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Justice Department Continues to Lie About FOIA

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Note: Updated August 2, 2007.

Earlier this year, a senior career Justice Department official, Daniel J. Metcalfe, resigned well short of normal retirementretired upon first reaching retirement and went public with an exposé about the inner workings of his department. He had, he disclosed, been ordered by a political functionary to author and publish anasked to review and edit an op-ed piece in USA Today that robustly claimed that the Justice Department was complying with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. He did as he was orderedasked, he recounts. But the fact that he had been ordered to lie toasked to participate in misleading the public infuriated him, he told National JournalLegal Times.

And now, under the attorney general known to his boss by the mafia moniker “Fredo,” the Justice Department continues to flout the law, and to issue false public statements about it. Moreover, as the recent flap with Vice President Cheney over his refusal to comply with law governing national security classifications oversight by the National Archives demonstrates, Gonzales has personally intervened repeatedly to thwart enforcement of the law and to block any investigation of the misconduct. Gonzales also took no steps to block the reissuance of security clearance to Karl Rove, even after a criminal investigation headed by a special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, established that Rove had outed a covert CIA agent for political reasons and then lied about it to a grand jury.

Think Progress identifies two of the falsehoods pedaled by the Justice Department in its current report, which aims to evade Congressional oversight:

Claim #1: Agencies are making “significant progress” with FOIA. The DOJ reported that more than half of the agencies successfully met their milestones, “and that 90 percent made meaningful progress.” But the report’s graphics show that only 11 of 25 agencies met all their milestones, and three agencies did not meet a single target.

Claim #2: Agencies have decreased the number of unprocessed FOIA requests. “The report cites no data to support the claim. … The number of unprocessed requests among the 25 agencies highlighted actually increased 13 percent.” In fact, several agencies, such as Housing and Urban Development, State Department, and Homeland Security, piled on FOIA backlogs at faster rate than they received requests. “Three agencies — NASA, the CIA and Treasury — reported fewer requests but their backlogs still rose.”

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