Policy and News Updates for August 10, 2006

Policy Updates

[new] Reintroduction of “Official Secrets Act” raises objections
Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) introduced legislation (S. 3774) on August 2 that would criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. The new bill is identical to legislation sponsored by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) in the FY 2001 Intelligence Authorization Act and vetoed by President Clinton. Sen. Bond’s hometown newspaper, the Kansas City Star, strongly objected to the new legislation in an editorial on August 4, saying Bond had “gone too far.”

Sources: S. 3774 (via Secrecy News); Secrecy News blog; POGO blog; Law would go against ideals of free society [Kansas City Star– registration required]

Status: Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.

[new] “Sensitive Security Information” amendment to DHS Approps
Last month, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) introduced an amendment (SA 4579) to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 5441) to require review of information designated as “sensitive security information” (SSI) when a document containing SSI is requested for public release. The amendment also requires that SSI that is four years old be subject to release unless the Secretary identifies why the information must remain SSI.
Status: The amendment passed the Senate by unanimous consent. There hasn’t been a similar amendment passed by the House as part of the DHS Appropriations bill, and Gregg’s amendment will still need to be defended in conference.

Sources: Text of SA 4579 [Congressional Record- pdf]; H.R. 5441[Thomas]

[updated] New legislation encourages transparency
On August 8, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590). The House passed a bill (H.R. 5060) that would provide access to information on federal grants but not contracts and is therefore seen as less desirable by many transparency advocates.
Status: S. 2590 and H.R. 5060 are headed to conference committee. Sen. Collins and Lieberman requested that S. 2590 be fast-tracked and brought to the Senate floor for a unanimous consent vote, but August recess came before the request could reach the floor.

Sources: S. 2590 [Thomas]; H.R. 5060; Contracts and Grants Disclosure Bill Fast-Tracked [OMB Watcher]

News from Coalition Partners and Others

Bruce Craig will leave NCH chair in 2007
R. Bruce Craig, Executive Director of the National Coalition for History (NCH), announced he will be leaving NCH effective January 1, 2007 and relocating to Prince Edward Island, Canada. See the announcement here.