From the Kaplan
A 1973 Supreme Court decision and related Senate hearings focused Congressional criticism on the 1966 Freedom of Information Act. Its unconditional exemption of any materialstamped “classified”—i.e., containing information considered relevant to national security—forced the Court to uphold non-disclosure in EPA v. Mink. Justice Potter Stewart explained that the Act provided “no means to question a decision to stamp a document ‘secret.’” Senate witnesses testified that the wording of certain articles in the Act permitted bureaucrats to discourage requests for newsworthy documents.
In response, a House committee drafted HR 12471, proposing several amendments to the Act. A provision was reworded to ensure release of documents to any applicant providing a “reasonable description”—exact titles and numbers were no longer to be mandatory. The courts were empowered to review classified documents and rule on their status. The Senate companion bill, S 2543, included these provisions as well as others: standardization of search and copy fees,sanctions against non compliant Federal employees, and a provision for nonexempt portions of a classified document to be released.
The Justice and Defense departments objected to the changes as “costly, burdensome, and inflexible.” They argued that the time limits imposed on response “might actually hamper access to information.” The Pentagon asserted that judicial review of exemptions could pose a threat to national security. President Ford, upon taking office in August 1974, concurred.
HR 12471 passed in March 1974; S 2543 was approved in May after the adoption of further amendments to reduce the number of unconditional exemptions granted in 1966. The Hart Amendment, for instance, mandated disclosure of law enforcement records, unless their release would interfere with a trial or investigation, invade personal privacy, or disclose an informer’s identity. This amendment provoked another Presidential objection: millions of pages of FBI records would be subject to public scrutiny, unless each individual section were proven exempt.
Before submitting the legislation to Ford, a joint conference of both houses amalgamated the two versions of the bill, while making further changes to incorporate Ford’s criticisms. The administration of disciplinary sanctions was transferred from the courts to the executive branch; provisions were included to accord due weight to departmental expertise in the evaluation of “classified” exemptions. The identity of confidential sources was in all cases to be protected. Ford nevertheless vetoed the bill, but was overridden by a two-thirds vote in both houses.
Q#1. According to the passage, the Justice and Defense Departments opposed the proposed revision of the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that it
A● was an attempt to block public access to information
B● would violate national security agreements
C● would pose administrative problems
D● was an attempt to curtail their own departmental power
E● would weaken the President’s authority
Q#2. Which of the following statements, if true, supports the assertion that “judicial review of exemptions could pose a threat to national security” (lines 32–33)?
A● Judges lack the expertise to evaluate the significance of military intelligence records.
B● Many of the documents that are presently stamped “classified” contain informationthat is inaccurate or outdated.
C● It would be time-consuming and expensivefor judges to review millions of pages of classified records.
D● Some judges are likely to rule on exemptions in accordance with vested interests of political action groups.
E● The practice of judicial review of exemptions will succeed only if it meets with Presidential approval.
Q#3. Which of the following statements is in accordance with President Ford’s position on disclosure of FBI records?
A● FBI records should be exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
B● FBI records should only be withheld from release if such release constitutes a threat to national security.
C● It would be too expensive and time-consuming to identify exempt sections of FBI records.
D● Protection of the identity of confidential sources is more important than the protection of personal privacy or investigative secrecy.
E● FBI records should not be reviewed section by section before being released to the public.