Justice Department Wants To Be Able To Lie In Response To Freedom Of Information Requests
from the how-the-doj-views-freedom dept
The era of government anti-transparency continues. Reports have come out about a proposal from the Justice Department to allow federal agencies to flat-out lie in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. No, we’re not joking. Under current law, documents that don’t need to be revealed — for national security reasons, for example — lead to a response saying that the government “can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.” That, at least, leads to the possibility of an appeal and potential court case to make sure the government is legally allowed to withhold such documents.
However, the new DOJ proposal would let federal agencies go even further, and flat-out deny the existence of documents it doesn’t believe are subject to release — even if they exist. And while it’s true that people could still appeal, most people are much less likely to do so if they believe that the documents don’t exist, rather than being told that they may be there, but the government just doesn’t want to reveal them.
This seems like a stunning move by the government that goes beyond even its general opacity on FOIA requests. To seek permission to flat out lie to the public just seems ethically and legally dubious.