Home page logo
/

Politech mailing list archives

FC: Ashcroft instructs federal agencies to resist FOIA requests
From: Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>
Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2001 13:43:05 -0700


*********

Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 11:12:39 -0700
To: farber () cis upenn edu (Dave Farber), Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>,
        freematt () coil com (Matthew Gaylor)
From: Jim Warren <jwarren () well com>
Subject: Ashcroft tell agencies to resist Freedom-of-Information requests

SECRECY NEWS
Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists

October 17, 2001


**      ASHCROFT TELLS AGENCIES TO RESIST FOIA RELEASES
**      FRUS VOLUME ON GREECE DUE IN DECEMBER
**      OCTOBER 17 COMES AND GOES


ASHCROFT TELLS AGENCIES TO  RESIST FOIA RELEASES

Attorney General John Ashcroft has issued a new statement of policy
that encourages federal agencies to resist Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) requests whenever they have legal grounds to do so.

The new statement supersedes a 1993 memorandum from Attorney General
Janet Reno which promoted disclosure of government information
through the FOIA unless it was "reasonably foreseeable that
disclosure would be harmful."

The Ashcroft policy rejects this "foreseeable harm" standard.

Instead, the Justice Department instructs agencies to withhold
information whenever there is a "sound legal basis" for doing so.

"When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold
records, in whole or in part," the Attorney General advised, "you can
be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions
unless they lack a sound legal basis...."

[It is especially important that Ashcroft has committed to having DOJ defend the suppression of public access -- rather than forcing the agency to provide its own defense if challenged in court. --jim]

[The DOJ is the executive branch's law firm and defends agencies in court. There is no realistic "its own defense" option. What Ashcroft meant is that DOJ will mount an aggressive defense as long as there's some sort of reasonable legal claim and the federal agency isn't doing something entirely nutty. --Declan]

The new FOIA policy statement, issued October 12, is posted here:

     http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/foiapost/2001foiapost19.htm

For purposes of comparison, Attorney General Reno's 1993 memorandum
may be found here:

     http://www.fas.org/sgp/clinton/reno.html

As with many of the Bush Administration's new restrictions on public
information, the new policy is only peripherally related to the fight
against terrorism.  Rather, it appears to exploit the current
circumstances to advance a predisposition toward official secrecy.

[...]





-------------------------------------------------------------------------
POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
You may redistribute this message freely if you include this notice.
Declan McCullagh's photographs are at http://www.mccullagh.org/
To subscribe to Politech: http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html
This message is archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
-------------------------------------------------------------------------


  By Date           By Thread  

Current thread:
  • FC: Ashcroft instructs federal agencies to resist FOIA requests Declan McCullagh (Oct 18)
[ Nmap | Sec Tools | Mailing Lists | Site News | About/Contact | Advertising | Privacy ]
AlienVault