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The Justice Department has come up with the bureaucratic equivalent of "the cat ate my homework". The DoJ has told watchdog the Center for Public Integrity, which has submitted a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request on foreign lobbyists that its own computers will crash and lose the data if it tries to comply.

"What they're asking for is a lot, and it's not something at this particular point in time we have the technical ability to do," a DoJ flak told AP's Ted Bridis [report] In a letter to the group sent last month, the DoJ's criminal division says that "implementing such requests risks a crash that cannot be fixed and could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating." The DoJ also says the search would be costly and take a long time to implement. "We weren't aware there were databases that could be destroyed just by copying them," the Center's Bob Williams replied. The DoJ has said that its systems are being overhauled and the results should be available after the Election, in December. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who doesn't dance for religious reasons, has encouraged his staff to stall FOIA requests.

You can read more about the difficulties of obtaining the information, which the DoJ is legally obliged to produce, at the Center for Public Integrity's website. 50 cents a page does sound rather expensive for photocopying.

During the Microsoft Antitrust trial, Redmond said it couldn't provide accounting information requested claiming that it didn't keep computerized records of sales data for its billion dollar business. IBM's Frank Soltis suggested that this was the real reason. ®

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