VerDate 0ct 09 2002
each day have a copy of the Times delivered to us marked ‘‘top se- cret.’’
[Laughter.] Senator LEAHY. I said, we get three benefits from this. One, we are going to hear about the information much, much sooner than we will ever hear about it from you—this was Bill Casey at the time. Secondly, we will get it in far greater detail. And third, the greatest advantage, we get that wonderful crossword puzzle.
[Laughter.] Senator LEAHY. A couple of his staff laughed. They were given a look by the Director, which makes me think their next assign- ment was not the best.
[Laughter.] Senator LEAHY. Ms. Graves, the ACLU has several high-profile FOIA cases pending now, including ones related to the PATRIOT Act and the question of foreign prisoner abuse. On PATRIOT, the ACLU forced the Department of Justice and the FBI to release data on the provisional law, it has gotten more attention than any- thing else, Section 215. I think that it is fair to say the ACLU has actually forced the public release of far more information than Con- gress has obtained carrying out its oversight role, to whatever ex- tent it has been on this. Does this mean that—I will toss you a nice softball—does this mean that we need FOIA and can’t rely just on the Congressional oversight?
Ms. GRAVES. Well, thank you so much for that question, Senator, and also for your kind welcoming remarks to me earlier.
My answer would be that FOIA is essential, that notwith- standing the separation of powers that is enshrined in the Con- stitution, that gives the legislature a check over the executive branch’s execution of the powers that are contained in the statutes passed by Congress, the fact of the matter is that public citizens, that individuals and public interest organizations have at times had much greater success in getting access to information from the government than Committees of the Senate and the House have.
I think that the most recent disclosures that we have received have reinforced that notion. I think the ACLU has received ap- proximately 35,000 documents to date in response to the FOIA law- suit and the order of the court in the prison treatment cases. About 20,000 of those documents, I believe, have been public, but 15,000 were not, and there are many more documents that under court order are still being reviewed by the Department of Defense and the CIA is undertaking a similar review.
So ideally, FOIA requests by the public and Congressional over- sight can work hand in hand in making sure that our government is accountable to the people.
Senator LEAHY. I think about when you worked at the Justice Department, the FOIA guidelines erred on the side of disclosure. Now, the guidelines tell agencies the Department of Justice will de- fend the use of FOIA exemptions. I think that is resulting in, from what I see, withholding of a lot of unclassified documents. Both Senator Cornyn and I talked to Attorney General Gonzales about this. I wish they would go back to a policy that presumes disclosure unless you have something that is really classified.
09:04 Nov 08, 2005