"To the extent permitted by other laws, the DOE will make records available which it is authorized to withhold under 5 U.S.C. 552 whenever it determines that such disclosure is in the public interest."That's the whole point of the Freedom of Information Act isn't it? The Department of Energy doesn't seem to think so, or perhaps they just think the rule shouldn't apply to them. Either way, they are proposing to eliminate this rule and today is your last day to comment on their proposal. Here's the story as reported by Eric Orenstein of the Project on Government Oversight:
If you would like to comment, send an E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include "RIN 1901–AA32" in the subject line of the e-mail. Please include the full body of your comments in the text of the message or as an attachment.
In the December 9th edition of the Federal Register, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a proposal to remove a discretionary clause governing Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) exemptions. The “extra balancing test,” as written at 10 C.F.R. 1004.1, allows a FOIA officer to make records public which might otherwise be withheld if they deem it to be in the public interest. DOE claims that eliminating this rule would “streamline” the FOIA process, speed request responses, and get rid of “unnecessary administrative requirements.” They say that this rule is more or less vestigial anyway since it is not covered in the Justice Department's guide for FOIA exemptions.
While we are all for more efficient FOIA processing, POGO thinks that the extra balancing test is rather important. Without such a rule it would seem that a FOIA officer must withhold any information that falls under any exemption even if a compelling public interest exists.
This move seems foolishly secretive in the face of an incoming administration that appears to be pushing for more transparency and accountability.
-- Eric Orenstein