Sunday, September 09, 2007

What Ever Happened to Freedom of Information?

Family members who are busily making FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests for information about their loved ones' deaths, may have noticed that they are getting a lot of automatic denials. When material is finally supplied, it is often so heavily redacted that you can hardly make sense of it.

The US armed services are all Federal agencies, so FOIA is the proper way to request information.

Ruth Rosen has written a very informative article about how the current Administration has managed to restrict the Freedom of Information Act in ways that affect each and every citizen with a "right to know" from obtaining information.

Click on the following link to read the article:
What Ever Happened to Freedom of Information?

Here are some excerpts:

From my little cubicle at the paper, I read a memorandum sent by Attorney General John Ashcroft to all federal agencies. Short and to the point, it basically gave them permission to resist FOIA requests and assured them that the Justice Department would back up their refusals. “When you carefully consider FOIA requests,” Ashcroft wrote, “and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decision unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records.”

On August 8, 2007, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government issued “Still Waiting After All These Years,” a damning report that documented the Ashcroft memorandum’s impact on FOIA responses. Their analysis revealed that “the number of FOIA requests processed has fallen 20%, the number of FOIA personnel is down 10%, the backlog has tripled and the cost of handling a request is up 79%.” During the same years, the Bush administration embarked on a major effort to label ever more government documents classified. They even worked at reclassifying documents that had long before been made public, ensuring that ever less information would be available through FOIA requests. And what material they did send out was often so heavily redacted as to be meaningless.

This explains a lot!

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