Justice Backs Down

I posted a piece last week about some revisions to the regulations implementing the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) proposed by the Department of Justice. The proposed revisions basically said that in responding to requests for certain types of records, a government agency could respond “as if the records don’t exist.” That proposal caused a lot of people, including me, to wonder why the Government should be allowed to lie. Apparently, based on that outcry, the Justice Department has indicated that it is backing off. But in a November 3 letter to Representative Charles Grassley announcing its intentions to pull that proposal back, the department indicates that since 1987, it has been the DOJ’s practice to fudge. Apparently then Attorney General Ed Meese directed that if records were deemed exempt from FOIA under certain law enforcement and/or national security exemptions, the DOJ was to respond that “there exist no records responsive to your FOIA request.” The DOJ promises in the November 3 letter promises to “[be] as transparent as possible.” We’ll see. For now, chalk one victory up to openness.