NFOIC executive director testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee

Ken BuntingWashington, D.C. (March 12, 2012) – Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC), is scheduled to appear before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary on the morning of Tuesday, March 13.

The hearing, entitled "The Freedom of Information Act: Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure Information and the Public's Right to Know," is to convene at 10:30 a.m. Eastern in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, and dovetails with many events occurring in the District of Columbia and nationwide in recognition of Sunshine Week.

While recognizing that there are certain circumstances under which some information regarding critical infrastructure needs to be withheld from the general public, and commending the Senate for inserting language that addressed concerns of overly-aggressive withholdings in last December's National Defense Authorization Act, Bunting will state that "none of the measures we have seen dealing with cybersecurity have similar provisions."

"Protections against threats we might face as a nation need not, and should not, include carte blanche authority for the government to withhold information," Bunting continues, "under an exceedingly broad and ill-defined rubric that tosses aside FOIA's ‘strong presumption in favor of disclosure.'"

Bunting also will warn Senators against taking too broad a sweep in closing off information.

"Access to information enhances the public safety and well-being," Bunting will state. "Exemptions that are too broad, too loosely defined, and give too much far-reaching, unchecked authority for government to withhold information are in no one's interest."

Also scheduled to appear are: Melanie Pustay, Director of the Office of Information Policy; Miriam Nisbet, Director of the Office of Government Information Services; Jerry Ensminger, retired Marine Sergeant, Camp Lejeune Marine Base; and Paul Rosenzweig, Professorial Lecturer in Law at George Washington University.

More information and coverage:

Congress balances openness with cyber protection

Cybersecurity vs. FOIA: Can Congress find a balance?

Senators Leahy and Grassley on warpath over stalled FOIA recommendations

Senators urged to review high court’s FOIA decision

Justice Department urges changes to protect new category of gov’t secrets

Read the cybersecurity letter to Senator John McCain from open government groups and advocates.

C-SPAN coverage here; liveblogging from Firedoglake here.

The hearing will be was webcast live from the Judiciary Committee's site.

Bunting's opening remarks are available here (PDF).