SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 8
January 21, 2003

GOV'T REBUFFED ON FOIA FEE CLAIMS

In a victory for the embattled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a federal court last week blocked a Bush Administration attempt to narrow the class of FOIA requesters who are eligible to have the costs of processing their requests waived.

Last year, the Pentagon denied a request for FOIA fee waiver from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) with a rather contrived argument that EPIC did not meet the necessary criteria. While acknowledging that EPIC "is an educational organization that disseminates information," the Defense Department said EPIC was not entitled to a fee waiver because it had not shown that it was "both organized and operated to disseminate information."

That is not a valid distinction, Judge John D. Bates found. He ruled that by virtue of its information dissemination activities, EPIC is entitled to be considered a "representative of the news media" for purposes of fee waiver. He directed the Defense Department to "expeditiously" comply with EPIC's request. See his January 16 Memorandum Opinion here:

The Bush Administration's FOIA policy to date has been marked by at least two discernable trends: (1) a willingness to defend agency denials that stake out extreme positions or that are obviously false -- such as the CIA's claim that declassification of the 1947 intelligence budget total could damage national security today; and (2) an attempt to raise the threshold for granting fee waivers by routinely challenging the requester's capacity or intent to utilize the requested information for purposes of informing the general public.

The standards for granting a fee waiver have long been established in case law, however, and with the latest decision in the EPIC case, the Administration's audacious efforts to change them seem to have been stymied.


IN CONGRESS

The crescendo of opposition to the Total Information Awareness data mining research initiative continued to build last week with the introduction of two amendments to curtail the program by Senator Charles Grassley and Senator Ron Wyden, et al. See:

See also the "Data Mining Moratorium Act" introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold:

Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill to establish the position of Director of National Intelligence as head of the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy. See:


IN THE NEWS

As described in Secrecy News last week, "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, noting the likelihood that terrorists regularly check Pentagon Web sites, has told officials to cut down on posting sensitive unclassified material."

See "Rumsfeld wants sensitive info off Defense Web sites" by George Edmonson in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 18:

Mounting pressures to impose national security controls on certain aspects of traditionally open scientific research are surveyed in "Recipes for Bioterror: Censoring Science" by Philip Cohen, New Scientist, January 18:


CLASSIFIED KGB HISTORY ONLINE

A Top Secret internal history of Soviet security agencies has recently been published online by the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies.

The 1977 document, which remains classified in Moscow, was obtained from Latvian archives by Mark Kramer, intrepid director of the Harvard Project and editor of the Journal of Cold War Studies.

The 639 page official history provides an account of the KGB and its predecessor agencies -- in Russian, naturally -- from 1917 through the mid-1970s.

See "Istoriya sovetskikh organov gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti" edited by Lt. Gen. V.M. Chebrikov, et al, in thirteen very large PDF files here:


TIME OUT

Secrecy News will resume publication the week of February 2.

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

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