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.

No comments: