This is good news. Unlesss…they’re lying about the not lying.
The Department of Justice has canceled a controversial revision to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules that opponents said would have allowed federal agencies to lie about the existence of records.
In a letter to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday, the DOJ wrote that the proposed rule “falls short” of its commitment to transparency, and it “will not include that provision when the Department issues final regulations.”
As part of larger revision of FOIA practices, the proposed rule would have allowed federal agencies to deny the existence of records when applying an exclusion, even if the records did exist.
Under current FOIA rules, federal law enforcement agencies can exclude records from disclosure when they are part of an ongoing criminal investigation or would compromise national security. Exclusions are different from the more common FOIA exemptions, which the new rule would not have applied to.
The DOJ has relied on a 1987 memo from then-Attorney General Edwin Meese that gave federal law enforcement agencies standing authority to deny the existence of records, but this would be the first time it was formally codified.
The proposal came under fire from transparency and open government watchdogs such as Judicial Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The groups argued it amounted to affirmative lying and would not give those requesting records the option to sue.