Policy and News Updates for July 27, 2004


Policy Updates

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

[new]ACTION ALERT: 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. Source: OMB Watch.

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.

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. See also a letter, opposing the secrecy language, coordinated by the Working Group on Community Right To Know and signed by 17 organizations.

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

*The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks determined last week what open government advocates have long argued: Federal agencies are overclassifying information. Source: GovExec.com, July 26, 2004.

*The U.S. military plans to convene panels starting next week to review the cases of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, giving hundreds of prisoners captured during the war in Afghanistan their first formal opportunity to argue for their freedom. The names of panel members and detainees who appear before them will not be made public. Source: Associated Press, July 25, 2004.

*The Department of Justice has asked the Superintendent of Documents to instruct depository libraries to destroy all copies of the materials listed below. DOJ claims that these are "training materials and other materials that the DOJ staff did not feel were appropriate for external use." Source: ALAWON, July 23, 2004.

*The 9/11 Commission Report is available via a searchable interface which will cluster matching paragraphs into folders. Source: Vivísimo.

*More than five months after the White House reported them lost and four weeks to the day after the Defense Department said they were inadvertently destroyed, missing payroll records of President Bush’s disputed service in the National Guard have turned up. Source: New York Times, July 23, 2004.

*In response to allegations by a public defender that judges on the Superior Court in Washington, D.C., routinely seal entire cases, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an opinion Thursday reiterating the public’s First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings. Source: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, July 22, 2004.

*Classified U.S. intelligence budget documents were placed on the open record in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in DC district court. Source: Secrecy News, July 21, 2004.

*Federal whistleblowers may be able to breathe a little easier if a bill passed by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee becomes law. Source: GovExec.com, July 21, 2004.


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