Policy and News Updates for June 03, 2004

Policy Updates

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Oppose Extending Patriot Act
Sign On Letter (Due: Fri 6/4)
HR 3179, introduced by Sensenbrenner-Goss, would expand the Patriot Act. Status: Goss may attach it to the intelligence authorization bill moving in the House to mark it up in closed session. Resource: Organizations can sign on by emailing Tsoghig at ACLU.

Fix the Patriot Act & Strengthen Liberties
Sign On Letter (Due: Mon 6/7)

'Ten Most Wanted' List Highlights Government Secrecy

News Conference 2 pm Thurs. April 15 National Press Club, Zenger Room Embargoed for release 2 p.m. Thurs. April 15 Contact: Rick Blum, 202-234-8494 x238 Washington, D.C., April 15, 2004-A new coalition advocating less secrecy and more openness in government opened its own doors Thursday with the release of its survey report, “Ten Most Wanted Documents for 2004.”

Chemical Security

Chemical facilities can endanger their workers and communities if not properly safeguarded. Security at such facilities became an important issue after the September 11 attacks.

Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII) rule in March 2003, establishing new procedures outside of FOIA for requesting information. Companies holding CEII can submit the information to FERC and it will be protected from disclosure under FOIA. These procedures provide corporations with undue influence and opportunity to manipulate a process that is supposed to ensure the public's right to know. FERC developed this rule with no congressional oversight or mandate.

Federal Agency Information

Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU)/ Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)

The threat to government openness and information access has been heightened due to a subtitle in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which had gone relatively unnoticed. Title VIII, Subtitle I deals with "Information Sharing" and establishes procedures for sharing "homeland security" information among federal, state and local authorities.

Critical Infrastructure Information (CII)

The Critical Infrastructure Information (CII) policy provides secrecy, civil immunity, preemption of state and local disclosure laws, and protection from whistleblowers to corporations that voluntarily submit information on infrastructure vulnerabilities. DHS developed CII guidelines as mandated in the Homeland Security Act Section 214 amidst controversy. The final rule contains the highly criticized provisions, as well as some very troubling additions that broaden the overall scope of the rule.

Public Trust & Accountability

A strong right of access to government information is a key component of an accountable government. In the simplest sense, accountability is being answerable for performance or results. Much of the public's trust rests upon the government being openly accountable for its decisions, actions and mistakes. When the government operates in secret or refuses to disclose information to the public, it is in essence stripping the public of its ability to oversee and hold the government accountable.

National Security

National security has long been recognized as a legitimate reason to restrict information from the public. The risk comes in not finding the proper balance between security and the public's right to know. Government, already a reluctant releaser of information, may overuse national security as a means to hide additional information. The late Supreme Court Justice Byron White foresaw this exact danger when he noted, "the label of 'national security' may cover a multitude of sins."