Policy and News Updates for June 29, 2004

Policy Updates

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

[updated] 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 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.

Resource: SEJ WatchDog, June 16, 2004.

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.

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.

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.

News

*Americans’ support for their First Amendment freedoms — deeply shaken by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — continues to rebound and is back at pre-9/11 levels, according to the annual State of the First Amendment survey, conducted by the First Amendment Center in collaboration with American Journalism Review magazine.
Resource: First Amendment Center, June 28, 2004.

*Justice Department officials, in response to a FOIA request, say a huge database that serves as the public’s lone window on lobbying activities by foreign governments has been allowed to decay to a point they cannot
even make a copy of its contents.
Resource: Center for Public Integrity, June 28, 2004.

*A statewide coalition created to protect and improve Tennessee’s public-access laws announced that it would organize a statewide public-records audit and develop a Web site as a resource for journalists and citizens who are having problems getting public information.
Resource: Associated Press, June 25, 2004.

*The government’s move to retroactively classify information that was provided to Congress regarding the case of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds was challenged June 23 in two separate lawsuits.
Resource: Secrecy News, June 24, 2004.

*The U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule on whether Vice President Cheney must disclose information about the energy task force to the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch.
Resource: Sierra Club, June 24, 2004.

*A ruling from the Texas state attorney general’s office will allow Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to keep details of phone bills secret, compromising open government.
Resource: Houston Chronicle, June 24, 2004.

*The Associated Press sued the Pentagon and the Air Force on June 22, seeking access to all records of George W. Bush’s military service during the Vietnam War.
Resource: Associated Press, June 23, 2004.

*The Bush administration removed more than six thousand public documents relating to environmental right to know issues, from the web sites of over a dozen government agencies.
Resource: Working Group on Community Right to Know.


Past Updates…

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