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.

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…."


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.


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Burying
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ACTION ALERT: CNN Says Focus on Civilian Casualties Would Be “Perverse” –
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MEDIA ADVISORY: Networks Accept Government “Guidance” –
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One Big Happy Channel: Media Consolidation and the Homogenization of the
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http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1398


The War in Afghanistan 101: 47 Questions and Answers –
http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1539
]

Author: Steven Aftergood

News Service: Federation of American Scientists

URL: http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2001/10/101701.html