

Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 - Amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to define "record" to mean information maintained by an agency, as a required agency record, in any format, including an electronic format.

(Sec. 4) Revises provisions which permit an agency to delete identifying details when it makes available or publishes specified information so as to permit such deletions in copies of all records. Requires that the extent of such deletion shall be indicated on the portion of the record which is made available or published, unless including that indication would harm an interest protected by the current exemptions (concerning exemptions relating to national security, trade secrets, personal medical files, and etc.) under which the deletion is made. Requires an agency to make available for public inspection and copying: (1) copies of all records, regardless of form or format, which have been released to an individual and which, because of the nature of their subject matter, have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records; (2) a general index of such records, which shall be made available electronically by December 31, 1999; and (3) within one year after November 1, 1996, by computer telecommunications or other electronic means, those records created on or after November 1, 1996.

(Sec. 5) Requires that an agency in responding to a request for records shall make reasonable efforts to search for the records in electronic form or format, except when such efforts would significantly interfere with the operation of the agency's automated information system.

(Sec. 6) Provides that, respecting a standard for judicial review, in addition to any other matters to which a court accords substantial weight, a court shall accord substantial weight to an affidavit of an agency concerning the agency's determination as to technical feasibility and reproducibility.

(Sec. 7) Authorizes each agency to promulgate regulations, pursuant to notice and receipt of public comment, providing for: (1) multitrack processing of requests for records based on the amount of work or time (or both) involved in processing requests; and (2) an opportunity for an individual making a request that does not qualify for the fastest multitrack processing to limit the scope of the request in order to qualify for faster processing.

Directs that the agency, with respect to a request for which a written notice in the case of unusual circumstances extends the time limits prescribed, shall: (1) notify the requestor if the request cannot be processed within the time limit; and (2) provide the requestor an opportunity to limit the scope of the request so that it may be processed within that time limit or to arrange with the agency an alternative time frame for processing the request or a modified request.

Authorizes each agency to promulgate regulations, pursuant to notice and receipt of public comment, providing for the aggregation of certain requests by the same requestor, or by a group of requestors acting in concert, if the agency reasonably believes that such requests actually constitute a single request (which would otherwise satisfy requirements for unusual circumstances) and the requests involve clearly related matters. Prohibits the aggregation of multiple requests involving unrelated matters.

Prohibits including a delay that results from a predictable agency workload of requests as an exceptional circumstance, unless the agency demonstrates reasonable progress in reducing its backlog of pending requests. Considers as a factor in determining whether exceptional circumstances exist the refusal by an individual to modify the scope of a request or arrange an alternative time frame for processing a request after being given an opportunity to do so by the agency.

(Sec. 8) Directs each agency to promulgate regulations, pursuant to notice and receipt of public comment, providing for expedited processing of requests for records.

Extends the general period for determining whether to comply with a request from ten to 20 days.

(Sec. 9) Requires deletions to be indicated, if technically feasible, on the released portion of the record, unless including that indication would harm an interest protected by the exemption under which the deletion is made.

(Sec. 10) Revises FOIA reporting requirements.

(Sec. 11) Directs each agency head to make publicly available, upon request, reference material or a guide for requesting records or information from the agency, including: (1) an index of all major information systems of the agency; (2) a description of major information and record locator systems maintained by the agency; and (3) a handbook for obtaining various types and categories of public information from the agency.