DOJ proposes rules under information act

The Justice Department last week became the latest agency to propose regulations carrying out the Electronic Freedom of Information Act (E-FOIA) Amendments a 1996 law that requires among other provisions that agencies publish online indexes of documents the public requests.

The proposed regulation describes what it means to search computer records and says agencies must conduct these searches in the "least expensive manner [that is] reasonably possible." Those who request information except for educational institutions noncommercial scientific institutions and the news media must pay for the direct costs of searching these records.

A search of the Federal Register where the regulations are published found seven other agencies had proposed or finalized regulations describing how they would comply with E-FOIA. Among them are the Social Security Administration the Defense Department and the CIA. Major provisions of the law take effect this fall. For example agencies must post their online indexes of information they released after Nov. 1 1996 by Nov. 1 1997.

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