SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 59
June 24, 2005

OPENNESS ON THE AGENDA IN RUSSIA

The Russian cabinet yesterday began consideration of a draft law to expand public access to government information.

The new legislation would "make the activity of all state bodies more transparent and understandable to citizens," said Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Such transparency is "a most important political question for the country and a most important aspect of development of civil society," he said.

The draft law begins: "This Federal law determines the structure and general conditions for access by citizens and organizations to information about the activity of state bodies and local self-government bodies; it is directed toward assuring the accessibility and openness of information for citizens and organizations; and also toward the realization of public oversight [obshchestvennyy kontrol'] of the activity of state bodies and local self-government bodies" (trans. by Allen Thomson).

The full Russian text of the draft law on "Ensuring Access to Information about the Activity of State Bodies and Local Self-Rule" is available here (thanks to Andrei Soldatov and Agentura.ru):

"I believe that above all else we should enable citizens to have access to objective information," said Russian President Putin in his April 25, 2005 state of the nation address.

"In this respect I have hopes of the draft law on the information openness of state bodies which is currently being discussed. It is important that it is adopted as soon as possible." See:


HOMELAND SECURITY SECRECY

While values of openness and accountability are tentatively taking root in some improbable corners of the world, they are steadily being eroded in the United States.

"About $8 billion in homeland security funds has been doled out to states since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but the public has little chance of knowing how all of that money is being spent," according to Congressional Quarterly.

See "Billions in States' Homeland Purchases Kept in the Dark" by Eileen Sullivan, CQ Homeland Security, June 22:

While one can imagine various details of homeland security-related expenditures that might properly be kept confidential, the tide of secrecy has swept away far more than such details.

Records of environmental pollution due to animal waste are exempt from public disclosure in Delaware, for example, as the result of a 2000 amendment to that state's freedom of information laws, along with many other categories of official records, a recent news story reports.

See "Citizens often kept from public data" by Jeff Montgomery and Molly Murray, Delaware News Journal, June 19 (thanks to JC):


GPO POLICY ON WITHDRAWING PUBLIC INFORMATION

The Government Printing Office (GPO) has updated its policy for responding to government agency requests to withdraw previously disclosed records from public access.

"The GPO takes very seriously any Federal agency's request to restrict access to Government information that has been made public. However, the GPO cooperates with Federal agencies in the appropriate distribution of the official information they publish," the policy states.

Potential justifications for withdrawing records from public access include the presence of classified information or sensitive but unclassified information.

See "Withdrawal of Federal Information Products from GPO's Information Dissemination Programs," Government Printing Office Information Dissemination Policy 72, June 21, 2005:


SELECTED CRS REPORTS

Recent reports of the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following:

"'Bunker Busters': Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator Issues, FY2005 and FY 2006," updated June 23, 2005:

"Homeland Security Department: FY2006 Appropriations," updated June 13, 2005:

"Federal Protection for Human Research Subjects: An Analysis of the Common Rule and Its Interactions with FDA Regulations and the HIPAA Privacy Rule," updated June 2, 2005:

"Parliament and Congress: A Brief Comparison of the British House of Commons and the U.S. House of Representatives," updated May 19, 2005:

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

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