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Surreal Life V

From the Federation of American Scientists:

A proposed Freedom of Information Act exemption for commercial satellite imagery would severely restrict public access to a broad swath of unclassified government information.

The proposed exemption, already approved in the Senate, awaits consideration this month in a House-Senate conference committee.

Almost every clause of the proposed exemption embodies patent hostility to the conventions of open government and public access to government information.

Thus, the exemption would apply not only to commercial satellite images acquired by the government, but would also broadly exclude "any... other product that is derived from such data."

This means that maps, reports, and any other unclassified government analyses or communications that are in some way "derived from" a commercial satellite image would all of a sudden become inaccessible through FOIA.

Not only that, but "any State or local law relating to the disclosure of information or records" would be preempted and nullified when it comes to imagery or imagery-derived information.

And more: the provision would not merely "exempt" all of this information, but would positively "prohibit" its disclosure. Government officials would be barred from releasing it under FOIA even if they wanted to.


Whoa. That's distressing. What is the point of this legislation? What are they trying to protect?

oh, there are a few regularly recurring themes in the move to secrecy in
this admin (well, publically, there's just one: ntl security):

a)gifts to campaign contributors by making secret environmental
information - Bush's campaign was heavily financed by the energy
production industry, chemical manufacturers, logging, etc.

b)gifts to the information industry - when PubMed was discontinued it was
because Elsiever and somebody else (forget now) didn't want any free
journal dbases out there

c)gifts to themselves - Patriot Act

I'd put this one under b) and c). Gives commercial suppliers the
opportunity to pull a Halliburton (high fees, no public review) and lets
the govt. get up to all kinds of naughtiness w/out having to show what
it's doing (like spying on its own population).