Thursday, November 26, 2009

Decision Reached on FOIL Case Brought by ACCG, IAPN, and PNG

A decision has been handed down on the lawsuit filed by the ACCG, IAPN, and PNG to compel the DOS to release documents that were withheld. A summary judgement was granted for the Department of State, and denied for the ACCG, IAPN, and PNG.

For the full text of the decision see here.

According to the decision the government conducted an adequate search, and the information that was withheld was done so properly. Some information requested was provided by foreign government officials and individuals in the private sector with the express understanding that the information would be held in confidence, and it's disclosure would damage the U.S.'s ability to conduct successful negotiations or violate personal privacy. The decision is very clear, and enlightening with respect to what documents were requested. It's definitely worth reading.

The reaction of some members of the ACCG has been interesting, though.

According to Dave Welsh the only time confidentiality should be recognized by law is in the confessional or attorney/client privilege. I wonder if he would consider the same for his medical records. Would he like what he tells his doctor to be held in confidence? This is indeed governed by HIPAA laws that prohibit disclosure. How about his financial details? Would he like for anyone to be able to request his tax returns, or would he expect that the information he provided to a government agency be held confidential? IRS code Section 6103 covers this disclosure.

He also states that it is not in the public interest for the DOS to be able to withhold information based on "expectation of confidentiality". I disagree. It is absolutely in the public interest for our government to be able to negotiate with foreign governments. If those foreign governments can't rely on the US to keep the information given to them confidential they will be less willing to enter into negotiations.

The ACCG still plans to continue with it's ridiculous "test case". It should be interesting to see what kind of "damaging information" they obtained through this FOIL suit that they believe will help them in this case.

More Trials to be Scheduled in the Blanding Case

According to this article here the remaining trials in the Blanding Utah case are to be scheduled in early 2010.

Two defendants have already pled guilty in this case. Jerrica Redd and her mother Jeanne Redd were given probation and minimal fines for their crimes. Hardly seems worth the effort of a 2 year investigation for the punishment they received, even more so since this is not the first conviction on the same offense for Jeanne Redd. She pled to a lesser offense and was fined $10,000 in 2003 for the same crime. (Apparently this time she is repentant, and the judge is confident it won't happen again. Right!)

Judge Waddops reason for the light sentence?

"This is a community where this kind of conduct" is commonly tolerated and "has been justified for a number of years," Waddoups said. "This is a woman who has spent her life as a member of her community."


"prosecution in this case provides sufficient deterrence," the judge said.

I disagree. The sentences imposed so far don't even amount to a slap on the wrist, let alone a deterrant. Each of the 7 felonies Jeanne Redd pled guilty to carried a potential $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison yet she received 3 years probation and a $2000 fine. Jerrica received 2 years probation and a $300 fine.

With the remaining trials coming up, lets hope the judge(s) treat these crimes with the seriousness they deserve. It's time to show that just because "it's always been done" doesn't mean the law will continue to turn a blind eye to it. It's time to show that looting is a crime that will not be tolerated and will be fully prosecuted.