Release to one is release to all

A large number of documents on this website have been obtained under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  Occasionally, a FOIA officer will try to restrict the distribution of documents / information to the public at large.  To these I say, “Release to one is release to all.”

The well-known maxim under the FOIA that “release to one is release to all” was firmly reinforced in the Favish decision, where it was given specific application to the consequences of potential media “use” of any information disclosed. The Supreme Court in Favish took pains to articulate that “[a]s a general rule, if the information is subject to disclosure, it belongs to all” and that the potential consequences of FOIA disclosures must be viewed accordingly. 124 S. Ct. at 1580; see also, e.g., Durns v. Bureau of Prisons, 804 F.2d 701, 706 (D.C. Cir. 1986) (recognizing that “Congress granted the scholar and the scoundrel equal rights of access” under the FOIA), cert. granted, judgment vacated on other grounds & remanded, 486 U.S. 1029 (1988). In Favish, of course, this meant that the expected “public exploitation” of the requested records through “attempts to exploit pictures of the deceased family member’s remains for public purposes” by the media, among other things, were properly taken into consideration. 124 S. Ct. at 1577. Favish thus stands as a reminder to all agencies that their consideration of potential privacy invasions must include both what the requester might do with the information at hand and also what any other requester (or ultimate recipient) might do with it as well. See id. at 1581 (“It must be remembered that once there is disclosure, the information belongs to the general public” to do with it what it will.).

Supreme Court Rules for “Survivor Privacy” in Favish

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