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Statement on Signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986

October 27, 1986

As I stated in my remarks at the signing ceremony for this bill, I am pleased to sign the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. One other matter concerning the act is worthy of note. This act contains several important provisions reforming the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that will considerably enhance the ability of Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, to combat drug offenders and other criminals. My administration has been seeking such reforms since 1981.

These FOIA reforms substantially broaden the law enforcement exemptions in that act, thereby increasing significantly the authority of Federal agencies to withhold sensitive law enforcement documents in their files. The statutory language changes make clear, for example, that any Federal law enforcement information relating to pending investigations or confidential sources may be withheld if its disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause an identified harm. The act also includes, for the first time, special exclusions whereby certain law enforcement records would no longer be subject to the requirements of the FOIA under particularly sensitive, specified circumstances.

Additionally, this act makes several changes with respect to the charging of fees under the FOIA. Agencies will now be able to charge and recover the full costs of processing requests for information under the FOIA, consistent with the Federal user fee concept, in the large number of cases in which FOIA requests are made for commercial purposes, a term that has been broadly construed in other contexts of the FOIA. At the same time, the act will somewhat limit the fees applicable to noncommercial educational or scientific institutions and to bona fide representatives of established news media outlets. It is important that no such special treatment is accorded to organizations engaged in the business of reselling government records or information.

Finally, the bill improves the standard governing the general waiver of FOIA fees, by mandating that such waivers be granted only where it is established that disclosure is in the "public interest" because it is likely to "contribute significantly to public understanding" of the operations or activities of the Government. This standard is intended to focus upon benefits to the public at large, rather than upon the interest of a particular segment of the public, and thus clarifies the type of public interest to be advanced.

Note: H.R. 5484, approved October 27, was assigned Public Law No. 99-570.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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