The O'Connor dissent

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor got to the heart of the matter this week in another example of the independent judgment marking her first term. It came in her dissent from the Supreme Court's decision to let the FBI withhold file summaries requested by a journalist under the Freedom of Information Act.

A lower court had ruled that the summaries, prepared for political purposes under the Nixon administration, did not qualify for a statutory exemption. The Supreme Court majority interpreted the exemption more broadly and overturned the lower ruling. Mrs. O'Connor read the law to require narrow construction and the judicial interpretation ''most favoring disclosure'' - as a public concerned about freedom of information would hope. Even if it were possible to ''concoct genuine doubts'' about this particular exemption, she said, those doubts would have to be resolved in favor of disclosure. Hear, hear.

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