- George Zimmerman will not be charged in domestic dispute
- Russian officials press bilateral U.S. trade deal
- Selfies at Funerals blog creator retires after Obama flub: ‘Our work here is done’
- New Obama adviser Podesta is against Keystone but will steer clear of pipeline deliberations
- 40 Australian adults, children found in ‘one of the worst accounts of incest ever made public’
- Venezuela’s Maduro calls on student ‘price vigilantes’ to hit the streets, report businesses
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Bow before Valkyrie, NASA’s ‘superhero robot’ entry in DARPA challenge
- 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for pretend bow-and-arrow shooting
- Tea partiers turn on Capitol Hill budget deal
Justice seeks reduction of FOIA access on operations
Rule counters Obamadirective on disclosure
The nation's top law enforcement office wants to dramatically roll back the public's access to information about its operations.
A proposed rule takes a multitude of steps to allow the Justice Department to avoid disclosing information in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, including allowing the department to falsely say that records do not exist. Pushback from a broad group of watchdogs has been so fierce that the department has re-opened the window for public feedback before enacting the rule.
The move to increased bias toward denial of requests, which are often key to newspapers' accountability stories, including those about failures by department officials and about critical safety issues, comes despite a directive from President Obama to department heads stating that "all agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure to usher in a new era of open government."
The proposed rule would instruct officials to automatically apply exclusions to FOIA whenever it can, said John Wonderlich, policy counsel for the Sunlight Foundation. It would automatically reject requests it deemed vaguely worded and require that they be directed to specific offices, while also hiding what part of the agency is responsible for filling requests.
"These changes would undermine the federal open-government act, are contrary to law and exceed the authority of the agency," wrote the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center and Mr. Wonderlich in a letter to Justice, noting that the changes "retreat from current practice."
By lying about the existence of records rather than refusing to provide them under a specific exemption, requesters would be prevented from challenging the application of the exemption in court, as is the current recourse.
The changes would make it more difficult to obtain fee waivers typically provided to the media and would deny schools, part-time reporters and new media such as some online journalists the privilege. Fees charged for requests, when not waived, are often prohibitive.
The changes also would no longer allow the public to specify that digital records should be provided in that format, allowing the department to frustrate requests by printing out thousands of pages of a database rather than sending an electronic file, creating extra cost and preventing analysis.
"Since the DOJ reports directly to the president, we can only interpret this proposal as reflective of the administration's feelings towards FOIA," Mr. Wonderlich wrote. "And if this proposal reflects their feelings, then they can best be described as hostile."
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at email@example.com.
- Md. couple indicted in scheme to cheat SBA on minority contracts
- As federal agencies trim fat, contracts feed billions in profits to 59 companies
- Conflict of interest in $4 billion government minority program
- $4 billion program for disadvantaged businesses lacks oversight
- Maryland's minority-contracting program gets failing grade on 'graduation'
Latest Blog Entries
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Rand Paul: Budget deal 'shameful,' 'huge mistake'
- Tea partiers turn on Capitol Hill budget deal
- Teen thugs in D.C. run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- Leon Panetta named as source of 'Zero Dark Thirty' scriptwriters information
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whisky: U.K.-born expert
- Obama's antics at Nelson Mandela tribute: Jovial conversation, handshake with Raul Castro
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- VEGAS RULES: Harry Reid pushed feds to change ruling for casino's big-money foreigners
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Buzz on Bees is a column promoting the love and life of God’s greatest pollinators on earth: The Honeybee
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
Uncensored exploration of issues concerning current events, civil liberties, American political advocacy, and the political and social issues facing military veterans.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow