Attorney General calls for progress reports on FOI changes
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Attorney General Janet Reno in mid-May called on federal agencies to report their progress in reenergizing the Freedom of Information Act by early June.
She reminded the agencies of her October 1993 instructions to federal agencies which accompanied a memorandum from President Clinton calling upon agencies to renew their commitment to carrying out the disclosure requirements of the FOI Act. At that time Reno instructed agencies to establish new litigation guidance for the release of information even where an exemption to the Act might apply; she told them not to invoke “discretionary” exemptions unless a “foreseeable harm” would occur; and she directed them to reduce the backlogs of unanswered FOI requests.
In the May memorandum Reno asked agencies to report on changes in response to her earlier instruction that they limit their use of “discretionary” exemptions and reduce backlogs. She also told agencies to identify other measures to improve freedom of information and to describe their goals for making still further improvements in 1996.
Reports are due June 4 in the Department of Justice’s Office of Information and Privacy.
The Attorney General’s 1993 memorandum called for “maximum responsible disclosure” and pledged that the Department of Justice would assist agencies in making the executive branch “more open, more responsive, and more accountable.”
In the 1993 direction, Reno specifically rejected language from a 1981 memorandum from Attorney General William French Smith who determined that the Justice Department, with limited exception, would “defend all suits” brought under the FOI Act. (Memorandum from Janet Reno, May 16, 1996)