Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Abusing the FOIA

I've been reading all year about the Justice Department obstructing requests made under the Freedom of Information Act, but this takes the cake:
People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) President Ralph G. Neas said today that a Justice Department demand for nearly $400,000 in fees for a FOIA request regarding the decision to seal the records of immigrants detained in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks is outrageous, and another in a series of strategies to deny access to public information.
The Times is carrying an editorial on what it calls ' an insult to the law's intent':
Justice officials insist that there is no easy way to provide the requested information from scores of regional offices. The law provides for two free hours of searching, but officials presented an estimated bill steeped in Newtonian gibberish, if not outright stonewalling. Let's see, that's 13,314.25 hours at $28 an hour for $372,799, plus more expenses not yet tabulated in other jurisdictions.

There are doubtlessly cheaper, simpler ways to find the extent to which the government buried court proceedings after the immigrant dragnet. We doubt that it would take that much time and labor if the White House were making the request.
This is just a step up from the all time champion of lame excuses: the FBI's mysterious write-only database which would crash if an attempt were made to read information from it.

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