Policy and News Updates for March 3, 2005

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Policy Updates

[updated] Bipartisan Bill Strengthens Open Government: Cornyn-Leahy Bill Hearing on March 15
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont 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: The bill was introduced on Feb. 16, 2005. There may be a hearing on the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 15.
Source: Text & Status of S. 394; Letter from Cornyn & Leahy seeking co-sponsors; Statement of Cornyn; Statement of Leahy

[updated] Protecting Journalists’ Sources: Shield Law Picks Up 3 Co-sponsors
After several reporters were subpoenaed to disclose who revealed the identity of a CIA agent, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced a bill, the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 340), which would allow reporters to keep the identities of sources confidential. The bill also moves to keep reporters from being subject of subpoenas and to protect reporters’ phone and other records, even if the records were held by other parties such as a phone company.
Status: The bill is referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The bill added two new Republican co-sponsors and one Democrat: Sens. Lincoln Chafee (RI), Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Source: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; read the text of S. 340

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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:

  • Mark Tapscott discusses Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) bill to fix FOIA.
  • Martin Halstuk unravels the secrecy around the intelligence budget and declares that Congress “should restore the CIA’s credibility with the American people.”

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.

CIA Avoids Scrutiny of Detainee Treatment

[Washington Post March 3]

Bush wielding secrecy privilege to end suits

[Chicago Tribune March 3]

Records bill adds limits to access

[The Olympian March 2]

Attorney General Urges Renewal Of Patriot Act

[Washington Post March 1]

High court agrees to hear whistleblower case

[Associated Press via the First Amendment Center Feb. 28]

Bills to secure public access: Legislation would create records expert, block lawsuits
[Newszap Arizona Feb. 28]

Ohio high court rules 911 tapes, as public record, can be copied

[Associated Press via the Cincinnati Enquirer Feb. 25]

Court rules Army officer illegally closed investigative hearing

[Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Feb. 24]

High court rules Cornell must disclose financial documents

[Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Feb. 24]

Chambers Files Federal Lawsuit ? Seeking Damages for Destruction of Exonerating Documents

[Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Feb. 24]

Cadre grows to rein in message
[Newsday Feb. 24]

Dispute at Whistle-Blower Office
[Washington Post Feb. 24]

N.C. Open Government Coalition launches Web site
[Associated Press via Myrtle Beach Sun News Feb. 23]

FOIA’D Records Yield Lawsuit on Secret EPA Pesticide Deals
[SEJ WatchDog Feb. 23]

Access to Memos Is Affirmed
[Washington Post Feb. 23]

DHS Finally Speaks on CII
[OMB Watcher Feb. 22]

FCC Requests Exemption in Open Meetings Law
[OMB Watcher Feb. 22]

Nuclear Commission Expands Secrecy Provisions

[OMB Watcher Feb. 22]

Panel dissects Patriot Act
[Columbia Missourian Feb. 18]

Right-to-know bill on hold

[Laconia Citizen Feb. 18]

Legislation in 2 states would let sick farms stay secret

[Associated Press via the First Amendment Center Feb. 17]

Jury awards whistleblower almost $500,000
[Associated Press via the First Amendment Center Feb. 16]

Senate bill aims to strengthen FOI Act
[Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Feb. 16]

Past Updates…