Friday, July 02, 2004

Back to quills and clerks in eyeshades!

Justice Department says it can't share lobbying data because computer system will crash

The Bush administration is offering a novel reason for denying a request seeking the Justice Department's database on foreign lobbyists: Copying the information would bring down the computer system.

"Implementing such a request risks a crash that cannot be fixed and could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating," wrote Thomas J. McIntyre, chief in the Justice Department's office for information requests.

Advocates for open government said the government's assertion that it could not copy data from its computers was unprecedented but representative of generally negative responses to Freedom of Information Act requests.

"This was a new one on us. We weren't aware there were databases that could be destroyed just by copying them," Bob Williams of the Center for Public Integrity said Tuesday. The watchdog group in Washington made the request in January. He said the group expects to appeal the Justice Department's decision.


"It sounds like incredible negligence for an agency that is keeping public records to keep them in such a precarious condition," said Stephen Doig, interim director at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. "I've never heard the excuse that making the equivalent of a backup copy would somehow cause steam to rise out of the computer."

The government said an overhaul of the system should be finished by December and copies should be available then.

Copies available in December? How Conveeeeeeenient.

Thanks to Political Animal Kevin (grrrr!) for the link.


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