Defensive Standards Hinder FOIA Openness
(01 Mar 2012) When the Obama administration came to office in January 2009, it promised greater openness and transparency in government. Within two months, President Obama's new attorney general Eric Holder issued a directive which set forth new "defensive standards" for FOIA litigation wherein the Department of Justice would "defend a denial of a FOIA request only if (1) the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions, or (2) disclosure is prohibited by law."

After a careful review of the record and interviews with numerous attorneys involved with FOIA litigation, TRAC has found little evidence that these new standards are actually being followed. In fact, some individuals interviewed by TRAC expressed the opinion that Justice Department attorneys have become even more aggressive in defending anything that federal agencies choose to withhold.

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