WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorney General Janet Reno, noting her commitment to open government dating from her years in Florida, the “Sunshine State,” promised “complete review” of the Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act policy in response to a question at a press conference in late August.
Craig Fischer, editor of the Criminal Justice Newsletter published in Washington, D.C., asked Reno about a letter and position paper sent to the president in January by six news organizations, asking the administration to take steps to strengthen press freedom, and government openness, including proposed actions by the Justice Department.
Reno responded: “That letter, plus a request for information when I first took office concerning a variety of issues, is what prompted me, along with my background coming from Florida where there was very open government, to use that correspondence, which the president referred to me, as the basis for a complete review, by the office of legal counsel, the deputy attorney general [and] the associate attorney general, as to what should be the department’s policy with respect to the treatment of information, with respect to openness and with respect to accountability.”
In early September, Dan Metcalfe co-director of the department’s Office of Information and Privacy, told a conference of the American Society of Access Professionals meeting in Rockville, Md., that they may expect new guidance on implementing the Freedom of Information Act.
In January the news organizations delivered a policy paper entitled “Maintaining an Informed Democracy” to President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
Among their suggestions were: > that the administration take actions to comply with the disclosure policy underlying the FOI Act; > that the Justice Department return to a policy of giving out information unless disclosure would cause some demonstrable harm; and > end egregious delays and arbitrary denials of requests.
News organizations that submitted the policy paper included the National Newspaper Association and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.