Policy and News Updates for July 20, 2004

Policy Updates

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

[updated] 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.

[updated] ACTION ALERTS: 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. (See news section for related information.)
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.
Source: American Library Association action alert and Environmental Defense action alert.

Patriot Act #1: 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.

Patriot Act #2: 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 #3: 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. The bill is referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Source: THOMAS.

Patriot Act #4: 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.

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.

For Official Use Only Provisions
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is imposing extraordinary new access controls on unclassified information that it deems “for official use only” (FOUO), which includes “information that could be sold for profit” or indicate “government intentions.” This type of information is different from Sensitive But Unclassified information, which DHS is expected to write provisions for very soon.
Source: Secrecy News, June 11, 2004.

News Highlights

*Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Trent Lott (R-MS), Bob Graham (D-FL) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) yesterday introduced bipartisan legislation to establish an Independent National Security Classification Board that would review current classification policies, make recommendations for reform, and serve as a neutral forum for reexamining disputed classification decisions.
Source: Secrecy News, July 16, 2004.

*A report submitted to Congress today by Attorney General Ashcroft on the government’s use of the Patriot Act omits key information and avoids any mention of numerous controversial provisions of the law, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
Source: ACLU, July 13, 2004.
More information on the report and Ashcroft’s remarks at Secrecy News, July 14, 2004.

*In response to expanding government controls on a poorly defined category of unclassified information called “sensitive security information” (SSI), a new coalition of journalism advocacy organizations is calling upon government agencies to preserve public access to what it terms “critical oversight information” (COI).
Source: Secrecy News, July 19, 2004.

*A new site, outragedmoderates.org, launched the Download For Democracy campaign that has aggregated more than 600 government and court documents to make them available for download through the Kazaa, LimeWire and Soulseek P2P networks in the interest of making government more transparent and accountable.
Source: Wired News, July 19, 2004.

*A watchdog group has removed documents from its Web site that detail military research into knockout gases similar to the one used in the deadly 2002 Moscow theater siege after the Marine Corps warned they could pose a threat to Defense Department employees.
Source: Associated Press, July 17, 2004.

*A newspaper group in Kentucky filed a lawsuit seeking to pry open juvenile court proceedings and records that are shielded from the public by state laws.
Source: Associated Press, July 17, 2004.

*The Bush administration is withholding information from U.N.-sanctioned auditors examining more than $ 1 billion in contracts awarded to Halliburton Co. and other companies in Iraq without competitive bidding.
Source: Washington Post, July 16, 2004.

*The General Accounting Office release a report with the self-descriptive title “Environmental Disclosure: SEC Should Explore Ways to Improve Tracking and Transparency of Information.” Source: GAO Report, July 14, 2004.

*The Center for American Progress created a webpage listing documents the White House has refused to release.
Source: “A History of Refusing to Release Documents”, July 9, 2004.

*The California Environmental Quality Act does not require that the identity of the end user of a development project–in this case Wal-Mart–be disclosed in the project description.
Source: CalAware Weekly News, July 2, 2004.

Past Updates…