Supremes Hear FOIA Case

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the government’s broad use of an exemption in the federal Freedom of Information Act to withhold documents from the public.

The justices heard argument in an appeal from Glen Milner, a Washington state resident who sued under FOIA for maps showing the extent of damage expected from an explosion at the Navy’s main West Coast ammunition dump on an island near Port Townsend in western Washington.

The Obama administration is defending the decision to deny Milner the maps under a provision of FOIA that exempts from disclosure documents “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.”

Chief Justice John Roberts said the administration was asking the court “to torture the language in FOIA” to keep the documents from being made public. Roberts also noted the public’s frustration with FOIA, even when the government is willing to turn over material. “It takes forever to get the documents,” he said.

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