David Sklar, Justice Department's Fragile Read-Never Database. This must surely be a candidate for the dumbest FOIA excuse ever:
The Center for Public Integrity filed a Freedom of Information request to get a copy of the Foreign Agent Registration database, which includes information on activities by registered lobbyists on behalf on foreign governments.
The Justice Department said that it couldn't provide a copy of the entire database because doing so could destroy the database.
Meanwhile, you can go to the appropriate office in Washington DC and pay fifty cents a page to make copies of documents. The information is available in (expensive) page-by-page drips, but not as a whole.
I am curious to learn about the quantum database software in use that could subject the data to changes by reading it. Or perhaps the 8 inch floppies that the data is stored on would get too hot and melt if they had to spin so fast to copy entire files?
It's hard to imagine what's behind this. Terminal incompetence? Cussed desire to undermine FOIA? Halliburton provided the equipment?
Or could it be a Rovian fear that someone will cross-index the database with, say, the lists of donors to the Bush campaign?