There have been plans to offer Sen. Jon Corzine’s (D-NJ) Chemical Security Act as an amendment to the Senate’s bill to establish a new department of Homeland Security. However, since the homeland bill has been taking so long in the Senate there is a strong probability that no controversial amendments are going to be allowed. Facing such a situation, there is tremendous pressure to water down Sen. Corzine’s bill to make it palatable for everyone. Sen. James Inhofe (R- OK) appears to be the lead for negotiating a compromise with Corzine.
The latest homeland security bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sens. Phil Gramm (R-TX) and Zell Miller (D-GA), contains information provisions that would exempt documents voluntarily provided to the new Department of Homeland Security from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The language is exactly the same as the Leahy-Bennett-Levin amendment that resolved this issue in Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s (D-CT) bill on homeland security. Lieberman’s bill failed to pass a cloture vote after Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) filibustered the bill.
Tomorrow, October 1, is the deadline set by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for agencies to finalize and begin to implement data quality guidelines, which seek to establish criteria for information disseminated by government agencies. Concerns have been raised that these guidelines may be misused by the regulated community to slow down the regulatory process, de-publish information critical of industry and its impacts, and possibly overturn long established regulations.
Two recent polls present a mixed picture about public access to government information in the post-9/11 environment. When asked about whether specific information should be removed from the web, most people say no. But their views change dramatically if the government argues that the information could help terrorists.
On One Hand
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on September 5, 2002 announced plans to aggressively restrict public access to government information it deems sensitive. Shortly after the September 11 attacks FERC limited access to huge amounts of information that it controls and released an initial policy statement addressing this issue in October 2001.
September 5, 2002, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a memo to the President's Management Council concerning its review of agency draft data quality guidelines. OMB identifies three process issues that it believes require greater cross agency conformity, and provides specific language it wants incorporated into each agency's final guidelines.
The 3 process issues and OMB’s recommendations are:
OMB Watch responded to a recent Washington Times Op-ed, entitled "Toxic road map for terrorists" with this letter to the editor.
Angela Logomasini ("Toxic road map for terrorists," Op-Ed, 9/4/2002) advocates eliminating public access to risk management plans (RMPs) because it is possible the information could be misused. Perhaps she would agree with some in industry that propose government no longer collect RMPs since the information may fall into the wrong hands.