UPDATE: Since this piece was written, the Department of Justice has backed down from the proposed rule change described herein, the Daily Caller reports:
The Department of Justice has canceled a controversial planned revision to Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) rules that opponents said would have allowed federal agencies to lie about the existence of records.
In a letter to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday, the DOJ wrote that the proposed rule “falls short” of its commitment to transparency, and it “will not include that provision when the Department issues final regulations.”
As part of larger revision of FOIA practices, the proposed rule would have allowed federal agencies to deny the existence of records when applying an exclusion, even if the records did exist.
Which is all well and good, so far as it goes. The problem here is there’s nothing stopping them from proposing this rule again when some larger issue is obscuring it. Legislation is rarely a good solution, but may be the right one in this case.
Fox News reported last week that the Obama administration is promulgating a new rule which would allow Justice Department officials to lie about whether or not records exist when asked for as part of a Freedom of Information Act request:
A longtime internal policy that allowed Justice Department officials to deny the existence of sensitive information could become the law of the land — in effect a license to lie — if a newly proposed rule becomes federal regulation in the coming weeks.