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private sector, foreign, state and municipal law enforcement organizations, informants and other sources.

I have described the FBI's experience with the

Freedom of Information Act in testimony before Committees

of Congress.

Several of our Oversight Committees asked me

to submit to them proposed changes in the Act.

In response

to those requests, I have prepared some amendments.

My proposals, which do not necessarily represent

the views of the Department of Justice or the Administration,

endeavor to refine the Act, not to repeal it.

As you con

sider them, I ask you to observe not only what they would

do, but also what they would not do.

They would not, for

example, diminish the rights and privileges a criminal

defendant or civil litigant now enjoys under the rules of

civil and criminal procedure, nor would they limit or restrict in any way the power of the Department of Justice

or the Congress or the Courts to oversee any activity of

the FBI.

What they would do, I submit, is make those

adjustments to the Act suggested by reason and experience.

Existing time limits for responding to requests

would be changed to establish a relationship between the

amount of work required in responding to requests and the

amount of time permitted to do the work.

The proposals also

would change the law to permit, not require, us to disclose

our records to felons and citizens of foreign countries.



propose deleting the requirement a record be an inves

tigatory record before it can be protected under existing exemption (b) (7). This proposal would enable the FBI to

protect such noninvestigatory records as manuals and guide

lines to the extent the production of them would cause any

of the harms specified in existing exemptions (b) (7) (A)

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them from the mandatory disclosure provisions of the Act.' Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 50.8, which

provides for access to files over 15 years old of historical

interest, will remain in effect.

All other FBI records would be in the second cate

gory and subject to the Act's mandatory disclosure provisions.

Several proposals are designed to reestablish the

essential free flow of information from the public to the FBI.

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source, but which could do so when combined with other

information subject to release under the Act or known to the

requester, we propose we be permitted to withhold information

which would tend to identify a source.

This proposal would

adopt the comments of several courts and make the language

of the exemption conform more closely to the original intent

of Congress.

To increase our ability to protect confidential

sources, we are proposing a seven-year moratorium on law

enforcement records pertaining to law enforcement investi


The FBI will not use the moratorium in concert with

a file destruction program to frustrate the Freedom of Infor

mation Act.

Because the proposals are permissive in nature,

they would not prohibit releasing information.

To insure

fundamental fairness and to address matters of public interest, the FBI will draft with the Department of Justice a policy

for disclosing information even though the law would permit withholding it.

These proposals would protect legitimate law enforce

ment interests while carefully preserving the basic principle underlying the Freedom of Information Act. In my view they

merit your consideration.

Sincerely yours,
Withan it wasts

William H. Webster


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Existing Law

Subsection (a) (6) (A) requires each agency upon any

request for records to make the records available within

10 days.

Subsection (a) (6) (B) permits the agency in narrowly

defined unusual circumstances to extend the time limits for

no more than 10 additional days.

If an agency fails to comply with the time limits,

subsection (a) (6) (C) enables the person who made the request

to file suit in United States District Court to enjoin the

agency from withholding documents.

The subsection provides

that if the Government can show exceptional circumstances exist and the agency is exercising due diligence, the court

may allow the agency additional time.


Every working day the FBI receives approximately 60

new requests for records. Although we do not have any records

pertaining to the subject matter of some requests and others

require processing only a few pages, some requests encom

pass thousands of documents.

In most instances more than

ten days elapse before we can identify, locate and assemble

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