TRAC Releases New Report Showing No Effect of AG’s Memo on Openness

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) recently released a report finding that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is not following the guidelines for defending agencies in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suits laid out in the Attorney General's March 19 Memorandum. The Memo says DOJ will "defend a denial of a FOIA request only if (1) the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions, or (2) disclosure is prohibited by law." TRAC's careful review of the record and interviews with numerous attorneys involved with FOIA litigation found little evidence of the guidelines being applied. In fact, some individuals interviewed by TRAC expressed the opinion that DOJ attorneys had become even more aggressive in defending anything that federal agencies chose to withhold. The report is part of TRAC's FOIA Project, a site built and maintained to bring transparency to the process by which the U.S. government withholds information.