from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 22
March 15, 2002


The U.S. Congress this week published a new edition of "A Citizen's Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records."

The Citizen's Guide, prepared by the House Committee on Government Reform, is a comprehensive introduction to the theory and practice of the Freedom of Information Act.

A copy of the Guide, dated March 12 and made available in softcopy today, is posted here:

In one of the Guide's new passages, authored by Rep. Henry Waxman, the House Committee explicitly rejected the policy guidance contained in Attorney General John Ashcroft's FOIA policy memorandum of October 12, 2001.

"When determining whether a document or set of documents should be withheld under one of the FOIA exemptions, an agency should withhold those documents only in those cases where the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would be harmful to an interest protected by the exemption," the Guide states in its Introduction.

"Contrary to the instructions issued by the Department of Justice on October 12, 2001, the standard should not be to allow the withholding of information whenever there is merely a 'sound legal basis' for doing so."

Adoption of the new passage was described in "House edits FOI publication to refute Ashcroft memo" from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:


"Homefront Confidential," a new report from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, examines "How the War on Terrorism Affects Access to Information and the Public's Right to Know."

The report provides a chronology of access-related policy developments since September 11, and provides critical assessments of controversial issues from military tribunals to war reporting, immigration proceedings, the PATRIOT Act, and more.

Homeland Confidential was released at The Freedom Forum on March 15 in observance of Freedom of Information Day. It is available on the RCFP web site here:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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