Policy and News Updates for June 15, 2004

Policy Updates

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

[new]Media Coverage of Military Coffins
A pending amendment proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) would direct the Pentagon to devise a protocol that permits media coverage of the return of coffins of American service
members killed abroad, while ensuring the dignity and confidentiality of the deceased and their families.
Resource: Text of the Amendments, June 7, 2004.

[new]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), while it prepares to release procedures that may expand secrecy in the name of protecting “Sensitive Homeland Security Information.”
Resource: Secrecy News, June 11, 2004.

[updated] Oppose Extending Patriot Act
HR 3179, introduced by Sensenbrenner-Goss, would expand the Patriot Act.
Status: The House Intelligence Committee to consider adding HR 3179 to the intelligence authorization bill. Among other things, HR 3179 would allow the government to introduce secret information in immigration hearings without the defense’s knowledge.

Sensitive Security Information
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to expand the amount of information it can withhold from the public, according to a May 18 Federal Register notice. TSA is accepting public comments until July 19.
Resource: OMB Watcher, June 1, 2004.

Patriot Act Sunsets
Ten senators introduced a bill May 21 that would make permanent many of the provisions of the Patriot Act scheduled to sunset next year.
Resource: Secrecy News, May 26, 2004.

News

* Ohio public employees often ignore open-records law and are not adequately trained, according to a recent survey by the Ohio Coalition for Open Government and many newspapers.
Resource: Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 14, 2004.

* EPIC is suing the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Justice, seeking the expedited release of records under FOIA regarding agencies’ efforts to obtain passenger information from major commercial airlines.
Resource: EPIC’s court documents, June 9, 2004.

* Two new reports released by public interest groups illustrate that environmental information often depends upon government data and analyses.
“Dirty Air, Dirty Power,” documents for the first time how many heart attacks and lung cancer deaths are caused each year by coal-fired power plants. A separate report, “Dangerous Dozen,” reveals that twelve companies each endanger more than five million Americans in the event of accidents or terrorist attacks at their chemical facilities.
Resources: Clear the Air June 9, 2004 and U.S. PIRG, June 3, 2004.

* The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee are pressing the Central Intelligence Agency to agree to a broad declassification and release of the panel’s 400-page report, which is highly critical of the agency’s prewar performance on Iraq.
Resource: New York Times, June 8, 2004.

* Attorney General John Ashcroft, pressed by senators in testy exchanges Tuesday, refused to make public Justice Department memos that contended a wartime president was not bound by anti-torture laws or treaties. On June 13, 2004, the Washington Post published a Justice department memo implying torture “may be justified.”
Resource: Associated Press, June 8, 2004.


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