Policy and News Updates for March 8, 2006

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Policy Updates for March 8, 2006

[new] Reclassification of Documents leads to investigation
Thousands of declassified documents were removed from public access from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the National Security Archive revealed. The National Archives halted the reclassification program until its Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) could conduct an audit of the reclassified documents.
Status: ISOO is currently conducting an investigation. The Archivist of the United States has declared a moratorium on reclassification until the audit is complete. Rep. Christopher Shays will hold a hearing on this and other classification problems on March 14.
Sources: NARA press release on the investigation and ISOO audit; Secrecy News 2.23 and 3.3; Secret Again: The absurd scheme to reclassify documents [Slate]

[new] Pentagon releases Guantanamo names
A federal judge ordered the Defense Department to release the names of hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to The Associated Press, which had filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act. The disclosure consists of transcripts of tribunals in which 500 detainees had their combatant status assessed.
Status: The names have been released on the Department of Defense website.
Sources: Testimony of Detainees Before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal [Department of Defense]; Pentagon reveals Guantanamo names [BBC News]

[updated] Congress approves reauthorization of PATRIOT Act
On March 1, the Senate passed S. 2271, a compromise bill which offers a few improvements to the PATRIOT Act, such as making explicit the right to counsel. However, the new legislation does not change many of the current problems, such as the standard for issuing orders without probable cause under Section 215.
Status: On March 1, the Senate voted 89-10 on S. 2271. The House approved the legislation on March 7 by a vote of 280-138.
Sources: S. 2271; American Library Association summary; House approves Patriot Act renewal [CNN]

[updated] Washington corruption spurs proposals for reform
Congressional Democratic and Republican leaders rushed to propose fixes to Washington’s corruption scandals after super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pled guilty to conspiracy, tax and fraud charges. On March 6, the Senate began debating S. 2349, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act and S. 2128, the Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act.
Status: The Senate will probably vote on the legislation by next week. House Republicans have not backed any particular legislation.
Sources: S.2349; S.2128; OMB Watch’s Lobbying Reform & Government Ethics Resource Center; Links to bills and member floor statements [moresoftmoneyhardlaw.com],


News from Coalition Partners and Others

[updated] Sunshine Week: Are We Safer in the Dark?
On Monday, March 13, OpenTheGovernment.org and 9 co-sponsoring groups will hold a lively panel discussion to ask "Are We Safer in the Dark?". The program will link via satellite from the National Press Club in Washington, DC to 50 host sites around the country. Find a local program near you by referring to our Directory of Registered Sites! If you live in the Washington, DC area and would like to attend the program live, please contact us!