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DOJ defends USDA take-down of massive animal abuse database

Follow up to previous postings – Animal welfare information wiped from USDA website and Some animal welfare data removed from USDA site is restored – via Josh Gerstein – Politico – “The Justice Department is mounting a legal defense of one of the most-publicized counter-transparency moves of the new Trump administration: the Agriculture Department’s decision to take offline a massive set of records on enforcement of laws against animal abuse. The Agriculture Department yanked the records from its website on Feb. 3, citing privacy concerns. The action prompted an outcry from several animal-advocacy groups, who filed a suit to restore the data. Now, the Justice Department is insisting that the government has no legal obligation to place the data online in advance of formal Freedom of Information Act requests, even though Agriculture Department officials previously said they had a legal duty to do so. “Plaintiffs’ interpretation is contrary to the plain language of the [FOIA] provision,” Justice Department attorney Peter Bryce wrote in a motion seeking dismissal of the suit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups. “Perversely, plaintiffs seem to suggest that such routine, proactive posting of records should itself trigger a mandatory legal obligation…thereby making such proactive disclosures legally obligatory (and, according to plaintiffs, irrevocable) once the records are posted to the agency website.”

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