Dec 13 2009

Congress members: “Kill the messenger!”

Three members of Congress have sent a joint letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano about the posting of a version of the TSA’s Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures on a Federal government website.  (We’re still pursuing our FOIA appeal for the current version and related documents, which the TSA has been stonewalling, as well as our complaint against the blatantly discriminatory portions of the procedures.)

The signers of the letter to the DHS Secretary include Rep. Pete King, ranking Republican members of the House Homeland Security Committee, which has scheduled a hearing on the release of the TSA procedures this Wednesday, December 16, 2009.  (The Committee’s Chairman has already sent the TSA some questions of his own in advance of the hearing.)

Among the questions the three Representatives ask are the following:

6. How has the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration addressed the repeated reposting of this security manual to other websites and what legal action, if any, can be taken to compel its removal?

7. Is the Department considering issuing new regulations pursuant to its authority in section 114 of title 49, United States Code, and are criminal penalties necessary or desirable to ensure such information is not reposted in the future?

Perhaps these members of Congress haven’t bothered to read the current law that protects the right to “use” (such as by removing the black blocks that were coded to appear over portions of the document) and “redissemination” of documents (such as by reposting on other websites), once they are made available to the public as this one was on a public government website:

44 U.S.C. 3506(d)

With respect to information dissemination, each agency shall—

(1) ensure that the public has timely and equitable access to the agency’s public information, including ensuring such access through—
(A) encouraging a diversity of public and private sources for information based on government public information;
(B) in cases in which the agency provides public information maintained in electronic format, providing timely and equitable access to the underlying data (in whole or in part); and
(C) agency dissemination of public information in an efficient, effective, and economical manner;

(2) regularly solicit and consider public input on the agency’s information dissemination activities;

(3) provide adequate notice when initiating, substantially modifying, or terminating significant information dissemination products; and

(4) not, except where specifically authorized by statute—
(A) establish an exclusive, restricted, or other distribution arrangement that interferes with timely and equitable availability of public information to the public;
(B) restrict or regulate the use, resale, or redissemination of public information by the public;
(C) charge fees or royalties for resale or redissemination of public information; or
(D) establish user fees for public information that exceed the cost of dissemination.

2 thoughts on “Congress members: “Kill the messenger!”

  1. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » He’s got a little list (and we’re on it)

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