June 9th, 2011
FOI DAILY DOSE: Drake catches a break, EPA releases confidential chemical names
By Morgan Watkins
Drake may have a few charges dropped in whistleblower case
Thomas Drake, a former National Security Agency official who leaked information about wasteful practices in the NSA to a Baltimore Sun reporter, may catch a break and have a few of the charges he faces dropped from his court case.
Drake is being tried under the Espionage Act of 1917 for willfully retaining classified documents, among other charges.
Federal prosecutors will withdraw key documents from the case to protect sensitive technology information, but this may hurt their efforts to prove Drake violated the Espionage Act.
Prosecutors decided to redact the records after U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett ruled they couldn’t substitute classified information with unclassified language without hurting Drake’s ability to defend himself against the charges.
Two counts related to information Drake sent to the Defense Department inspector general to support colleagues’ complaints about the abuses surrounding an NSA program called Trailblazer may be dropped. Drake and his coworkers thought their complaints were confidential, and the evidence for those charges are contained in exhibits that will be withdrawn from court proceedings.
Another charge that may be dropped also involves information Drake sent to the inspector general. The exhibit that bolsters this charge will be redacted.
Two other charges concern information Drake had but which was also available on the in-house intranet for the NSA. Drake could argue that this material was unclassified and easily available to thousands of other employees.
The remaining charges against Drake, which include counts of making a false statement and obstructing justice, are less vital.
This could be a lucky break for Drake and his defense team.
EPA goes public with confidential chemical names
The EPA recently released the names of more than 150 chemicals that had previously been kept confidential in safety and health studies.
The move increases transparency within the agency and gives citizens access to information about chemicals that may carry potential health risks.
The American Chemistry Council, a trade association that represents the chemical industry, said in a statement to iWatch News that it agreed it was important to educate the public about potential chemical risks. But at the same time, some information should be protected to ensure businesses can remain competitive in the industry.
Some of the now-declassified documents were voluntarily disclosed by companies in honor of the EPA’s 2010 request that businesses disclose some of their confidential business information (CBI).
EPA policy will require companies to disclose the names of any chemicals on the agency’s public inventory list if they are mentioned in safety or health studies.
About 17,000 chemicals out of the more than 83,000 that are listed on the agency’s master inventory, however, do not have information about them publicly available, according to a 2009 Environmental Working Group study.
– Morgan Watkins
Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (email@example.com) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).