SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 106
November 14, 2005

EPA PROPOSES TO REDUCE TOXIC RELEASE REPORTING

The Environmental Protection Agency would sharply curtail public reporting of releases of toxic chemicals into the environment under a proposal published in the Federal Register on October 4.

The EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which was created in the wake of the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, is a landmark achievement of the community "right to know" movement that pressed for improved public reporting of toxic chemical hazards.

It has functioned successfully for nearly two decades, leading to significant reductions in releases of toxic chemicals.

But now EPA proposes to drastically reduce the data collected and reported in the Toxic Release Inventory, beginning with a move to eliminate the current annual reporting requirement in favor of reporting every other year.

Environmentalists and open government advocates decry the proposal.

The shift to every-other-year reporting alone "would cut the TRI program in half," said Sean Moulton of OMB Watch.

Other changes to the threshold for reporting, he said, would mean that "pollution information from almost 4,000 facilities would essentially disappear."

In its October 4 Federal Register notice, the EPA said these changes are needed "to reduce the reporting burden associated with TRI reporting requirements."

Critical background on the EPA proposal may be found in this Action Alert from OMB Watch:

The web site of the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory Program is here:


PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: DOMESTIC PREPAREDNESS EFFORTS (CRS)

A new report from the Congressional Research Service discusses preparedness for pandemic influenza, the impact of previous pandemics, and the possibility of a pandemic caused by the H5N1 avian flu strain.

"If a flu pandemic were to occur in the next several years, the U.S. response would be affected by the limited availability of a vaccine (the best preventive measure for flu), as well as by limited availability of certain drugs used to treat severe flu infections, and by the general lack of surge capacity within our healthcare system."

At the direction of Congress, CRS does not make its reports directly available to the public. A copy of the new report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Pandemic Influenza: Domestic Preparedness Efforts," November 10, 2005:


THE MOSAIC THEORY AND THE FOIA

A new law review article examines the increasing use of the "mosaic theory" by government agencies to circumvent the disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

The "mosaic theory" refers to the notion that a compilation of unclassified items of information may, in the aggregate, tend to disclose a sensitive or classified fact, and that restrictions on disclosure of the compilation of unclassified information may therefore be warranted.

"After years of doctrinal stasis and practical anonymity, federal agencies began asserting the [mosaic] theory more aggressively after 9/11, thereby testing the limits of executive secrecy and of judicial deference," writes David E. Pozen in the forthcoming issue of the Yale Law Journal.

"Though essentially valid, the mosaic theory has been applied in ways that are unfalsifiable, in tension with the text and purpose of FOIA, and susceptible to abuse and overbreadth."

The author reviews the development of the mosaic theory and its application in recent Freedom of Information Act litigation, concluding with a call for increased judicial scrutiny of mosaic claims.

See "The Mosaic Theory, National Security, and the Freedom of Information Act" by David E. Pozen, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 115, No. 3, 2005 (preprint):


AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION ON INFORMATION SECURITY

The U.S. Air Force has updated its information security program to reflect the provisions of the amended executive order on national security classification and other policy changes.

The new Air Force Instruction "prescribes and explains how to manage and protect unclassified controlled information and classified information."

See Air Force Instruction 31-401, "Information Security Program Management," 1 November 2005 (87 pages, 1.9 MB PDF):


THE TUPAC SHAKUR RECORDS COLLECTION ACT

A bill modeled on the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act would require the U.S. National Archives to establish a "Tupac Amaru Shakur Records Collection."

The bill, introduced by Rep. Cynthia McKinney, is based on the premise that "all Government records related to the life and death of Tupac Amaru Shakur should be preserved for historical and governmental purposes."

Tupac Shakur "was a highly influential, best-selling American hip hop artist, considered by many to be one of the greatest and most legendary rappers of all time," according to an entry in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. He was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996.

Rep. McKinney's bill, which has no co-sponsors and no identifiable support, is unlikely to become law.

A copy of the "Tupac Amaru Shakur Records Collection Act of 2005," H.R. 4210, introduced November 2, 2005, is posted here:


NSA AFFIDAVIT ON UFO SECRECY (1980)

A classified affidavit originally filed by the National Security Agency in a 1980 lawsuit to justify the withholding of records on unidentified flying objects has now been largely declassified.

In response to the lawsuit filed by Citizens Against Unidentified Flying Objects Secrecy for records pertaining to UFO phenomena, the NSA sought to withhold numerous records.

The majority of these records, explained NSA official Eugene F. Yeates in 1980 in his affidavit, were communications intelligence reports that "are the product of intercept operations directed against foreign government controlled communications systems within their territorial boundaries."

"Revealing the contents of these reports would disclose the capability of NSA to target these government controlled communication systems."

The affidavit, originally classified Top Secret Umbra, was released in redacted form on November 3 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from researcher Michael Ravnitzky.

See "In Camera Affidavit of Eugene F. Yeates," Citizens Against UFO Secrecy v. National Security Agency, October 9, 1980 (redacted), here:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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