US Coalition Seeks Removal of Exemptions From Bill

9 June 2016

Pro-transparency groups in the United States have objected to provisions in a defense bill that would restrict access to information.

More than 30 called for the removal of three exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the Senate National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017 (S. 2943).

“The FOIA exemptions would severely undermine the FOIA by creating an unnecessary secrecy provision at odds with FOIA’s goal of transparency and a carve-out to the FOIA for the Pentagon,” according to the letter . Sections 1054 and 1055 which were included at the request of the Department of Defense (DoD).

“The proposed exemption in Section 1054 would exempt “information on military tactics, techniques and procedures,” from the FOIA, and the DoD’s proposed language in this section could be used to conceal information about the military’s interrogation and treatment of prisoners, handling of sexual assault complains, oversight of contractors, and other matters of compelling public interest. Section 1055 (b) would exempt from disclosure information held by State and local governments related to critical infrastructure security,” according to the groups.

Amendment to the FOIA should be referred to committees with jurisdiction over the FOIA, the groups said

“The DoD’s proposed FOIA exemptions are unnecessary and present a threat to the integrity of the FOIA,” according to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. “With less than a month to go until the 50th anniversary celebration of the FOIA, we should not allow the Executive Branch to undermine the hard work of the FOIA champions in Congress to pass comprehensive FOIA reforms by harmful carve-outs that clearly go against FOIA’s originally intended purpose.”

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