DOJ Drops Rule That Would Legalize Denying Sensitive Documents' Existence

Posted: Nov 04, 2011 2:11 PM

The DOJ is backtracking on their not-so-brilliant idea to give themselves supreme authority in determining whether they can deny the existence of potentially sensitive documents during internal investigations, which many critics have labeled 'a license to lie.' But given all of the sketchiness and scandal swirling around the White House, and given the fact that the DOJ even proposed such a stupid idea in the first place, who's to say the DOJ won't lie about not lying?

The decision comes a week after Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder saying the proposed rule "stands in stark contrast to both the president;s and your prior statements" about transparency and open government.

In responding Thursday in a letter, Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich said the Justice Department is seeking to protect law enforcement and national security interests -- and to do so "in the most transparent manner possible."

"We believe that ... the proposed (regulation) falls short by those measures, and we will not include that provision when the department issues final regulations," Weich wrote. ...

"The Justice Department decided that misleading the American people would be wrong," Grassley said. "The American people are increasingly cynical with the federal government, and increasing transparency can be an important tool to build more trust. In other words, the public’s business ought to be public."

But Grassley said questions remain over how agencies handle requests under the Freedom of Information Act -- or FOIA -- which includes a number of "exclusions" for documents. And the Justice Department acknowledged internal guidance over such "exclusions" is still in effect -- for now.

What was supposed to be the most transparent administration ever has already metamorphosed into one of the dodgiest administrations ever, and while they've decided against officially flouting the Freedom of Information Act, how far they'll take their executive authority is more than questionable.