LITIGATION

» Access to Courts and Court Remedies

» Campaign Finance and Election Laws

» Constitutional Rights and Requirements

» Health, Safety, and the Environment

» Open Government and Open Courts

» Representing Consumers

» Workers' Rights

Currently Featured Topics

Government Transparency
Consumer Justice
First Amendment
Health, Safety and the Environment

Additional Resources

About Us
Case List
Recent News Alerts
Recent Publications


SUPREME COURT
ASSISTANCE PROJECT

Read about our work helping lawyers
with cases in the Supreme Court.

 

October 12, 2001

Attorney General Ashcroft's Memorandum On FOIA

Below is the text of the memorandum issued by Attorney General John Aschroft concerning federal agency administration of the FOIA.  These instructions supercede the memoranda issued by Attorney General Reno in 1993 during the Clinton Adminstration
Letter Masthead for the Attorney General of the United States

MEMORANDUM FOR HEADS OF ALL FEDERAL DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

FROM:   John Ashcroft, Attorney General

SUBJECT:   The Freedom of Information Act

As you know, the Department of Justice and this Administration are committed to full compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2000). It is only through a well-informed citizenry that the leaders of our nation remain accountable to the governed and the American people can be assured that neither fraud nor government waste is concealed.

The Department of Justice and this Administration are equally committed to protecting other fundamental values that are held by our society. Among them are safeguarding our national security, enhancing the effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies, protecting sensitive business information and, not least, preserving personal privacy.

Our citizens have a strong interest as well in a government that is fully functional and efficient. Congress and the courts have long recognized that certain legal privileges ensure candid and complete agency deliberations without fear that they will be made public. Other privileges ensure that lawyers' deliberations and communications are kept private. No leader can operate effectively without confidential advice and counsel. Exemption 5 of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5), incorporates these privileges and the sound policies underlying them.

I encourage your agency to carefully consider the protection of all such values and interests when making disclosure determinations under the FOIA. Any discretionary decision by your agency to disclose information protected under the FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information.

In making these decisions, you should consult with the Department of Justice's Office of Information and Privacy when significant FOIA issues arise, as well as with our Civil Division on FOIA litigation matters. When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records.

This memorandum supersedes the Department of Justice's FOIA Memorandum of October 4, 1993, and it likewise creates no substantive or procedural right enforceable at law.

 

Copyright © 2016 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

You can support the fight for greater government and corporate accountability through a donation to either Public Citizen, Inc., or Public Citizen Foundation, Inc.

Public Citizen lobbies Congress and federal agencies to advance Public Citizen’s mission of advancing government and corporate accountability. When you make a contribution to Public Citizen, you become a member of Public Citizen, showing your support and entitling you to benefits such as Public Citizen News. Contributions to Public Citizen are not tax-deductible.

Public Citizen Foundation focuses on research, public education, and litigation in support of our mission. By law, the Foundation can engage in only very limited lobbying. Contributions to Public Citizen Foundation are tax-deductible.