Policy and News Updates for November 7, 2006

Policy Updates


[new] Public Interest Declassification Board unable to act
The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), the advisory committee established by Congress in order to promote public access to information and reduce excessive secrecy, is unable to act on its first request by Congress. The Board received a request from the Senate Intelligence Committee to review the classification of parts of two committee reports on prewar Iraq intelligence, but it is unable to act because a provision in its statute says the Board cannot act without a request from the President. It is unlikely the President will make such a request.
Sources: Analysis: Secrecy board called ‘toothless’ [United Press International]; Public Interest Declassification Board Stalls [Secrecy News blog]

[new] Investigation into global warming censorship
Inspectors General at NASA and the Commerce Department are investigating whether the Bush administration has suppressed government scientists’ research on global warming. The investigation was prompted by a letter to the Inspectors General from 14 Democratic Senators sent September 29, led by Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. The results of the investigation will become public early next year, according to an aide to Sen. Lautenberg.
Sources: IGs Probe Allegations On Global Warming Data [Washington Post]; Sen. Lautenberg’s press release and letter

[updated] Plan to close EPA libraries leads to GAO investigation
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating why EPA is closing its libraries around the country, including in Chicago; Dallas; Kansas City, Mo., and in Washington, D.C. Pressure from public interest groups, citizens, journalists, EPA employees, and Congress led to the GAO investigation. Also responding to pressure, EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock publicly promised that EPA library material will be available digitally in the very near future, but offered no timeline or plan.
Status: Sens. Boxer and Lautenberg organized a letter, sent November 3, to senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that the Committee direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restore and maintain public access to its library collections.
Sources: EPA Closes Libraries, Raises Questions Of Suppressing Info[Cox News Service]; WatchDog TipSheet [Society of Environmental Journalists]; Dear Colleague letter [pdf]
Action! If you are unable to obtain a document online in the EPA’s Online Library System, contact EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock at (202) 564-4711 or peacock.marcus@epa.gov

News from Coalition Partners and Others


Action! Is there a "secret hold" on the Freedom of Information Act bill? You can help expose it!
On September 21, The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the OPEN Government Act (S. 394). But Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a sponsor of the bill, suspects it is being blocked by a "secret hold." The Society of Environmental Journalists encourages citizens to call their Senator to find out if he or she placed a hold on the bill. Find out more background information. Check here to see if someone has already called your Senator.

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