SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 114
November 14, 2002

HOUSE APPROVES HOMELAND SECURITY BILL

The Homeland Security Act that was hastily approved by the House of Representatives on November 13 is a daunting stew whose dimensions and import are hard to comprehend.

"We do not even know the full implications of what we are doing in this bill," said Rep. Henry Waxman, who urged unsuccessfully that it be deferred until next year.

Among many other problematic provisions, the House bill includes a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption for "voluntarily shared critical infrastructure information" submitted to government agencies by industry (section 214). A more narrowly circumscribed Senate version of the exemption was not adopted in the House bill.

"The changes made to the Freedom of Information Act are overly broad and restrictive," said Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). "By including Section 214 as part of the backroom agreement, this body is ignoring the bipartisan compromise that was reached in the Senate."

"I am... very concerned that this new Department [of Homeland Security] will develop and operate in a culture of secrecy without adequate and proper public accountability or Congressional oversight," Rep. Dingell said.

Proponents of the new exemption alleged that the Freedom of Information Act was a tool of terrorists.

"As we discovered when we went to the caves in Afghanistan, the Al Qaeda groups had copies of GAO reports and other government information obtained through FOIA," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA). "While we work to protect our nation's assets in this war against terrorism, we also need to ensure that we are not arming terrorists."

Extended excerpts pertaining to information policy -- information analysis, information sharing, freedom of information, cyber security, information security, etc. -- from the Homeland Security Act as passed by the House are posted here:

A critique by the Society of Professional Journalists of the bill's Freedom of Information Act exemption may be found here:


SECRECY IN THE NEWS

The ACLU, EPIC and other public interest groups asked a federal court to expedite a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for Justice Department records on government surveillance activities under the USA PATRIOT Act. See this November 13 press release:

Pentagon policies on covert operations, including the recent proposal for a so-called Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG), were discussed by David Isenberg in "P2OG Allows Pentagon to Fight Dirty," Asia Times, November 5:

Thousands of historical intelligence satellite images, formally declassified a couple of months ago, are now becoming publicly available, writes Leonard David in " U.S. Spy Satellite Images from the Cold War Released," Space.com, November 13:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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