Justice Dept. pulls back FOIA non-disclosure proposal

Thursday, November 3, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is pulling back a proposed regulation that in rare instances would let federal law enforcement agencies tell people seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act that the government has no records on a subject, when it actually does.

In a letter to Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the department said it was taking a fresh look to see if other options were available to avoid revealing sensitive law enforcement information. The department said the proposed measure would not be included when the department issues final regulations.

The department said it wanted to preserve the integrity of law enforcement records while preserving a commitment to being as open as possible about the FOIA process.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a press release today:

“I commend Attorney General Holder and the Obama administration for promptly withdrawing the Department’s proposed rule on the treatment of requests for sensitive law enforcement records under the Freedom of Information Act.  For five decades, the Freedom of Information Act has given life to the American value that in an open society, it is essential to carefully balance the public’s right to know and government’s need to keep some information secret.  The Justice Department’s decision to withdraw this proposal acknowledges and honors that careful balance, and will help ensure that the American people have confidence in the process for seeking information from their government.”

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