from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2011, Issue No. 76
August 8, 2011
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
- SUNSHINE IN LITIGATION ACT REPORTED IN SENATE
- NEW EDITION OF RICHELSON'S "U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY"
- WANTED: A NEW CRS DIRECTOR
SUNSHINE IN LITIGATION ACT REPORTED IN SENATE
A bill that would curb the ability of courts to impose secrecy orders on public health and safety information was favorably reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. See the report on the Sunshine in Litigation Act of 2011, August 2, 2011.
"Court secrecy prevents the public from learning about public health and safety dangers," the Committee report said. "Over the past 20 years, we have learned about numerous cases where court-approved secrecy, in the form of protective orders and sealed settlements, has kept the public in the dark about serious public health and safety dangers."
Such cases, many of which are cataloged in the report, have included "complications from silicone breast implants, adverse reactions to a prescription pain killer, 'park to reverse' problems in pick-up trucks, and defective heart valves."
"This problem most often arises in product liability cases," the report said. "In exchange for monetary damages, the victim is often forced to agree to a provision that prohibits him or her from revealing information disclosed during the case." As a result, "the public remains unaware of critical health and safety information that could potentially save lives."
To address the problem, the bill would require judges to consider the public's interest in disclosure health and safety information before issuing a protective order prohibiting its disclosure.
The bill, which has been introduced repeatedly without success since 1994, was opposed by most Committee Republicans. (Senators Grassley and Graham supported it.)
In a minority statement appended to the report, the Republican Senators said the bill was unnecessary and would be counterproductive.
"Without the certainty that a protective order will be upheld, litigants will raise significantly more objections to litigation discovery in order to protect confidential information. Parties will be less willing to submit to discovery if they believe information will be disclosed to the public," the dissenting Senators wrote.
"This bill would simply provide a tool to trial lawyers to conduct fishing expeditions and file frivolous lawsuits with impunity," they said.
The bill was also opposed by the American Bar Association, who said the proposal was unwarranted and burdensome.
NEW EDITION OF RICHELSON'S "U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY"
A new edition of Jeffrey Richelson's encyclopedic work on "The U.S. Intelligence Community" (Westview Press, July 2011) has just been published.
The book provides a uniquely synoptic view of the structure and functions of the massive U.S. intelligence bureaucracy. Descriptive rather than prescriptive, the book serves best as a guide to some of the more obscure details of intelligence organizations, code names and procedures.
I provided a blurb for the book, which I have regularly found useful. But it may be pointed out that the original edition of this work pre-dated the World Wide Web, and the latest (sixth) edition retains something of a pre-web sensibility. If, for some reason, you wanted to know when the now-defunct National Imagery and Mapping Agency was established, Richelson could tell you. But so could Wikipedia. And while the new volume includes a list of Intelligence Community Directives, a directive (ICD 114) on GAO access to intelligence information that took effect June 30, 2011 was too recent to be included.
On the whole, however, "The U.S. Intelligence Community" benefits from Richelson's meticulous research, his dispassionate presentation, and his robust sourcing, all of which make it an invaluable reference.
WANTED: A NEW CRS DIRECTOR
Four months after the retirement of the previous director of the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Daniel Mulhollan, no successor has been named. Today, the Library of Congress posted a solicitation on USA Jobs seeking applicants for the position of CRS Director.
"A successful candidate for this position should have thorough, substantive knowledge of the Congress as an institution and its operations. The candidate should have experience interacting with Members of Congress and their staffs, and should possess first-hand knowledge of congressional decision-making, processes, and procedures," the job announcement said.
Anyone with ideas of opening up CRS to interactions with the larger world would not be welcome.
Applicants "should have a strong desire to work exclusively for Congress," the announcement said, reflecting the legacy view that CRS should not be responsive to anyone but Congress, and should not even make non-confidential CRS publications available to the public.
Recent CRS reports that are not publicly available from CRS include the following.
"Suicide, PTSD, and Substance Use Among OEF/OIF Veterans Using VA Health Care: Facts and Figures," July 18, 2011:
"The State of Campaign Finance Policy: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress," July 18, 2011:
"Fairness Doctrine: History and Constitutional Issues," July 13, 2011:
"Chinese Tire Imports: Section 421 Safeguards and the World Trade Organization (WTO)," July 12, 2011:
"State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2012 Budget and Appropriations," July 22, 2011:
"The Republic of South Sudan: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa's Newest Country," July 25, 2011:
"Critical Infrastructures: Background, Policy and Implementation," July 11, 2011:
"National Security Letters: Proposals in the 112th Congress," June 30, 2011:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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