- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House voted Tuesday to simplify the way the federal government handles information with the goal of making documents more available to the public.

The legislation, approved by a voice vote, would require the Archivist of the United States to develop standards for the way federal agencies treat non-classified material in order to maximize public access.

There are currently some 107 known government classifications, said Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio, sponsor of the measure, leading to confusion and inconsistency.

He said that of some 362,000 Freedom of Information Act requests made to the government last year, 121,000 remain to be processed “and that is because of the overclassification of documents.”

For too long, agreed Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., federal departments have been treating information in a restricted fashion. He said the bill could reduce or eliminate the proliferation of terms such as “sensitive but unclassified” or “for official use only” that make it more difficult for agencies to communicate with each other or provide information to the public.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, provides training for agency employees who classify documents and calls for random audits by inspectors general to ensure compliance.

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The bill is H.R. 1323.

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On the Net:

Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov/

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