Policy and News Updates for August 3, 2004

Policy Updates


(New information is highlighted with [new] or [updated] in the title)


[updated] Independent Classification Board
Legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress to create an Independent National Security Classification Board in the executive branch.
Status: S.2672 has been referred to the Committee on Intelligence. H.R.4855 was referred to the House Committee on Intelligence.
Action: Send a letter to Congress in support of a classification board!


[updated] Patriot Act: Reversing the Patriot Act
The Civil Liberties Restoration Act 2004 (S. 2528) would end secret hearings, ensure due process for detained individuals, limit secret seizures of records, and limit the use of secret evidence.
Status: Introduced by members of the House and Senate June 16, and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Source: Text of the bill, June 16, 2004. A bill analysis & talking points is available from the Rights Working Group.
Action: Organizations can add their name to a sign-on to a letter and individuals can send a letter to Congress.


Patriot Act: Freedom to Read Protection Act
House Republicans, under strong pressure from the White House, narrowly defeated an amendment that would restrict the government’s ability to seize library and bookseller records under the Patriot Act.
Source: Washington Post, July 9, 2004.
Action: Contact Congress and sign the Campaign for Reader Privacy’s petition.


Sensitive Security Information (SSI): Federalism v. Secrecy
The Senate pushed to pre-empt state and local sunshine laws in order to mandate secrecy about public safety problems in aviation, rail and other transportation systems.
Status: The administration-sponsored secrecy provisions were in the Senate-passed version of the $ 350 billion transportation bill (H.R. 3550); the version passed by the House lacks them. Currently in conference.
Action: Send a letter through the American Library Association action alert and Environmental Defense action alert.


Patriot Act: Extending Patriot Act
H.R. 3179, introduced by Reps. Sensenbrenner and Goss, includes several sections of Patriot II. After opposition from many groups coordinated by the Rights Working Group, H.R. 3179 was not added to the intelligence authorization bill (S. 2386) during a closed mark-up session on June 16th.
Status: May come up as a floor amendment to the intelligence authorization bill in the Senate.
Source: Bill of Rights Defense Committee.


Patriot Act: Patriot Act Sunsets
On May 21, ten senators introduced a bill, S. 2476, that would make permanent many provisions of the Patriot Act scheduled to sunset next year.
Status: The bill is referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Source: THOMAS.


Indian Affairs FOIA Exemption
Section 7 of S. 297, the Federal Acknowledgment Process Reform Act of 2003 exempts certain actions by the Interior Department’s Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Several groups and individuals voiced objections to a Senate Bureau of Indian Affairs reform bill, in a letter delivered to Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) and Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) July 8.
Status: Committee markup is complete and the FOIA exemptions still remain. Not likely to come up on the floor but could be pushed through before the end of the session.
Source: OMB Watcher, July 12, 2004.


Media Coverage of Military Coffins
By a vote of 54-39, the Senate on June 21, upheld a ban on media coverage of fallen soldiers’ flag-draped coffins returning to the U.S.
Source: New York Times, June 22, 2004.


News Highlights


Looking for authors! The Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service distributes op-ed opinion pieces on any topic related to freedom of information. The op-eds may be published freely as long as the author is credited. To view the latest op-ed as well as all pieces in the series, go to Knight Ridder/Tribune. Pieces should be 700 words in length and sent to Ray Walker at rwalker@krtinfo.com and oped@krtinfo.com. Please also let us know if you submit a piece!


Freedom of Information Act Activity at All Time High
The Department of Justice released the number of Freedom of Information Act requests federal government agencies received last year, and for the first time it exceeded three million.
[Secrecy News Aug. 3, 2004]


UPDATE: Dept. of Justice Rescinds Withdrawal/ Destruction of Publications
The Department of Justice rescinded previous instructions to withdraw public documents from libraries. After receiving a great deal of attention from public interest and library groups, the Department determined that the materials are "not sufficiently sensitive to require removal."
[ALAWON Aug. 2, 2004]


Plan afoot to give teeth to open-records law
Ohio officials plan to strengthen the state’s open records laws by requiring training for public officials, written policies for government offices, and fines for violators.
[The Plain Dealer July 30, 2004]


Open records, closed doors
Journalists in California ended a four-month investigation into the state’s open records laws, revealing widespread non-compliance.
[The Berkeley Voice July 30, 2004]


9/11 commission sets precedent for executive privilege challenges
The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks faced many legal hurdles getting access to information but, in the end, set a precedent that challenges what the executive branch can claim as privileged material, the panel’s chief counsel said Thursday.
[GovExec.com July 29, 2004]


Center for Public Integrity Sues U.S. Government for Records
The Center for Public Integrity filed lawsuits against the Department of Justice and the Office of Personnel Management under the Freedom of Information Act because they did not release copies of a database, saying it was "so fragile."
[Center for Public Integrity July 29, 2004]


Former city attorney charged with violating Open Records Act
A former city attorney in Oklahoma has been charged with seven misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s Open Records Act after refusing to disclose her resume and city council meeting information.
[Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press July 28, 2004]


Past Updates…