Want Better Journalism and Less B.S.? Demand Stronger Public Record Laws.
It’s Sunshine Week—the week when reporters complain more than usual about government stonewalling and the government brags that it doesn’t stonewall quite as often as it used to.
Sunshine Week intentionally coincides with the birthday of President James Madison, who wrote in 1822, “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy.”
To mark the event, the Justice Department announced that it was updating its guidance to federal agencies on applying the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the landmark law that guarantees public access to government records. Specifically, the Justice Department clarified how agencies should apply a presumption of openness and the “foreseeable harm” standard, which was codified into law in 2016. These standards were supposed to direct agencies to release public records, even when an exemption could apply, unless it foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the nine FOIA exemptions.
“The guidelines make clear that the Justice Department will not defend nondisclosure decisions that fail to apply such a presumption,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said this week. “And the guidelines also emphasize the importance of proactive disclosures and removing barriers to accessing government information.”
Someone should alert the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason, filed a FOIA lawsuit against the BOP earlier this year to pry free records of inmate deaths at two federal women’s prisons that have been dogged by allegations of unconstitutional medical neglect. The BOP frivolously redacted co
Article from Reason.com