VICE News reporter Jason Leopold, a long-form investigative journalist once described by the feds as a "FOIA terrorist" for the number of document requests and appeals he has filed under the United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is testifying Tuesday before Congress on the routine "agency feet-dragging" and poor handling of records requests, which frequently last several years.
Leopold, whose work has focused on topics ranging from treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison to national security and intelligence and the US torture program, is set to join a number of lawyers, reporters, and advocacy groups in imparting his experiences of filing FOIA requests before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.
"I have submitted thousands of FOIA requests to dozens of different agencies, and in my experience, fewer than one percent of my requests have been decided within the timeframe required by FOIA," Leopold said in his written testimony submitted ahead of the hearing. "My colleagues have had similar experiences."
In the past week, one of Leopold's FOIA lawsuits catalyzed a federal ruling demanding the State Department devise a schedule for the rolling release of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's emails.
"Even when a journalist acts with the utmost diligence in filing a FOIA request and pursuing his or her rights in court, agency feet-dragging can frustrate a journalist's attempt to obtain records at the time when they are needed most," Leopold wrote.
"Investigative journalists should be spending their time and resources investigating, not litigating," he added. "Unfortunately, some agencies refuse to conduct adequate searches and fail to properly apply FOIA's exemption provisions until a lawsuit has been filed."
Watch Leopold's testimony here: