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FRINFORMSUM: 3/15/2011

March 15, 2011

What can't it do?

Protesters in Egypt raided the State Security Agency‘s office and obtained thousands of classified documents that they have proceeded to post on Facebook and other social media websites.  The documents, which the Egyptian military have politely requested be returned, include alleged evidence of State Security’s involvement in the New Years Day bombing of a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria and lurid information and analysis regarding individuals under the intense surveillance of the Egyptian government.  For more on the topic, check out Kate Doyle’s excellent post (and stunning photos).

According to Politico, the Justice Department plans to use what they call a “silent witness” technique in the trial of former National Security Agency employee Thomas Drake, who is accused of leaking classified information and documents regarding the NSA to members of the media.  Essentially, the DOJ has designed a procedure whereby the court room will remain open to the public, but participants (i.e. the jury, judge, and attorneys) will be the only ones who “know what’s going on.”  Jay Ward Brown, a DC media lawyer claims, “What makes this kind of issue hard is it requires the court to engage in a balancing of fundamental rights belonging to several different parties…One … is the government’s right to keep secret classified national security information, another is the defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial, and [a third] is the public and the press’s right to observe trials. That’s particularly important when criminal prosecutions involve controversial issues of public concern like this one does.”

Also, the DOJ has filed a Motion in Limine seeking to exclude trial testimony related to any perceived over-classification of information by federal agencies, an issue that the prosecutor suspects Drake will attempt to raise to justify his behavior.  According to the motion, “Any thoughts that the defendant may have had that the current regulatory scheme overclassifies information is irrelevant.  It does not matter that the defendant may have believed that the current regulatory scheme classified too much information.  His obligation in protecting classified information was to work within the clear set of rules governing the dissemination of potentially classified information.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has now set his eye on executive agencies’ accounting records, requesting information on agency accounting practices and procedures by the end of March.

In state news, both Utah and Illinois are moving forward with FOIA legislation.  Utah governor Gary Herbert just signed into law House Bill 477, which exempts “voice mails, instant messages, video chats, and text messages” from disclosure under state freedom of information rules.  In Illinois,  the State Senate is considering Bill 1645, which would allow state agencies to deem particular FOIA requests “vexatious” after an individual requester sends more than 15 requests a year.  The moniker would allow an agency additional time to respond to requests, ostensibly addressing the problem of individuals who file numerous requests as a form of “harassment” of government.

AllGov has a look at the firm stance of the Obama administration in prosecuting the unauthorized dissemination of classified information.  According to the article, the administration has filed criminal complaints in 5 of the 8 total cases of this type over the last 40+ years.

Salon offers a survey of reactions to the resignation of State Department spokesmen Philip Crowley several days after he publicly labeled the military’s treatment of alleged WikiLeak’er Bradley Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”  The Obama administration has come under increasing fire for the conditions of Manning’s detainment, with Manning’s father calling it “shocking” in a recent interview with PBS’s Frontline.  The DoD maintains that “the circumstances of PFC Manning’s pretrial confinement are regularly reviewed, and complies in all respects with U.S. law and Department of Defense regulations.”

Following up on a previous post by Nate Jones, here is a link to the actual complaints filed by National Security Counselors in their suit against the Central Intelligence Agency.

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