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Publication date: Apr. 18, 2007

RETIRED FOIA BOSS TELLS (ALMOST) ALL

The FOI community is abuzz over an interview given by Dan Metcalfe, now retired from his former position as co-director of the Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy. That's the office that oversees all other federal agencies' performance under the Freedom of Information Act. Metcalfe had served there since virtually the beginning. He is a compendium of knowledge on the finer points of FOIA law. So it was news when the Legal Times' Tony Mauro landed the interview.

The headline is that Metcalfe makes clear that the effect, if not purpose, of President Bush's Executive Order of Dec. 14, 2005 (directing all agencies to draw up plans for improving FOIA performance) was to forestall FOIA-strengthening legislation that was then gathering momentum in Congress.

In the interview, Metcalfe finally acknowledges on the record that he was the main author of the so-called "Ashcroft Memo" of October 2001, which re-set federal policy so as to deny information to FOIA requesters whenever there was discretion.


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