Policy and News Updates for March 17, 2005


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Policy Updates


ACTION ALERT: Please take a moment to support the OPEN Government Act by (1) contacting Congress and urging them to support this critical piece of legislation to make ours a safer society and more open government, and (2) redistributing the alert to others who may support this effort.

This week is Sunshine Week! Newspapers, journalists and media groups joined together to promote open government and draw attention to problems of secrecy. For news articles, op-eds, and more information visit www.sunshineweek.org. Also, view the OpenTheGovernment.org ads running this week at www.nationaljournal.com. The ads rotate, so you may have to refresh your browser. (HINT: It begins, "What government says, "It’s a secret.")

[new] Faster FOIA: Proposed Commission Would Examine Delays
Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced another bill March 10 that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The legislation would create an advisory commission tasked with proposing ways to reduce delays in responding to FOIA requests. Remarkably, the bill already passed out of the Judiciary Committee.
Status: Approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 17.
Source: Text of S. 589

[new] Restore FOIA: Bill Would Fix ‘Critical Infrastructure’ Exemption
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) reintroduced the Restore FOIA Act March 15, which would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 so that provisions in the law to protect "Critical Infrastructure Information" would not undermine FOIA. Leahy introduced the widely-supported legislation in the 108th Congress, but it was never passed.
Status: Introduced March 15, 2005.
Source: Leahy press release with bill text

[updated] OPEN Gov’t Act: Bipartisan Bill Strengthens Open Government
Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the OPEN Government Act (S. 394) to strengthen openness in the federal government. The bill forces agencies to pay legal costs in more cases when faced with a lawsuit over improperly withheld records and puts in place other measures to hold agencies more accountable for fulfilling public requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
Status: Cornyn & Leahy picked up two additional Republican co-sponsors, Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The bill was introduced on Feb. 16, 2005. View webcast and member and witness statements of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security March 15 hearing on the bill.
Source: OpenTheGovernment.org analysis; Text & Status of S. 394; Letter from Cornyn & Leahy seeking co-sponsors; Statement of Cornyn; Statement of Leahy
Action: Tell your representatives to support the OPEN Government Act!



**For other policies that OpenTheGovernment.org is watching, please visit our compendium.


The Spotlight Stories in OpenTheGovernment.org’s Press Room highlight the human impact of open government and government secrecy through stories from communities all over the country. Read the stories about how open government makes a safer and more accountable society, or submit your own story.



News Highlights



Looking for authors! The Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service distributes op-ed opinion pieces on any topic related to freedom of information. Pieces related in some way to the Freedom of Information Act are especially welcome. The op-eds may be published freely as long as the author is credited. To view the latest op-ed as well as all pieces in the series, go to Knight Ridder/Tribune. Pieces should be 700 words in length and sent as part of the email message (without attachments) to Ray Walker at rwalker@krtinfo.com and oped@krtinfo.com. Please also let us know if you submit a piece!


Recent pieces:

  • Myriam Marquez talks about secrecy as an impediment to accountability.
  • Mark Tapscott discusses Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) bill to fix FOIA.


Note: These op-eds reflect the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent the positions or viewpoints of the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition or its Partners.


For more news stories published about Sunshine Week, see Google News


CIA Seeks Documents in Iraqi Inmate Death
[Associated Press March 17]


Too much secrecy leads to leaks, Senate told
[Associated Press via First Amendment Center March 15]


Support Builds for Federal Shield Law, But Passage Unlikely This Year
[Associated Press via Editor & Publisher March 14]


Survey: Public Supports More Government Openness
[Editor & Publisher March 13]


AP Review: Gov’t Reducing Access to Info
[Associated Press via Washington Post March 13]


U.S. official secrets multiplying at fast pace
[Scripps Howard News Service March 10]


Journalists push for government openness
[Associated Press via ABC News March 10]


Senators to Introduce ‘Sunshine’ Bill Today
[Associated Press via Editor & Publisher March 10]


Sun-Sentinel sues for release of FEMA hurricane aid records
[Sun-Sentinel March 9]


GA Legislature Mulls Bill That Would Hide Waste Dump Siting Negotiations
[SEJ WatchDog March 9]


WV Paper Thwarts Coal Industry Bid to Shut Public Out of Water Pollution Decisions
[SEJ WatchDog March 9]


No flood of records requests
[Rocky Mountain News March 9]


Government Secrecy Continued to Rise in 2004
[Secrecy News March 8]


Justices, 7-2, Reject Secrecy at Tax Court
[New York Times March 8]


Demand for Public Information Is Surging
[Newhouse News Service March 8]


High court rules in newspaper’s favor in sheriff’s records case
[Boston Globe March 8]


Whistleblowers accuse University of California of retaliation
[Associated Press via First Amendment Center March 7]


Efforts to Hide Sensitive Data Pit 9/11 Concerns Against Safety
[New York Times March 5]


Openness on the rise other places as U.S. backslides
[Cox News Service via Omaha World-Herald March 5]


Agriculture Department tries to balance cattle interests on both sides of the fence
[Associated Press via Houston Chronicle March 4]


Government secrecy grows with use of new stamps
[Cox News Service via the Oxford Press March 3]

Past Updates?