The clothes of victims killed during the Rwandan genocide laid out in the Nyamata Church in Nyamata, Rwanda. (AFP PHOTO /PHIL MOOREPHIL MOORE/AFP/Getty Images)
with contributions by Kristin Scalzo at Unredacted
Twenty years ago at least half a million members of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority, along with tens of thousands of “moderate” Hutus, were slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide, and the world is finally –with the help of newly declassified records– beginning to piece together a fuller account of the role the international community played during the atrocities…
… if agencies followed President Obama’s 2009 FOIA memo instructing all agencies “to adopt a presumption in the favor of disclosure,” and Attorney General Holder’s guidance that documents should not be withheld “merely because [an agency] can demonstrate, as a technical matter, that the records fall within the scope of a FOIA exemption,” we should be seeing it a lot less – not more. Sadly, it is clear that agency restraint and even proclamations from the President and Attorney General have not worked.
Agencies’ continued misapplication and overuse of the b(5) exemption, despite President Obama’s and Attorney General Holder’s clear directives to the contrary, has prompted a longstanding push by the open government community for a legislative fix to end agencies’ practices of withholding too much information.
These efforts to rein in the exemption recently culminated in the Senate when Senators Leahy (D-Vt) and Cornyn (R-Tx), two long-time FOIA champions, introduced legislation to fix the b(5) loophole: the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 would stipulate, among other things, that historical documents (documents created over 25 years ago) cannot be withheld under b(5), and would require agencies to balance the benefit to the public interest against the benefit of government employee confidentiality before withholding documents.