Freedom of Information

Pat Leahy Introduces 'Restore FOIA' Bill
Freedom of Information

The Hill reports: "A group of senators led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is working to beef up public access to government records after the new Homeland Security Act placed new restrictions on the 1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) last November. Leahy called the Homeland Security Act the most severe weakening of the Freedom of Information Act in its 36-year history as he and his colleagues introduced the 'Restore FOIA' bill."

Sen. Robert Byrd: 'Protecting the Right to Know'
Freedom of Information

"When Congress last fall adopted legislation to create the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it also adopted a new exemption to FOIA, allowing private companies to hide information from the public as long as they voluntarily submit this information to the DHS. The exemption applies to any information about the facilities that make up our country's 'critical infrastructure'... that could be targets of a terrorist attack. The FOIA exemption that Congress enacted is too broad. It allows the Department of Homeland Security to cloak too many of its activities in secrecy. The current law does nothing to encourage companies to address vulnerabilities, nor does it require the DHS to fix the problems... To make a bad law even worse, the Department recently proposed new rules that would broaden the exemption even further. To close these loopholes, I am cosponsoring legislation called the Restore Freedom of Information Act."

Bush Issues New Secrecy Executive Order by Employing 'Advance Damage Control'
Freedom of Information

"Around 7:00 pm on 25 March, copies of the signed EO were released to select members of the Washington press corps. Recipients were connected via conference call to a 'senior administration official' who provided a background briefing on the condition of anonymity (see: http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2003/03/wh032503.html). Because of copy deadlines, the timing of the briefing made it difficult for reporters to consult experts in disclosure and government secrecy who could provide meaningful comment. Also, because the president [sic] was scheduled to be on the road the next day, no routine press briefing was anticipated, making it impossible for reporters to pose timely on-the-record questions to administration officials...In general, the government now has more discretion to keep information classified indefinitely, especially if it falls within a broad new definition of national security." Impeach BushCheney!

Bush Scrubs Libraries and the Internet, Crippling Scientists
Freedom of Information

Rachel Kipp from AP writes, "Some scientists are running into a major post-Sept. 11 stumbling block: Federal restrictions have eliminated access to information vital to their studies...The government has cut Internet links, stripped information from agency Web sites and even required federal librarians to destroy a CD-ROM on public water supplies. For example, University of Michigan researchers lost access to an EPA database with information vital to their three-year study of hazardous waste facilities. (how convenient)...'It's sort of the national history that's being withdrawn,' said Andrea Sevetson, former head of government information at the University of California at Berkeley. She fears people won't post information at government Web sites 'because they don't want to get in trouble.'"

Dept of Education Plans to Purge Web Site of All 'Non-Bush' Information
Freedom of Information

The Department of Education is the latest Bush-controlled bureaucracy to declare that "anything not compulsory is forbidden". On the phony pretext of cleaning "obsolete" material from its web site, http://www.ed.gov, it is eliminating anything that "does not reflect the priorities, philosophies, or goals of the present administration." It's just the latest move in Bush's campaign to increase security by eliminating freedom: his own security and our freedom, that is.

Corporate Publishing Giant Rodale Seeks to Torpedo Freedom of Information on Internet by Making Article Links Illegal
Freedom of Information

Here is a beautiful example of corporate greed, hypocrisy and contempt for freedom of information: Rodale Press is threatening to sue a website because the site linked directly (deep link) to a printer-friendly version of a Rodale magazine article, thereby bypassing the site's ad-intensive home page. Rodale wants to make this a copyright case that would, if successful, torpedo the last bastion of direct, free access to information: the Internet. The case would have implications for every site that links directly to articles, Democrats.com included - just in time for the coming elections in 2002 and 2004. No coincidence here! Call Rodale (610-967-5171) or e-mail info@rodale.com to let them know what you think. Hmm... is that a Rodale boycott we see just over the horizon?

White House Directive Ends Public Access to Federal Records at Libraries
Freedom of Information

A White House directive requiring competitive bids on $500 million in yearly printing contracts will save from $50-$70 million, according to the Office of Management and Budget. However, "GPO spokesman Andrew Sherman said the plan would increase costs by 50 percent because companies would have to hire large sales forces to search for government contracts. The plan also would destroy the GPO's program that deposits federal records in 1,300 libraries, he added. 'The costs and the threat to public access to government information are so significant that Congress rejected this in 1987 and in 1994,' Sherman said." This is another way to limit public access to government information. What don't they want you to know? And, why not?

Public Citizen Sues Bush Administration To Overturn Bush Order That Hides Presidential Papers Forever
Freedom of Information

"Public Citizen has sued the Bush administration to overturn an executive order that would severely limit access to presidential records...Public Citizen filed the lawsuit on behalf of Public Citizen, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the National Security Archive, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and eminent presidential historians Hugh Graham and Stanley Kutler. The suit seeks to compel the National Archives to abide by terms of the Presidential Records Act and to release to the public some 68,000 pages records of former President Ronald Reagan, which should have been released last January, 12 years after President Reagan left office."

Helen Thomas Asks: Is Bush Trying To Protect Dad?
Freedom of Information

"Why is he trying to hide historic White House documents of the Reagan administration that...Reagan agreed in writing to release to the public?...Amazingly,...Ari Fleischer, told reporters the aim of the order was to introduce an 'orderly process' for releasing the documents. And [WH lawyer Albert] Gonzalez said White House officials recognize 'the importance, for historical reasons, of releasing as much information as we can.' He even added that 'there may be reasons that it's inappropriate or harmful to the country not to release certain information.' Yet the order is clearly protective of the president's father and officials who are back at the White House in top jobs after serving in the Bush I administration between 1989 and 1993...Remember the Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980s in which Reagan's aides sold arms covertly to Iran and used the proceeds to illegally fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua?" (Btw, Clinton disagrees with this order)