Policy and News Updates for July 1, 2005

Italics indicates new or updated news
Email your tips and updates to info@openthegovernment.org

Action Item–Tell Your FOIA Story!
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] 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

[updated] PATRIOT Act and Protecting Library Records: House Acts
The House voted 238-187 on June 15 to limit access to library records and bookstore sales slips by investigators, despite a veto threat from the White House. Meanwhile, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted in secret to expand several provisions in the PATRIOT Act (see below for more information).
Source: First Amendment Center

[updated] PATRIOT Act: Acting in secret, committee expands PATRIOT Act
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence passed a secret bill on June 7 to expand the PATRIOT Act, leaving unclear how the House and Senate will proceed given the judiciary committees in the House and Senate have primary jurisdiction on the issue.
Source: ACLU Statement; Roberts’ Press Release; Senate Report
Action: Sign the Campaign for Reader Privacy petition and tell Congress to Support Legislation to Fix the Patriot Act

[new] 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 be funded.
Source: Text of House Report; POGO’s group letter supporting full funding of the Board


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

In the Issues section of the OpenTheGovernment.org website, you can find background information on the four issues that the coalition focuses on–democracy, public trust and accountability, environmental health and safety, and national security. Learn some of the history of the issues, why they are necessary for an open government, and what are the related government policies.



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 applauds conservatives for supporting of FOIA.
  • Mark Tapscott comments on the Justice Department’s stance on recouping legal fees under FOIA.


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.