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– FOIA should be proactive, not reactive

FOI Committee
This committee is the watchdog of press freedoms across the nation. It relies upon a network of volunteers in each state organized under Project Sunshine. These SPJ members are on the front lines for assaults to the First Amendment and when lawmakers attempt to restrict the public's access to documents and the government's business. The committee often is called upon to intervene in instances where the media is restricted.

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Freedom of Information Committee Chair

David Cuillier
Director and Associate Professor
School of Journalism
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Work: 520-626-9694
Email
@DavidCuillier
Bio (click to expand) David Cuillier, Ph.D., is director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he researches and teaches access to public records, and is co-author with Charles Davis of "The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records." He served as FOI chair 2007-11 before becoming a national officer and serving as SPJ president in 2013-14.

Before entering academia, he was a newspaper reporter and editor in the Pacific Northwest. He has testified before Congress on FOI issues twice and provides newsroom training in access on behalf of SPJ. His long-term goal is to see a unified coalition of journalism organizations fighting for press freedom and funded through an endowed FOI war chest.

Home > Freedom of Information > Stop the Official Secrets Act bill

Freedom of Information
Stop the Official
Secrets Act bill


“Have no doubt. This bill would shut down any semblance of a free flow of information in Washington. It is certain to create an icy chill, if not a freeze, among sources and potential sources other than those engaged in official, sanctioned leaking.”
          — Pete Weitzel, coordinator, Coalition of Journalists for Open Government

SENATE BILL 3774 (a) PROHIBITION     Complete text Whoever, being an officer or employee of the United States, a former or retired officer or employee of the United States, any other person with authorized access to classified information, or any other person formerly with authorized access to classified information, knowingly and willfully discloses, or attempts to disclose, any classified information to a person (other than an officer or employee of the United States with authorized access to classified information) who is not authorized access to such classi- fied information, knowing that the person is not authorized access to such classified information, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.

BILL SPONSORS
A continuously-updated list of Senators who have sponsored the bill can be found here.

The Official Secrets Act bill was introduced to Congress on Aug. 2, 2006 by Sen. Kit Bond, R-MO and is sponsored by a 14 other Republican Senators. The language is identical in wording to legislation approved by the 2000 Congress and then pocket-vetoed by President Clinton after a strong lobbying effort by the media and others.

The bill criminalized the disclosure of classified information. According to the First Amendment Center, current law already criminalizes the most dangerous of leaks and Congress has rejected version of this law for more than 50 years.

The broad definition of “classified information” in the bill would silence important sources, including whistelblowers and elected officials, who would fear inadvertly releasing information.

The law would authorize grand jury subpoenas for journalists and search warrants for their records and notes, according to the First Amendment Center.

Contact your Senator
Every journalist should contact their Senator regarding the act. However, the bill is currently in the Committee of the Judiciary, so it's especially important to contact those leglislators. They are: Arlen Specter, Penn.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Patrick Leahy, Vt.; Charles Grassley, Iowa; Edward Kennedy, Mass.; Jon Kyl, Ariz.; Joseph Biden, Jr., Del.; Mike DeWine, Ohio; Herbert Kohl, Wisc.; Jeff Sessions, Ala.; Dianne Feinstein, Calif.; Lindsey Graham, S.C. Russell D. Feingold, Wisc.; John Cornyn, Texas; Charles E. Schumer, N.Y.; Sam Brownback, Kan.; Richard J. Durbin, Ill.; Tom Coburn, Okla.

Write a column
Newspaper reporters and editors can communicate their readers how important this issue is to preserve role as government watch dogs. Write a column on issue encouraging readers to contact Senators.

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