Coalition calls on Congress to oppose DOD’s proposed secrecy exemption

WASHINGTON, June 26 – Today, OpenTheGovernment and a coalition of organizations committed to government openness and accountability are calling for Congress to oppose the Department of Defense’s (DoD) proposal to alter the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in FY18’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The FOIA exemption proposed by the DoD would severely undermine the FOIA by creating an unnecessary secrecy provision at odds with FOIA’s goals of transparency and accountability.

The DoD’s proposal to exempt from disclosure “information on military tactics, techniques, and procedures, and of military rules of engagement,” would create a carve-out to the FOIA for much of the information and documents created by the Pentagon, the largest executive branch agency with the largest discretionary budget. The DoD’s proposed language could be used to conceal information about the military’s interrogation and treatment of prisoners, its handling of sexual assault complaints, oversight of contractors, and other matters of compelling public interest.

The letter emphasizes that any amendment to the FOIA, especially an amendment of this scope, should be approved by committees with jurisdiction over the FOIA and FOIA-related issues. FOIA-related legislation needs careful consideration, including public hearings; to ensure that the bill promotes transparency and public accountability while allowing the government to withhold information that truly requires protection.

For the last two years, Congress has rightly rejected the Pentagon’s proposal to include harmful FOIA exemptions in the NDAA,” said Lisa Rosenberg, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment. “We are again calling on the open government champions in Congress to ensure the NDAA does not grant new authority to the Pentagon to shield its actions from public scrutiny.”

Read the letter here

Watch the House Armed Services Committee markup of the FY18 NDAA here.