Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Announces New Edition of Freedom of Information Litigation ManualWashington, DC - Today, on International Right to Know Day, EPICannounced the publication of Litigation Under the Federal OpenGovernment Laws 2004, the fully updated edition of the manual thatlawyers, journalists and researchers have relied on for more than 25years to obtain information about the United States government underthe Freedom of Information Act.The Freedom of Information Act is critical for the functioning ofdemocratic government because it helps ensure that the public is fullyinformed about matters of public concern. The Act has helped uncoverfraud, waste, and abuse in the federal government. Although EPIC hasfaced increasing claims of government secrecy in the last few years,it has successfully used the Freedom of Information Act recently inseveral important civil liberties controversies.

* EPIC revealed that Northwest Airlines turned over millions of passenger records to NASA, which used the personal information in an secret data mining study that was later cancelled. * EPIC found out that the Census Bureau gave the Department of Homeland Security information about Arab Americans when no similar information had been disclosed on any other ethnic group. The discovery led both the Census Bureau and Customs and Border Protection to revise their policies on how to handle requests for census data about "sensitive populations."

* Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the federal government pursued a broad expansion of the passenger profiling system "CAPPS II," after assuring the public that it would only be used to identity terrorists. The Transportation Security Administration admitted that the expansion of CAPPS II's mission helped to doom the program.

* EPIC also uncovered government files that indicate that the Department of Justice conducted a vast public relations campaign that was intended to garner support for the controversial PATRIOT Act. At least 65 prosecutors made 244 actual or attempted contacts with members of Congress to urge them not to change the PATRIOT Act. EPIC also obtained several e-mails discussing the legality of the federal prosecutors' efforts.EPIC also successfully litigated several Freedom of Information Actcases. Among the key outcomes in the last few months:

* A federal judge rebuffed the Transportation Security Administration's claim that it had no obligation to release factual information in documents that are not finalized. The judge ordered the agency to review the documents for facts that could be released, or to justify why it was unable to do so. * In a lawsuit concerning the PATRIOT Act, a federal court rejected an effort by the Department of Justice to slow down the processing of an open government request and held that EPIC fulfills an important educational function by routinely disseminating the information it obtains.

* In another case brought by EPIC, a federal court held that a classified contract between the FBI and ChoicePoint, which involved the sales of personal information on Americans to the law enforcement agency, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.EPIC also applauds open records organizations around the world,including the Freedom of Information Advocates Network, which areworking to make government more accountable and more transparent."The key to democratic government is information about the activitiesof government. The Freedom of Information Act is the foundation ofopen society," said Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director EPIC.Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2004 was edited byHarry A. Hammitt of Access Reports and David L. Sobel, and Tiffany A.Stedman of EPIC. The manual provides an overview of the Freedom ofInformation Act, explains the law's exemptions, addresses fees and feewaivers, and discusses litigation strategy. It also covers thePrivacy Act, Government in the Sunshine Act, and Federal AdvisoryCommittee Act. Appendices include the text of the relevant acts andsample pleadings for litigators.EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. It wasestablished in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civilliberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, andconstitutional values. EPIC is a recognized leader in the use of theFreedom of Information Act to obtain information about governmentpolicy on emerging issues. In the past year, EPIC's Freedom of Information work resulted in significant disclosures about the Total Information Awareness program, passenger screening developments, andthe growing number of privacy complaints that consumers have sent tofederal agencies. These documents have been the subject ofCongressional hearings and news reports across the country.EPIC, Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2004:

September 28 Right to Know Day Celebrations, Freedom of InformationAdvocates Network: http://www.foiadvocates.net

EPIC's Open Government Overview: http://www.epic.org/open_gov

EPIC's Freedom of Information Gallery: http://www.epic.org/open_gov/foiagallery

EPIC's Litigation Docket: http://www.epic.org/privacy/litigation

"Freedom of Information Laws From Around the World": http://www.privacyinternational.org/issues/foia/foia-laws.jpg.
Contact: Marcia Hofmann, Staff Counsel
(202) 483-1140 ext. 112 hofmann@epic.org

No comments: