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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
Several of our Oversight Committees asked me
to submit to them proposed changes in the Act.
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
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)
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.
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
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
Because the proposals are permissive in nature,
they would not prohibit releasing information.
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.
William H. Webster
Subsection (a) (6) (A) requires each agency upon any
request for records to make the records available within
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