August 17, 2007 | By Marcia Hofmann

Senator Cites EFF FOIA Work in Call for Investigation of Attorney General

EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) work has helped to prompt the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask for an investigation into whether the attorney general has lied to Congress.

In a letter to the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General, Senator Patrick Leahy asked the agency watchdog to probe "potentially false or misleading testimony given by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during his appearances before various congressional committees."

The evidence cited by Leahy includes documents that EFF obtained through a FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department for records related to the FBI's misuse of National Security Letters. As the letter notes:

Attorney General Gonzales said in April 27, 2005, testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence with regard to National Security Letters (NSLs) and other information-gathering techniques that statutory civil liberties safeguards had been effective and that '[t]here has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse.' Similarly, his responses to written questions following his April 19, 2007, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing indicated that he had not learned of problems with NSLs prior to your March 2007 report on the issue. Documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit indicated that the Attorney General had in fact received numerous reports in 2005 and 2006 of violations in connection with NSLs and other surveillance tools. The Attorney General in his July 24 testimony suggested that his prior testimony and answers were premised on the fact that he was not aware of any 'intentional' violations. The Washington Post has reported that at least one intentional violation was reported in the relevant time period.

Leahy's request shows why the FOIA is an important tool for making sure that government works the way it should. Through its FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government (FLAG) project, EFF files FOIA requests and lawsuits for documents about the government's use of investigative power, among other things. Our goal is to pry information out of government filing cabinets and make it available for all to see, which helps to ensure that public officials are held accountable for their actions.

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