Ethan A. Huff
Sunday, November 6, 2011
A powerful tool that allows ordinary citizens to obtain crucial information from government archives, the US Department of State (DOA) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is under attack. The Daily Caller reports that the US Justice Department wants to revise the law to allow government officials to lie about, or conceal the very existence of, records that it does not wish to release publicly.
The Justice Department claims that the law needs to be revised to protect sensitive information from being released. But current FOIA provisions already exempt certain information from having to be supplied, as long as those requesting the information are given a proper explanation as to why it cannot be released.
But the new rule would allow officials to not only conceal the information, but also to blatantly lie about it. In other words, when the federal government wants to keep certain dirty little secrets under wraps, even “secrets” not protected by the exemption, it will simply be able to tell those requesting such information that it does not exist.
“(The rule) will dramatically undermine government integrity by allowing a law designed to provide public access to government information to be twisted to permit federal law enforcement agencies to actively lie to the American people,” said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and OpenTheGovernment.org, in a joint public statement (http://www.openthegovernment.org/si…).
FOIA requests, of course, have been crucial in exposing all kinds of government corruption. A FOIA request exposed US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano as a liar concerning the safety of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) naked body scanners, for instance (http://www.naturalnews.com/032839_b…).
“The problem is, if you’re a FOIA requester and the agency says they don’t have the records, you have no reason to doubt that,” said CREW chief counsel Anne Weismann concerning the proposal. “But if they cite an exemption, you have the option to sue.”
The proposed FOIA revisions were first published back in March, and the Justice Department began taking public comments on them for a short period of time. Due to massive public backlash, the agency is once again accepting comments. You can submit your own comments by contacting:
Office of Information Policy (OIP)
1425 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530