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DOJ Demands FOIA Transparency

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April 1, 2022

Attorney General Merrick Garland has issued a memo directing heads of executive agencies and departments to favor transparency and disclosure when considering Freedom of Information Act requests. In February, six Democratic and Republican lawmakers signed a letter citing a report that agencies’ use of FOIA’s limited disclosure exemptions had increased from 2012 to 2019, driving a 76% increase in partial denials and a 10% increase in full denials of FOIA requests during that period. Garland warned that the DOJ would apply the presumption of openness when deciding whether to defend an agency’s non-disclosure, and will not defend non-disclosure decisions inconsistent with the policies outlined in the memorandum. His guidance emphasized the importance of proactive disclosures, and told agencies to maximize efforts to post more records online “quickly and systematically” before receiving a FOIA request.

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