22 Groups Urge Congress to Oppose DoD Proposal to Alter FOIA

The Department of Defense (DoD) wants to use the National Defense Authorization Act (NDDA) to allow agencies to broadly interpret exemption 2 of the FOIA, which allows agencies to withhold records “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.”Twenty-two groups joined OTG and the Project On Government Oversight in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, urging the Senators to reject the DoD’s proposal.

Exemption 2 was frequently over-used by agencies to withhold internal records, but the 2011 Supreme Court decision in Milner v. Navy narrowed the interpretation of the exemption to the text of the Freedom of Information Act. The DoD’s proposal would broaden exemption 2 to include records “predominantly internal to an agency, but only to the extent that disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk impairment of the effective operation of an agency or circumvention of statute or regulation.”

Another sections of the proposal would unnecessarily expand the agency’s ability to exempt “ “information on a military tactic, technique, or procedure.” As the letter notes, this language could be abused to hide almost any activity the military wants hidden, including unclassified information about detainee treatment, handling of sexual assault cases, or its relationship with contractors.

Learn more in the full letter, available here.