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Is Ombudsman Already in Jeopardy?
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post

Washington Post, February 6, 2008
Posted: February 17th, 2008

Hours before the new year, open-government groups won a key victory in their years-long fight to force government agencies to release documents without months, and sometimes years, of delay. The moment came when President Bush reluctantly signed a law enforcing better compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. But in his budget request this week, Bush proposed shifting a newly created ombudsman's position from the National Archives and Records Administration to the Department of Justice. Because the ombudsman would be the chief monitor of compliance with the new law, that move is akin to killing the critical function, some members of Congress and watchdog groups say. "Justice represents the agencies when they're sued over FOIA ... It doesn't make a lot of sense for them to be the mediator," said Kristin Adair, staff counsel at the National Security Archive. The law establishes the ombudsman's office to hear disputes over unmet FOIA requests, monitor agencies and foster best practices. The ombudsman would be part of the National Archives and Records Administration, the non-partisan repository where most of the nation's important documents eventually wind up, and from which they are distributed. The Justice Department has hardly shown itself to be a strong supporter of public information requests: After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft issued a memo urging agencies to use all legal means to refuse public document requests. A recent review of overdue FOIA requests by the National Security Archive criticizes Justice for holding up public records releases. In at least four cases, the delay was for more than 15 years.

Note: For many revealing major media reports on government secrecy, click here.

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