Request for Space Shuttle Settlement Data Rejected
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department has rejected a request by The Associated Press for disclosure of the government’s settlements with families of four astronauts who died in the space shuttle Challenger explosion and with Morton Thiokol Inc.
The Office of Information and Privacy ruled against the AP’s request under the federal Freedom of Information Act for public disclosure of the settlement agreements and any correspondence leading up to the settlement.
Similar requests from NBC News and several other news organizations were also turned down, Richard L. Huff, the office’s co-director, said Wednesday.
The office’s decision was on an appeal by the AP of an earlier denial by the Justice Department’s civil division, which worked out the settlements with the families and Morton Thiokol and announced them Dec. 29.
Each of the families of four of the astronauts killed in the explosion will receive at least $1 million from the government and Morton Thiokol, manufacturer of the solid rocket boosters used on Challenger, Justice Department sources have said. Morton Thiokol is reported to have contributed 60 percent of the sum in the settlement.
The settlement with the families is being kept secret to protect their personal privacy, said Huff, who made the decision.
The settlement with Morton Thiokol won’t be publicly released because, among other things, said the department, it falls under an exemption which the department interprets as saying that commercial and financial data on corporations are privileged information.