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Attorney General encourages ‘fresh look’ at FOI Act requests

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Oct 12, 1999    

Attorney General encourages ‘fresh look’ at FOI Act requests

  • Janet Reno encouraged all government personnel to withhold information from requesters only when disclosure is not possible or will cause harm and to make information available electronically.

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in early September told heads of executive branch agencies to “take a fresh look” at the way they implement the federal Freedom of Information Act and to back up “in every way possible” the day-to-day work of Freedom of Information Act officers.

In a government-wide memorandum, Reno told officials that FOI Act officers cannot respond to requesters with the best possible service unless they have the cooperation of other agency personnel.

Reiterating her own memorandum to agency heads from October 1993, Reno said information should be withheld from a requester only when it is “not possible” for an agency to disclose it as a matter of administrative discretion. She repeated that agencies should only invoke the exemptions to the FOI Act if a “foreseeable harm” would be caused by disclosure.

She also told agency heads to “do all you can” to foster relationships between FOI Act officers and agency personnel who manage information resources. The Electronic FOI Act of 1996 is now fully in effect, requiring electronic disclosure of an agency’s information. Web sites for FOI purposes must be developed, she said.

Reno said agency officials must work together to disclose information electronically and that assistance to FOI officers in setting up FOI Act sites on the Web is vital to administration of the act. She said the Electronic FOI Act should spur development of Web sites for FOI purposes.

(Attorney General Memorandum on FOIA, Sept. 3, 1999)


© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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