Policy and News Updates for August 11, 2005

Italics indicates new or updated news
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OpenTheGovernment.org is collecting stories on the use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). If you have an experience using FOIA–anything from delayed responses to costly appeals–please share it with us. We will be compiling stories to show how the law is being used, and to further educate leaders about the need to improve the law. Please tell us your story by email.


Policy Updates



[updated] PATRIOT Act: House votes for renewal, Senate passes bill
The House passed a bill, H.R. 3199, on July 21 to indefinitely extend the PATRIOT Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), renews 14 of the 16 provisions set to expire at the end of this year. The bill did not include the Sanders Amendment, which would have put library and bookstore records out of the Act’s reach. The other two provisions, sections 206 and 215, were extended for 10 years. Meanwhile, the Senate approved by unanimous consent a bill (S. 1389) sponsored by Chairman Arlen Specter (R- Pa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) that would extend the Patriot Act. The Senate bill extends the wiretap and library provisions for four-years. The House and Senate measures must be reconciled in conference committee or the Patriot Act’s most controversial sections will expire at the end of the year.
Status: The House of Representatives must appoint members to the conference committee. The Senate appointed Sens. Specter (R-PA), Hatch (R-UT), Kyl (R-AZ), DeWine (R-OH), Sessions (R-AL), Roberts (R-KS), Leahy (D-VT), Kennedy (D-MA), Rockefeller (D-WV), and Levin (D-MI).
Sources: H.R. 3199; S. 1389; Bill of Rights Defense Committee summary; Text of Senate vote

FOIA Exemption Disclosure Bill: Passed in Senate
Congress would have to disclose when it puts information beyond the public’s reach under the Freedom of Information Act according to a new bill (S. 1181) introduced on June 7 by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). This is the third Cornyn-Leahy bill aimed at strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill is identical to section eight of the OPEN Government Act (S. 394) and Cornyn and Leahy hope to pass it as stand-alone legislation. On Friday, June 24, the Senate voted by unanimous consent to approve S. 1181.
Status: Referred to the House Committee on Government Reform.
Source: Sen. Cornyn statement; Sen. Leahy press release; Text of S. 1181;Congressional Record posted by Federation of American Scientists

House votes to fund Public Interest Declassification Board
The House approved a bill that would fund the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) next fiscal year. Congress established the Board to advise the president on ways to prevent agencies from classifying documents that should be public. According to the House report on the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (House Report 109-119), the House Appropriations Committee will allocate $1,000,000 to the PIDB. Even though most of its members have been named by the White House and Congressional leaders, the board has yet to meet.
Source: Text of House Report;POGO’s group letter supporting full funding of the Board


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