Open-government Groups Protest Rule Allowing Federal Officials to Lie

November 1, 2011

Open-government groups are fighting a proposed Justice Department rule to allow federal law enforcement agencies to lie about the existence of government documents being sought by the public.

The proposed regulation applies to certain documents that members of the public may request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Some sensitive records — including information about FBI informants — are excluded from the requirements of the act because revealing them could tip off criminals or threaten public safety.

However, instead of denying a request, Justice Department officials would be told to "respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist," even when they do.

"The government should never lie to the American people," said Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now the senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "To actually have it codified in a regulation that the government is allowed to lie is just untenable." 

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