Policy and News Updates for February 16, 2005

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Policy Updates

[new]Bipartisan Bill Strengthens Open Government
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced legislation to strengthen openness in the federal government. The bill forces agencies to pay legal costs in more cases when faced with a lawsuit over improperly withheld records and puts in place other measures to hold agencies more accountable for fulfilling public requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
Status: The bill was introduced on Feb. 16, 2005.
Source: Statement of Sen. Cornyn and Statement of Sen. Patrick Leahy

[new]Patriot Act: Narrowing Sneak and Peak
The Reasonable Notice and Search Act (S. 316) would narrow Section 213 of the Patriot Act by limiting the cases in which a delayed notice warrant can be granted; providing a time limit for notice in these cases; including a sunset provision so these “sneak and peak” provisions sunset with other Patriot Act surveillance expansions; and requiring a public report on how Section 213 is used.
Status: The bill is referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Source: Thomas

[new]Patriot Act: Protecting Library Records
Sen. Feingold (D-WI) introduced S. 317 to protect library records and other records under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 from unwarranted seizure. The bill would amend Section 215 and 505 of the Patriot Act, requiring the FBI to provide sufficient evidence that a library user is a suspected terrorist before obtaining records. It would also require annual reports to Congress from the Attorney General on how the provisions are being used.
Status: The bill is referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Source: Thomas

[new]NRC Expands Designation for Safeguards Information
A new proposed rule from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would increase the amount of information that is secret as Safeguards Information (SGI). SGI information is only released to those with a “need to know” and is not available to the public. These restrictions may hide from the public safety threats such as misplaced shipments of nuclear material, and shortcomings in training and readiness plans.
Status: The proposed rule is open for public comment until March 14 for the information collection provisions, and March 28 for the remainder of the rule. OpenTheGovernment.org will have links posted to analyses of the rule soon.

Source: Federal Register

[new]Protecting Journalists’ Sources: Shield Law Introduced
After several reporters were subpoenaed to disclose who revealed the identity of a CIA agent, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced a bill, the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 340), which would allow reporters to keep the identities of sources confidential. The bill also moves to keep reporters from being subject of subpoenas and to protect reporters’ phone and other records, even if the records were held by other parties such as a phone company.
Status: The bill is referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Source: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; read the text of S. 340

**For other policies that OpenTheGovernment.org is watching, please visit our compendium.

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News Highlights

Looking for authors! The Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service distributes op-ed opinion pieces on any topic related to freedom of information. Pieces related in some way to the Freedom of Information Act are especially welcome. 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 as part of the email message (without attachments) to Ray Walker at rwalker@krtinfo.com and oped@krtinfo.com. Please also let us know if you submit a piece!

Recent pieces:

  • Mark Tapscott discusses Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) bill to fix FOIA.
  • Martin Halstuk unravels the secrecy around the intelligence budget and declares that Congress “should restore the CIA’s credibility with the American people.”

Note: These op-eds reflect the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent the positions or viewpoints of the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition or its Partners.

Denial of Historical Intel Budget Data Challenged
[Secrecy News Feb. 15]

Reforms Will Improve Oversight and Openness at FDA
[PRNewswire Feb. 15]

Tennessee government groups seek open-records training
[Associated Press via First Amendment Center Feb. 14]

Moussaoui Tries to Block Report
[Washington Post Feb. 13]

Judge Considers Declassifying Sept. 11 Report on the F.B.I.
[New York Times Feb. 13]

Open-Records Audit in Kentucky Leads to State Action
[Associated Press via Editor & Publisher Feb. 13]

History of open records law reflects struggle for freedom of information
[Cincinnati Enquirer Feb. 11]

Court Upholds Secrecy of Historical CIA Budget Data

[Secrecy News Feb. 11]

Public Interest Declassification Board May Go Unfunded
[Secrecy News Feb. 11]

9/11 Commission Staff Report on FAA Failings Published on Web
[National Security Archive Feb. 10]

Bush Administration’s First Memo on al-Qaeda Declassified
[National Security Archive Feb. 10]

Advocates for journalists may take agenda to K Street
[The Hill Feb. 10]

FCC Chiefs Want Open Government Law Eased
[Associated Press Feb. 9]

N.C. newspaper sues sheriff over access to 911 calls
[Associated Press via Raleigh News & Observer Feb. 9]

Past Updates…