Ben Johnson, The White House Watch
As Joe Bob Briggs used to say, “Victory over Communism!”
The Justice Department proposed new rules allowing federal agencies to erroneously tell citizens documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act do not exist. Yesterday, after massive public backlash, the DoJ withdrew the proposal. The regulations primarily applied to individuals who made FOIA requests who were unaware they were the targets of an investigation, or who requested items that would compromise national security. Despite being a longstanding practice, the Obama administration became the first to attempt to codify the denial into law.
The FBI crossed a line when it mislead a federal court about the existence of documents requested during an FOIA inquiry. The FBI attested under oath that the excluded documents were “out of scope” and “not responsive” to the FOIA request. Yet when ordered to produce all relevant documents for an in camera review — a private review “in chambers” and not open to the public — the FBI revealed the documents were in fact relevant. The feds defended themselves by arguing it had the right to be “legally nonresponsive” if it believed producing materials would “compromise national security.”
In a scathing response, the court ruled, “The Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court.” Civil libertarians and champions of openness agreed other means were available to deny the information without misleading any American citizen.
After drawing significant public fire, Eric Holder’s Justice Department is withdrawing the measure. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote in a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday the new….