Policy and News Updates for June 22, 2004

Policy Updates

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

[new] 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.
Status: The administration-sponsored secrecy provisions are in the Senate-passed version of the $ 350 billion transportation bill (H.R. 3550); the version passed by the House lacks them. The differences will be negotiated in conference.
Resource: SEJ WatchDog, June 16, 2004.

[new] 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.
Resource: Text of the bill, June 16, 2004. A bill analysis & talking points is available from the Rights Working Group.

[updated] 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. Resource: 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.

[updated] 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. Resource: 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.
Resource: Secrecy News June 11, 2004.


*The FBI asked to use Section 215 of the Patriot Act that allows for access to people’s business and library records immediately after Attorney General John D. Ashcroft publicly stated that particular part of the law had never been used, according to government documents.
Resource: Washington Post, June 18, 2004.

*Congratulations goes to the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, a new coalition of 26 top journalism groups representing more than 15,000 members, for receiving a four-year, $ 500,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to fight growing government secrecy.
Resource: AScribe Newswire, June 18, 2004.

*The secret statements of Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheik Mohammed were released by the independent commission probing the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, despite the fact that the federal judge overseeing the case agreed to provide the statements on the condition that they not be made public.
Resource: Washington Post, June 18, 2004.

*The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed making part or all of some Environmental Impact Statements on its actions secret, carving a major loophole the National Environmental Policy Act. Public comments will be accepted until July 14.
Resource: SEJ WatchDog, June 16, 2004.

*The government has made frivolous justifications for not releasing the government’s secret no-fly list, which bars individuals on the list from boarding commercial flights, according to a federal judge.
Resource: Associated Press, June 16, 2004.

*The Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy has published a newly updated edition of its Freedom of Information Act Guide that describes basic procedures, provisions and case law.
Resource: Department of Justice, May 2004.

Past Updates…