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S ECRECY S TATUTES and the F REEDOM OF I NFORMATION A CT Narrow proposals put information beyond public’s reach Broad impact on Public safety Oversight.

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Presentation on theme: "S ECRECY S TATUTES and the F REEDOM OF I NFORMATION A CT Narrow proposals put information beyond public’s reach Broad impact on Public safety Oversight."— Presentation transcript:

1 S ECRECY S TATUTES and the F REEDOM OF I NFORMATION A CT Narrow proposals put information beyond public’s reach Broad impact on Public safety Oversight Democracy Simple Steps Congress Can Take Rick Blum Sunshine in Government Initiative

2 T HE E LEVATOR V ERSION 1. Many Secrecy Statutes carve loopholes in FOIA. 2. Review is “Whac-A-Mole” & creates bad policy. 3. “The Ask”: Be a FOIA Hawk * BRIEF REFERRAL TO “FOIA COMMITTEES” * BUILD IN PROTECTIONS YOURSELF -- CHECKLIST

3 Balanced. Interests already protected National Security Privacy Trade Secrets Internal Deliberations Personnel Information Financial Information Wells “Any other laws” -- FOIA (b)(3) 3 Special Secrets for Special Interests How many (b)(3) statutes? Who reviews them? FOIA is vital & balanced Vital. bullet-proof vests don’t stop bullets Veterans wait for benefits Missing gov’t property Lead in school lunchboxes Crumbling bridges FOIA has told vital stories FOIA already protects interests from disclosure.

4 on the books Dozens proposed every year Birds v. Jets Satellites Beekeepers Losing Contract Bids Consumer products Port security Tax bill Sullenberger / Hudson River Jet projects.propublica.org/foia-exemptions/ 1. Many Secrecy Statutes Carve “(b)(3)” Loopholes in FOIA

5 Special Interests Agencies Stakeholders “Save us from FOIA” Proposed “(b)(3) exemption” ENACTED 2.Review is “Whac-A-Mole” 5 Special Secrets for Special Interests How it starts USED

6 2. “Whack A Mole” Reviews Mean Bad Policy FOIA issues dealt with too late Unnecessary Delays Over- withholding 6 Special Secrets for Special Interests

7 3. The Ask: #1 Be a FOIA Hawk 7 Is a FOIA statutory exemption really necessary? Subject to disclosure now? Would the information now be disclosed under FOIA? 2. Reason for withholding. Can you clearly articulate a reason for withholding the information? 3. Withholding > Disclosing? Is the interest in withholding clearly greater than the public interest in disclosure? 4. Go public. Will you publicly disclose the exemption at the time it is proposed? Still need it? … Use the (b)(3) checklist! Special Secrets for Special Interests

8 Any new statutory exemptions should be limited. 8 Use the Checklist : First, draft narrowly. Protect only what you can identify. Second, include: 1. Public reporting. Is the exemption working? 2. Oversight. Congress, GAO or inspectors general can provide oversight when the public cannot. 3. A beautiful sunset. Add an expiration date. 4. Safe harbor for whistle blowing. 5. Balanced penalties (if any). Don’t tip scales toward secrecy. Special Secrets for Special Interests

9 #2 What Can Congress Do? End “Whac-A-Mole” Reviews 9 Enforce the OPEN FOIA Act of All exemptions from disclosure of government records must cite to FOIA section (b)(3). Routinely use committee referrals. Any proposed (b)(3) exemption should be referred to the committee with jurisdiction over FOIA  House: Oversight and Government Reform  Senate: Judiciary Committee Special Secrets for Special Interests

10 Get Help 10 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform  oversight.house.gov Senate Judiciary Committee  judiciary.senate.gov Special Secrets for Special Interests Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) ogis.archives.gov Office of Information Policy (Department of Justice) usdoj.gov/oip FOIA (3642)

11 How it should work… Special Secrets for Special Interests 11 Stronger Democracy More TransparencyBetter protections Better Policy TransparencyReasonable Exceptions Better Vetting FOIA ReferralDo you really need a new law?

12 Rick Blum Sunshine in Government B E A FOIA H AWK. 1.Question new FOIA proposals. 2.Consult FOIA (experts & law) 3.Send FOIA bills to FOIA committees. 4.Thank you for your work!


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