When Congress last fall adopted legislation to create the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it also adopted a new exemption to FOIA, allowing private companies to hide information from the public as long as they voluntarily submit this information to the DHS. The exemption applies to any information about the facilities that make up our country's "critical infrastructure" -- such as privately operated power plants, bridges, dams, ports or chemical plants -- that could be targets of a terrorist attack.
The FOIA exemption that Congress enacted is too broad. It allows the Department of Homeland Security to cloak too many of its activities in secrecy. The current law does nothing to encourage companies to address vulnerabilities, nor does it require the DHS to fix the problems. Potential dangers are effectively swept under the rug. To make a bad law even worse, the Department recently proposed new rules that would broaden the exemption even further.
I'll tell you what. I really wish we had more legislators like Robert Byrd. This man has taken several courageous stands as of late, including eloquent dissent to our hurried rush to war with Iraq, and now by defending the Freedom of Information Act has catapulted himself, at least in my eyes, to true heroic status. If this man has any single granddaughters, I would like to meet and marry one. I want these kind of genes going into the next generation, for the good of America, and at least and especially my family. Come to think of it, I actually know a ravishingly beautiful (and very spirited) Byrd lady, over in the Carolinas somewhere, perhaps she is a relative. Must look into it...:)
Increased security concerns call for prudent changes to, not blanket exemptions in, the information available to the public. If the government is allowed to operate in secrecy, without scrutiny, then the people's liberties easily can be lost. We ought to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, not undercut it. The American people ought to have access to information that directly impacts their freedoms and safety.
Senator Byrd is a defender of freedom and liberty, and a genuine American patriot.