IRM & the Freedom of Information Act
Attorney General Reno's September 3, 1999, memorandum providing guidance
to agency heads concerning the Freedom of Information Act <http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/readingroom/990903.htm>
includes the following statement:
It should be a primary mission of each agency's IRM staff that
it facilitate the prompt and accurate disclosure of information through
the agency's FOIA sites on the World Wide Web.
The September 10, 1999, cover memorandum signed by the Co-Directors of
DOJ's Office of Information and Privacy
concludes with the following paragraph:
... we want to remind all agencies that the final implementation
deadline of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996,
Pub. L. No. 104-231, is approaching at the end of this year. Specifically,
all agencies are required, by December 31, 1999, to have their indexes
of their "frequently requested" FOIA records available electronically,
which should mean having them available for convenient reference on their
FOIA sites on the World Wide Web. See 5 U.S.C. §552(a)(2)(E) (as amended).
We recommend your close attention to this statutory obligation and suggest
that Attorney General Reno's September 1999 FOIA memorandum should serve
to foster the necessary cooperation of your agency's IRM personnel in meeting
this obligation in a timely and efficient fashion.
Reno's memo also transmitted copies of memos that she and the President
signed on October 4, 1993, which are available at
respectively. The President's memo says:
... I remind agencies that our commitment to openness requires
more than merely responding to requests from the public. Each agency
has a responsibility to distribute information on its own initiative, and
to enhance public access through the use of electronic information systems.
Reno's 1993 memo says:
... I hereby rescind the Department of Justice's 1981 guidelines
for the defense of agency action in Freedom of Information Act litigation.
The Department will no longer defend an agency's withholding of information
merely because there is a "substantial legal basis" for doing so. Rather,
in determining whether or not to defend a nondisclosure decision, we will
apply a presumption of disclosure... it shall be the policy of the Department
of Justice to defend the assertion of a FOIA exemption only in those cases
where the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would be harmful to
an interest protected by that exemption...
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