Endangered Records

Posted July 2, 2004 at 5:05pm

Lobbyists representing foreign interests are operating in relative obscurity these days due to the dilapidated state of some computers at the Justice Department, according to a study by the Center of Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog.

[IMGCAP(1)]In March, the center requested an electronic copy of the complete Foreign Agents Registration Act database maintained by the DOJ’s Counterespionage section. In May, it received a letter denying the request on the basis that the computer system simply couldn’t handle such a task.

Given the office’s substantial problems with the current system, implementing such a request “risks a crash that cannot be fixed and could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating,” Thomas McIntyre, of DOJ’s Freedom of Information Act response unit, told CPI.

CPI, according to The Associated Press, plans to appeal the decision.

On a more positive note, McIntyre informed CPI that it’s currently overhauling its antiquated computer system and by December should be able to roll out a new system with upgraded search capabilities.

Until then, paper records are available for four hours each day in the DOJ’s Washington offices.

Motioned Denied. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declined Thursday to seal portions of a lawsuit pending against the U.S. Capitol Guide Service.

Walton ruled on a motion submitted by Senate Senior Counsel for Employment Toby Hyman in late May that would have sealed portions of the amended complaint filed by Kevin Barry, a former Guide Service employee who asserts that he faced discrimination and was wrongfully terminated from his position in July 2003.

However, the decision will still limit Barry from discussing specific details about mediation he engaged in under the Congressional Accountability Act, according to Nicholas Woodfield, one of Barry’s attorneys.

“But the fact that he engaged in it, he’s free to talk about that,” Woodfield said.

Barry, who is deaf, asserts that superiors subjected him to years of retaliation after he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint in the late 1990s.

The 57-year-old former guide is seeking monetary damages and reinstatement.

— Amy Keller and Jennifer Yachnin