Proposed FOIA Update: Government Should Be Allowed to Pretend Records Don't Exist

The Department of Justice prefers its transparency to be as opaque as possible. Mother Jones points to an exciting new opportunity for further reducing the power of the Freedom of Information Act:

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what's known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal—part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice—would direct government agencies to "respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist."

Adds Wired.com:

That said, judges aren’t very tough on the government when it does lie in FOIA cases.

Consider that, two weeks ago, a federal judge decided not to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying videotapes of detainee interrogations that included the use of a torture technique known as waterboarding, ruling instead that the spy agency merely committed “transgressions” for its failure to abide by his court order in a FOIA case brought by the ACLU.

Punishing the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein of New York ruled, “would serve no beneficial purpose” because CIA officials responsible for producing the tapes might “not have been aware of the videotapes’ existence before they were destroyed.”

Organizations which unsurprisingly object to this plan include the American Civil Liberties Union, OpenTheGovernment.org, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Reason on FOIA and transparency issues.

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  • ||

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

    See, it's a cute acronym that way.

  • ||

    Might as well be Citizens for Pink Unicorns in Atlantis.

  • ||

    Fighting Unethical Pork in America

    (just look up FUPA)

  • Atanarjuat||

    A nurse once told me that when huge obese patients were unconscious, certain doctors would repeatedly slap them in the gunt while chanting "FUPA! FUPA! FUPA!"

  • Suki||

    +1

  • ||

    Consider that, two weeks ago, a federal judge decided not to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying videotapes of detainee interrogations that included the use of a torture technique known as waterboarding, ruling instead that the spy agency merely committed “transgressions” for its failure to abide by his court order in a FOIA case brought by the ACLU.

    Unbelievable. Can we stop pretending that there is such a thing as rule of law yet?

  • warrior poet||

    Sure.

    To be honest, I think you anarchists are probably the best political philosophy, at least if "anarchy" includes the sort of Mad Max world that most people envision when they hear that word.

    So long as we accept that the rule of anarchy is nothing but "might makes right", then anarchy is the easiest political revolution to achieve -- all you have to do is see past the illusion of legitimacy, of "Will of the People", or "The Needs of the Many", or "Divine Right", and you'll discover that we have it right now. Much easier to change your outlook than to change society.

  • barfman||

    *barf*

  • Wide Indention||

    We're lackeys of the city-state according to one troll, but we're anarchists to another? Or is this the same troll gamboling that we won't realize it might be him?

  • ||

    What you did there, the handle, I see it.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It's not anarchism until you have the Thunderdrome.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    err...that should read Thunderdome

  • ||

    Just walk away, warrior poet, and I will spare your lives. Just walk away.

  • ||

    Really, I wouldn't steal Lord Humongous' lines, given that he comments here.

  • Peter Chimaera||

    the part when max is shoot and is arm was crash , was stupid because max always had two guns with him : a revolver and a shotgun . Why he didnt took his revolver instead the shotgun?

  • ||

    Be still, my dog of war. I understand your pain. We've all lost someone we love. But we do it my way!

  • Peter Chimaera||

  • Hugh Akston||

    So now the government can just claim that they have top men looking for those records.

  • Apatheist||

    Truth is for the little people.

    Slightly on topic:

    http://www.usnews.com/opinion/.....ction-loss

  • Suki||

    But what if they really can't find a record, or the record really does not exist? Like when the troofers file a FOIA for the hand written orders Karl Rove gave to the fighter pilot that shot the Pentagon? Or when they demand the secret files related to Lincoln's suicide? Or when they demand the receipts for the moon landing sound stage rental? Or when they want the Alien Autopsy video?

  • Apatheist||

    Then they wouldn't be lying...

  • Suki||

    Not according to the troofers, UFO enthusiasts and Lincoln suicide crowd.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Punishing the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein of New York ruled, “would serve no beneficial purpose” because CIA officials responsible for producing the tapes might “not have been aware of the videotapes’ existence before they were destroyed.”

    Yeah, I can't see any value in holding the CIA accountable for destroying evidence of its crimes.

  • ||

    Not related.

  • Koan||

    Any half-intelligent, breathing with a pulse American citizen should know by now that the FOIA and other such window dressing is all one big Potemkin village, designed to impress with the idea that government is open and transparent. It's never been real openness, and never can be . . . so long as we speak of the government, we speak of lies.

  • Amerikan WarLord Obama||

    What, murder, torture, assassinations, gun-running? No document, no transgression, and I'm sure there is no documentation.

  • ||

    "There's no punishment you can give the CIA that will be worse than their having to live with their conscience."

  • warrior poet||

    Except staking them out for the ants or drawing and quartering them. Or that thing with the bull and the fire.

  • ||

    Organizations which object to this plan include the Communist Party USA, the Progressive Labor Party, Black Panthers, and College Socialists.

    Jeez, what is it with you cosmo jerks? Of course the government has to cover up certain things in order to do it's job and protect us from terrorism.

  • sevo||

    So if whackos would like information, we should say we're against passing out information?
    What if whackos come out against, say, murder?

  • ||

    The post is a joke; it's mocking those types of people.

    Tonio? That you?

  • ||

    while your point is valid, the intersection of groups that support/oppose various things are often surprising...

    it is also true that by cherrypicking which groups one mentions, one can create an impression that may diverge a bit from reality.

    for example, you will rarely see a liberal (liberals tend to overwhelmingly oppose the citizens united decision) mention that the ACLUS *supported* it. in fact, they even wrote an amicus brief iirc.

    liberals frame the ACLU as pro freedom, and citizens united as pro-corporate anti-freedom, so that's logical that they do this.

    you can think of a host of other examples. many racists/racial supremacists oppose racial preferences. so, opponents of same will tout those supporters as PROOF that racial preferences are opposed by racists and thus you are a racist if you support it (name the logical fallacy) etc.

    i see open border reasonoids play that card when it comes to immigration, for example. one truly can oppose open borders etc. w/o it having ANYTHING to do with race, whatsoever, but a substantial # of posters here will insert some sort of racial claim when it comes to opponents' motives.

    rinse, lather, repeat.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    i see open border reasonoids play that card when it comes to immigration, for example. one truly can oppose open borders etc. w/o it having ANYTHING to do with race, whatsoever, but a substantial # of posters here will insert some sort of racial claim when it comes to opponents' motives.

    Yes, but can one oppose open borders without it having anything to do with ethnicity?

    There is a difference, you know.

  • Apatheist||

    There is a difference and it doesn't change the answer. They can oppose open borders without it having anything to do with ethnicity/race. (This is not in support of closed borders just acknowledging dunphy's argument). I do however think it that it is difficult to oppose open borders without it having anything to do with believing Americans (of all races/ethnicities) are better than other people simply by being born here.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I feel you. I was just yankin' dunphy's chain a bit. :)

  • ||

    it has nothing to do with that either (for me). it's just that i don't believe in cosmic justice (to paraphrase sowell).

    i don't think americans are BETTER, but i think that if you are lucky enough to be born here, you get it (citizenship) JUST because of that. otherwise, it's not a given

    similarly, if you are lucky enough to be born of wealthy parents who will a bunch of money to you, it's not "fair", in the cosmic sense, but again... so what?

    this is not about cosmic justice. it's NOT fair. but so what?

    autonomy matters.

    those who were not born here have to prove why we should extend the PRIVILEGE of offering them citizenship.

    REGARDLESS of race/ethnicity, etc.

  • JackC||

    "I do however think it that it is difficult to oppose open borders without it having anything to do with believing Americans (of all races/ethnicities) are better than other people simply by being born here."

    Not at all. Plenty of people (I'm not one) support all sorts particularist policies simply on the basis that the people it helps are -family-, however broadly (extended tribe/nation) or narrowly (immediate) defined. It was (and remain in many parts of the world) the primary ethical basis of "civic" policy. The idea that all policies require some sort of deeper metaphysical justification is a modern habit.

  • JackC||

    "simply on the basis that the people it helps are -family-"

    Forgot to note that in this context family doesn't NEED to be better. Family is its own justification.

  • ||

    in brief. yes. see my other reply, though.

    for racists (or ethnicists or whatever), they very well may oppose open borders for those reasons. similarly, i would assume white supremacists would be FOR automatic citizenship for those who were white (in order to increase their representation or something).

    similarly, many white supremacists are pro-choice. because they know that a larger proportion of minority fetuses are aborted than white ones. it doesn't therefore follow that one has to be white supremacist to support abortion rights (in the US)

    etc.

  • sevo||

    "The post is a joke; it's mocking those types of people."
    'Bout time for the tune up on my sarcasm meter.

  • ||

    That one was deceptively close to the real deal. I only figured it out when I hovered over the orange handle.

  • ||

    friend of mine requested her FBI file. i was amazed at how much shit was in it. if you haven't already, give it a try. could be some interesting stuff there

  • ||

    As I recall, Bob Beckel mentioned on The Five and Red Eye that his FBI background check, which was done prior to him working for a presidential administration, revealed that his college roommate was a narc of some sort.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Shit, doesn't the FBI have *real* work to do?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Only when they're making-up the incompetent terrorist plots they're going to dangle in front of some loser until he asks for it so that they can bust him on it.

  • Apatheist||

    Apparently they don't have time. The Swiss government required my fiancee to get both state and federal background checks for her temporary work visa. It took the Texas government a week and the FBI 6 weeks. All it involved was printing off a goddamn piece of paper and mailing it to her. She couldn't just print it off herself because then some bureaucrat would lose their job playing solitaire all day.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Well, Harry Reid DID tell us government jobs were more important than private-sector ones...

  • ||

    in local law enforcement, we refer to them as the "Fan Belt Inspectors"

    or "Famous But Incompetent"

  • ||

    reminds me of a joke...

    The LAPD, The FBI, and the CIA are all trying to prove that they are the best at apprehending criminals.

    The President decides to give them a test. He releases a rabbit into a forest and each of them has to catch it.

    The CIA goes in. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations they conclude that rabbits do not exist.

    The FBI goes in.
    After two weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the rabbit, and they make no apologies. The rabbit had it coming.

    The LAPD goes in.
    They come out two hours later with a badly beaten bear. The bear is yelling: "Okay! Okay! I'm a rabbit! I'm a rabbit!

  • ||

    Going to steal this if you don't mind, Dunphy.

  • ||

    no problem. it's an oldie but a goodie.

  • rather||

    "Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records"

    So can they say the recoreds do not, or that they will not respond to a FOIA request?

  • Binky||

    CIA officials responsible for producing the tapes might “not have been aware of the videotapes’ existence"

    Good grief. WTF does "responsible" mean?

  • ||

    I never actaully thought about it like that. Makes pretty good sense.

    web-privacy.au.tc

  • Amerikan Warlord Obama||

    That live video feed that Hillary, the gang and I were watching while masturbating during the Osama raid and assassination? Didn't we agree that we were not actually watching in real time [we were actually watching some Gitmo torture porn at the time] and that we're not aware of any recordings of the event?

  • ||

    is this like when hillary got shot at arriving at that airport in kraplakistan?

    or some other fake-i-was-there hillary story?

  • rather||

    She fucked that slut Bill; don't question or bravery

  • rather||

    *her*

  • ||

    Hillary would be much too modest to pull her dick out in a crowded room

  • ||

    John Paul Stevens is always good for a laff.

    How do you feel about the Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to spend as much as they want on campaign advertising?
    I feel strongly that the court made a serious mistake in finding that money is the equivalent of protected speech. If followed out to its logical conclusion, that would have provided First Amendment protection to the Watergate burglars. They were financed with campaign expenditures.
  • ||

    How embarrassing that a Justice is such an idiot.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    So John Paul Stevens is guilty of using a straw man argument against Citizens United. That's so reassuring

  • zhangbin||

    I think the government information publicity is very good, so would more get the support of citizens.
    http://www.runerich.com

  • ||

    nice example of several officers present. taser being attempted. deadly force eventually used...

    I was a juror in the King County District Court inquest of the killing of Eric Sampson. After a week of testimony I was removed from the jury to shrink it to six members. I would have ruled as they did, for the police, because of the questions asked of them. Other questions, however, were not asked.

    To the scene: It was March 19, nearly midnight, cold with a bright moon. Police were chasing Sampson, 19, at high speed across Southeast King County toward his home in Ravensdale. They had bench warrants on him for false insurance papers and driving without a license. How the chase had begun was not clear.

    During the chase, Sampson called his mother and said he would rather die than go to jail — a remark she quickly passed on to police. Why would he say this? She might have enlightened us. She was there in the courtroom but was never asked to testify. The police testified.

    The police computer had tagged Sampson as hostile because of remarks he made to an officer months earlier. What those remarks were we never knew. Only the prosecutor can call witnesses at an inquest, and the officer wasn't called.

    We did hear the testimony of King County deputies Cory Stanton, Sam Hooper and Peter Sheridan, who caught up with Sampson where he had left his car. Sampson was a big guy, 6 feet 3 inches, 293 pounds, standing in the woods wielding a machete. Hooper commanded: "Put down the knife."

    "You've got to kill me, cop. I'm not going to jail," Sampson yelled, as Hooper recalled it.

    Sheridan was trained as a hostage negotiator. He said, "My name's Peter. What's yours?" Sampson said his name but quickly returned to a state of "excited delirium," Sheridan said. Sampson was jockeying, cursing and brandishing the machete.

    The deputies advanced, guns drawn. Sampson retreated to a gravel driveway. There a fourth deputy, William Michels, attempted to push him down with a patrol car, but was too slow. Sampson stepped aside and slammed the machete on the car's hood.

    A fifth deputy — seven were there — fired a Taser. Stanton fired a Taser. The darts stuck in Sampson's jacket; they didn't stun him but they provoked him. Police said he swore and from 10 feet away charged Stanton with machete raised.

    Stanton was armed with the civilian version of the M-16 assault rifle, the bullet of which splatters in flesh. He thought he'd fired "five or six times" before Sampson fell. He fired 13 times. Hooper and Sheridan fired 11 times with .40-caliber Glock pistols.

    The deputies said they stopped firing when Sampson fell, but some of the shots were to Sampson's back, suggesting they hadn't. Michels said he yelled, "He's down! He's down! Enough!"

    Sampson was hit with at least 17 bullets. His last words were, "Am I dead?" And he was.

    The jury had to answer a flock of questions with "yes," "no" or "don't know." Had each shooter feared for his or his colleagues' lives at the moment of firing? They had. But the jury was not asked the broader question of whether this was the right way to handle a defiant man with a big knife. Sampson was not the first man with a knife shot dead by police.

    His family wanted to ask the jury other questions that were denied. One was whether jurors felt they had "the opportunity to determine and state your conclusions about the circumstances of Eric Sampson's death."

    I would have answered no.

    Bruce Ramsey's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is bramsey@seattletimes.com

  • Coeus||

    Sampson said his name but quickly returned to a state of "excited delirium," Sheridan said.

    So now the bullshit catch-all disease can be turned on and off at will? (not defending this guy, but goddamn I'm sick of the cops citing a made-up condition and attributing any damn thing they please to it). Three years from now you'll probably hear a cop paitently explaining to the jury that "excited delirium" caused an unarmed suspect to grow knives from his hands like Wolverine.

  • ||

    all syndromes are "made up" until they become medically accepted all the back to the humours being responsible for illnesses.

    it's completely irrelevant to whether the shooting was justified or not (which it obviously was), that the officer opined in this informal setting (it's not a trial. it's a hearing held in every officer caused death in king county and on occasion in non-officer caused deaths to help the investigative process) about a syndrome that we receive metric assloads of training on recognizing . because recognizing it helps save lives.

    this guy obviously wanted the cops to kill him, but despite that, they did a lot to try to prevent that from happening, but finally the machete wielding fuckstick forced their hand

  • Coeus||

    this guy obviously wanted the cops to kill him, but despite that, they did a lot to try to prevent that from happening, but finally the machete wielding fuckstick forced their hand

    I get that. I was just commenting on the new and completely unquestioned claim that "excited delirium" can be conciously fliped on and off like some kind of superpower. I'll just add it to all the other claims I've seen made of this swiss-army-knife-like syndrome.

  • Coeus||

    Actually I chopped too much off that quote. I don't agree with this:

    this guy obviously wanted the cops to kill him

    Maybe he just didn't want to go to jail over paperwork and wasn't thinking clearly?

  • ||

    The "transparency" thing is a ridiculous sham. It's just as well that they're finally coming out and admitting it. The sheeple will be happy because they think that government lying "keeps us safe".

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