Change of direction in new Justice Department FOIA memo

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released new guidelines for agencies to follow in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. Holder’s memo, issued in March, replaces much-criticized guidelines established during the Bush administration under former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Holder’s memo calls for an overall presumption of disclosure and encourages agencies to consider discretionary releases of records. Under the guidelines, the Department of Justice will defend a decision to withhold records only if there is “a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm to an interest protected by one of the FOIA exemptions” or if the withholding is required by statute.

Access advocates immediately praised the new guidelines.

“We are delighted,” said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel for the National Security Archive at George Washington University. “The new Attorney General guidelines read as if there is a new show in town and for the first time in eight years everyone is welcome to come see it.”

You can read the full memo by clicking here: FOIA_Memo.