Justice won't lie about not having some documents

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Thursday it is dropping its proposal to let federal law enforcement agencies in rare cases tell Freedom of Information Act requesters that the government has no records on a subject, when it actually does.

In a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the department said its proposed regulation "falls short" of balancing the need for openness and the need to protect vital law enforcement and national security concerns.

The department has actually been issuing such denials for almost 25 years, since Attorney General Edwin Meese authorized them in a 1987 directive. It said the proposed regulation was an effort to codify Meese's order in federal regulations and obtain public comment on it.