RTNDA, others fight FOIA exceptions


Several journalism and journalism-education groups are asking Congress to
reject a provision in the proposed Homeland Security Act that would exempt some
information from disclosure to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

Section 204 of the Homeland Security Act would exempt from FOIA "information
provided voluntarily [to the federal government] by nonfederal entities or
individuals that relates to infrastructure vulnerabilities or other
vulnerabilities to terrorism."

The groups -- which include the Radio-Television News Directors Association,
the Society of Professional Journalists and the Reporters' Committee for
Freedom of the Press -- contended that the provision is overbroad and unnecessary
and would "severely compromise public health and safety, not to mention the
public's right to know."

In their letter to Congress, the groups said, "The sweeping nature of this
FOIA exemption invites companies to give the government information that could
affect public health and safety and, by doing so, automatically keep the public
from getting such information."

In addition, the groups questioned a provision that they believe compromises
protection for government whistleblowers.

"Government employees should remain free to report abuse, misfeasance,
official misconduct and outright criminality, no matter what department employs
them," the letter said.