Three Federal FOIA Wins in One Week?

A huge week for federal FOIA, and the federal judiciary getting it right….

The U.S. Justice Department has lost three significant court rulings over records sought by the public under the Freedom of Information Act, including a rare order to release a classified document.

English: Internal CIA memo, released under the...

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The rulings have been issued recently by judges in federal district court in Washington. Two of the judges have ruled that protecting the privacy of congressmen is not enough reason to withhold records about corruption investigations of the lawmakers.

The third ruling, from U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts, said the U.S. Trade Representative must turn over a position paper prepared during negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, conducted in the 1990s and 2000s, which never resulted in a deal. The Justice Department had argued that disclosure of the document would damage foreign relations since it agreed with other nations that documents produced during the negotiations would not be released to the public.

On Wednesday, Roberts sided with the Center for International Environmental Law in finding there were no plausible or logical explanations to justify the secrecy. He cited the member nations’ agreement that all documents produced during negotiations would be publicly available at the end of next year unless a country objects to the release of one of its own documents. He said that was evidence that the confidentiality was meant to give the participating nations a way to release their own materials, rather than keep other countries from releasing theirs.

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