Ashcroft vs. Freedom of Information

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has issued a new statement of policy that encourages federal agencies to resist Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The new statement supersedes a 1993 memorandum from Attorney General Janet Reno which promoted disclosure of government information through the FOIA unless it was "reasonably foreseeable that disclosure would be harmful." The Ashcroft policy rejects this "foreseeable harm" standard and instructs agencies to withhold information whenever there is a "sound legal basis" for doing so. "As with many of the Bush Administration's new restrictions on public information, the new policy is only peripherally related to the fight against terrorism," notes Secrecy News. "Rather, it appears to exploit the current circumstances to advance a predisposition toward official secrecy."