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Sen. Leahy Calls for New GAO Review of E-FOIA


Contact: Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee co-chairman, ian@kpax.com or 406/542-4400

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has asked the Comptroller General of Congress’ General Accounting Office (GAO) to take a fresh look at what’s happened to electronic access to federal information in the wake of Sept. 11 and the creation of new Bush administration policies.

Leahy wrote the letter Feb. 28 to David Walker at the GAO in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Leahy’s full letter can be accessed here.

Among other things, Leahy is especially concerned that federal agencies apparently did not take advantage of electronic access following anthrax threats to the mail in Washington, D.C.

Leahy also has asked Walker to assess the impact of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s 2001 memo outlining a new FOIA policy that stresses privacy concerns.

“In short, the new policy appears to favor withholding agency records not only when an exemption clearly applies and disclosure would harm a protected interest,” Leahy wrote, “but also when there is doubt about its application and no foreseeable harm from disclosure.”

Leahy also wants the GAO to look at whether media (and other) requests for fee waivers have been adversely affected by the Ashcroft policy.

(Special thanks to Michael Ravnitzky.)

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