The Radio-Television News Directors Association has asked the Department of Homeland Security to revise rules that put a "shroud of secrecy" over potential vulnerabities in the nation's infrastructure, saying, "A public kept informed is a public kept safe."
The department's Protected Critical Infrastructure Information Program was established this year as a way to encourage the private sector to share business-sensitive information--power grid blueprints, for instance--by giving them assurances the information would not be made public.
While recognizing there are legitimate security concerns, RTNDA is concerned that the rules as written are overly broad, "removing all oversight and accountability" and leaving open the possibility that similar information submitted to any other government agency would be afforded the same insulation from public scrutiny. "Any information submitted to DHS about vulnerabilities would be exempt from FOIA requests and kept secret," RTNDA said.
In comments filed with the DHS Wednesday, RTNDA, along with the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, told HHS: "We are concerned that DHS, in its desire to create security partnerships with the private industries that own or control 85 percent of this nation’s critical infrastructure, may inadvertently cause public oversight to be ceded, resulting in unintended and unresolved dangers in areas that have nothing to do with terrorism.
"We recognize the need for new and effective measures to protect our nation’s infrastructure from terrorist attack, but we are concerned that some of the measures proposed by [DHS] will make the public more vulnerable to harms of equal or greater magnitude."
DHS Secretary Tom Ridge was a speaker at the RTNDA convention in Las Vegas last month, but for reasons of time or timidity, no one in attendance grilled Ridge on the issue of access to information.