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Attorney General nominee Gonzales pledges work on FOI issues

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  1. Freedom of Information

    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Jan. 14, 2005    

Attorney General nominee Gonzales pledges work on FOI issues

  • During Alberto Gonzales’ Senate confirmation hearing, the attorney general nominee committed to working with two senators on open government issues.

Jan. 14, 2005 — Alberto Gonzales, the president’s choice to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft, pledged last week during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to work with two open government advocates in the Senate.

Gonzales told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that he is committed to “strongly look at” taking steps to create a uniform standard to ensure government documents would be kept shielded only in cases where releasing them would cause harm. Leahy has opposed the administration’s efforts to routinely shield “sensitive but unclassified” information.

Gonzales also committed to working with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to ensure that the Administrative Conference plays a strong role in bolstering government agency response to the Freedom of Information Act. “I would look forward to working with you on that issue,” said Gonzales. Cornyn plans to introduce legislation to improve how the FOI Act is administered.

Congress re-established the Administrative Conference through the Federal Regulatory Improvement Act of 2004. The conference, which existed from 1968 to 1995, examined open government issues as well as other administrative law topics, and its studies led to changes in federal open government laws and regulations.

Cornyn has suggested that the newly re-established conference could be used to end the logjam frequently facing FOI requesters. As Texas attorney general, Cornyn often ruled on conflicts between requesters and agencies, alleviating the need for them to go to court.

Leahy has also submitted written questions to Gonzales concerning FOI issues.

Gonzales has shown a penchant as White House counsel for strictly regulating access to government and executive-branch information, according to a November assessment of his record in open government issues by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The report, “Gonzales, Press Freedoms and the Public’s Right to Know,” looks at his performance as a Texas Supreme Court justice from January 1999 to December 2000 and as White House counsel since January 2001. His term on the Texas high court indicates a recognition of the First Amendment interests in newsgathering and reporting.

RD

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