Volume 32, Number 9 0 A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information U College of Journalism and Communications U University of Florida
Senate approves controversial wiretapping bill
WASHINGTON The U.S.
Senate approved a bill expanding
the government's ability to conduct
surveillance without obtaining a warrant.
Amendments Act, PRIVACf
approved by a P J VV v
vote of 69 to 28,
also gives telecommunications companies
that participated in the National Security
Agency's secret wiretapping program
retroactive immunity. The program,
approved by President George Bush
weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, allowed
the NSA to wiretap the international
communications of Americans suspected
of links to Al Qaeda without a court order.
The version of the bill passed
S included concessions by both
Democrats and Republicans. While
it broadened the executive branch's
ability to wiretap terrorist suspects, it
reduced the role of a secret intelligence
court in overseeing operations.
"Even in an election year, we can
come together and get important pieces of
legislation passed," said President Bush,
according to The New York Times.
Public interest groups, however,
decried the bill. "We will fight this
unconstitutional grant of immunity in the
courtroom and in the Congress, requesting
repeal of the immunity in the next session,
while seeking justice from the Judiciary,"
vowed Electronic Frontier Foundation
Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, according to
the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Sources: The New York Times and the
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Court orders Google to turn over YouTube data
SAN FRANCISCO A federal
judge ordered Google to give Viacom
the IP address and login name of every
individual who watched videos on
YouTube, the largest video site on the
Viacom requested the data to determine
how many of the videos people watched
on YouTube infringe on its copyright.
Privacy advocates fear the order will
expose the viewing habits of tens of
millions of people. In April 2008 alone,
82 million U.S. residents watched 4.1
billion video clips on YouTube.
Although the companies say they
cannot use IP addresses to determine an
technology IVA Y
experts have and
found this ACCESS
comparing the addresses to records of
other online activities.
Viacom and Google said they plan to
obtain a protective order and protect users'
"We are investigating techniques,
including anonymization, to enhance
the security of information that will
be produced," said Michael Fricklas,
Viacom's general counsel, according to
The New York Times.
Viacom agreed it would provide the
data only to outside experts advising
Viacom on enforcing its rights against
YouTube and Google.
Source: The New York Times
Medical groups sue to prevent release of errors
SARASOTA -Florida doctors and
hospitals sued three state agencies in
federal court to keep records of medical
errors from the public.
seven Florida A I - Q
groups and RECORDS
Medical Association sued the Department
of Health, the Agency for Health
Care Administration and the Attorney
General's Office, claiming federal medical
privacy laws trump state law.
Amendment 7 to the Florida
Constitution lets patients access records
by any "health care facility or provider
relating to any adverse medical incident."
The medical groups said the law
conflicts with the 1986 federal Health Care
Quality Improvement Act, which enabled
hospitals to report malpractice cases
and revocations of hospital privileges
to the National Practitioner Data Bank
The Attorney General's Office filed
a response saying the HCQIA allows
disclosure by parties authorized under
The groups also claimed satisfying
the over 400 requests already filed would
be costly and time-consuming because
HIPAA, the federal medical privacy law,
requires removing all patient-identifying
information before disclosure.
While supporters say enforcing the law
will reveal mistakes hidden by doctors
and insurers, the medical groups and
some safety advocates say the law will
discourage reporting errors and violate
standing confidentiality agreements.
"We feel strongly that it is not fair
to open up records that were held
confidential by previous court actions
over 30 years," said Bill Bell, general
counsel for the Florida Hospital
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Google maps Florida counties
SARASOTA- Google enabled any
internet user to virtually tour nearly every
road in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte
The maps are extremely detailed and
show citizens engaged in daily business.
The level of detail has caused controversy
in some of the larger cities, including San
Francisco, where Google photographers
caught a woman in her underwear.
Google Maps gives users a street-level,
360-degree panoramic image of almost
every street, in an experience akin to
standing on a street corer and turning in
The maps were only available in major
cities until Google expanded its coverage
by 37 areas.
Google addressed individuals' privacy
concerns by blurring all faces on the
southwest Florida maps.
"You're used to getting a certain
amount of anonymity in your life.
But when it's captured like that and
preserved forever, it is intimidating," said
Electronic Frontier Foundation Media
Relations Coordinator Rebecca Jeschke,
according to the Sarasota Herald-
Google Maps cannot capture certain
images such as gated neighborhoods.
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune
WASHINGTON The FBI
apologized to editors at The New York
Times and The Washington Post for
violating FBI procedures to obtain
reporters' telephone records four years
Justice Department Inspector General
Glenn Fine discovered that the FBI
improperly secured records from three
writers and a researcher in Jakarta,
Indonesia. All were reporting on Islamic
terrorism in Southeast Asia.
The FBI declined to say why they
sought the records.
Typically, to obtain reporters' phone
records, FBI agents must secure approval
by the attorney general or another
top official. The FBI instead used an
"exigent circumstances" letter to collect
the information for national security
reasons and promised to follow up with a
subpoena. No subpoenas were issued.
"No investigative use was made of
the records, and they have now been
removed from the FBI's databases," said
FBI spokesperson Michael P Kortan,
according to The Washington Post.
Source: The Washington Post
sued for data
WASHINGTON Two civil liberties
groups sued the U.S. government under
FOIA for records about its use of cell
phones as tracking devices.
Eight months after the American
Civil Liberties Union filed a FOIA
request with the Department of Justice
and received no response, the ACLU
and the Electronic Frontier Foundation
sued in federal court. The ACLU
sought documents, memoranda, and
guides on the government's tracking
The ACLU filed its request after an
article in The Washington Post revealed
officials requested and obtained this
data from the courts, sometimes without
showing probable cause.
The U.S. government asserted it
only tracks criminal suspects. "Law
enforcement has absolutely no interest
in tracking the locations of law-abiding
citizens," said Justice Department
spokesman Dean Boyd, according to
Source: The Washington Post
FOIA study shows little to no Web site
progress in response issues PALMBEACHCOU
CHICAGO A FOIA study found budget by three percent. budget documents onlin
federal agencies and departments made CJOG found that while the overall inform the public about 1
little to no improvements in responding backlog fell from 39 to 33 percent, it was Commissioners put a]
to requests since President George Bush's mostly due to huge reductions at agencies
2006 order to improve FOIA service, like Housing and Urban Development, A C C E SS
The Coalition of Journalists for Open which reduced its backlog from 188 to 10
found that federal FR E
agencies rejected FREED
40 percent of OF INFORI
FOIA requests -
the highest denial
rate since agencies started reporting this
data 10 years ago.
The government also reduced the
number of staff handling FOIA requests
by eight percent and the FOIA processing
percent. Eleven of the
A/ 25 agencies maintained,
v or even worsened, their
CJOG said the
agencies blic\ an
opportunity" to reduce the backlog
because the number of FOIA requests
dropped by 63,000 from 2006 to 2007,
according to Editor & Publisher.
Source: Editor & Publisher
e in an effort to
used in the
at http://www.pbcgov.com. Clicking
the FY-2009 budget link gives users
workshop agendas, the proposed budget
overview, line item expenditures and
revenues by department, and budgets for
Commissioners also streamed and
archived budget workshops on the site.
Source: Boca Raton News
2 The Brechner Report September 2008
FBI improperly obtains phone
records of terrorism reporters
DEP meeting raises Open Meetings concerns
NAPLES Two Collier County
advisory board members raised Open
Meetings Law concerns by attending a
Department of Environmental Protection
permit meeting that was not formally
Coastal Advisory Committee members
David Buser and Jim Burke attended
a DEP meeting on the management of
Clam Bay, a North Naples estuary. For
months, controversial issues about the
management, use, and maintenance of
Clam Bay have come before the CAC.
Buser and Burke have prominent roles
in the controversy.
The Open Meetings Law requires
the public be notified when two or more
members of the same board meet to
discuss issues that could come before the
board for action.
Although the county did not
formally notice the DEP meeting, some
stakeholders heard about and attended the
Secret negotiations keep
company in St. Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG In a series even know who it was. I thought it
of negotiations shielded from public was Raytheon at first," said Council
view, city and county officials approved Member Karl Nurse, according to the St.
millions of dollars in tax incentives to Petersburg Times.
persuade a high-tech company to stay in The County Commission also
the Bay area. approved the deal in two separate
Officials put together a $34.4 million meetings without explicitly identifying
incentive package for Jabil Circuit, Jabil.
one of the Bay area's largest high-tech Some officials defended their actions
employers. City and county officials because the meetings did not violate the
approved the deal but withheld the letter of the Open Meetings Law.
details from the public. "I can't take everything to referendum
Hours before a City Council meeting, or hold a public hearing on everything.
the Jabil package was quietly added to We would never get anything
the agenda among dozens of routine accomplished," said Council Member Jeff
matters. Council members approved the Danner, according to the Times.
package without discussing what they In exchange for the package, Jabil
were voting on. agreed to hire 858 new employees.
"When I voted on it I didn't Source: St. Petersburg Times
Buser, Burke, and meeting attendee
Coastal Zone Management Director
Gary McAlpin said CAC issues were not
discussed at the DEP meeting.
In response to CAC member Tony
Pires' questions about whether the DEP
meeting violated the Open Meetings Law,
McAlpin said "I think your point is well
taken but from a staff perspective there
was no CAC business discussed there,"
according to the Naples Daily News.
Source: Naples Daily News
MIAMI Miami City Commission
meetings are now broadcast live online
and archived for the public to view
The Commission partnered with
Granicus Inc. to improve streaming
and archiving services.
The searchable system, at http://
commission meeting videos and
agendas side-by-side on the official
City of Miami Web site.
Maintaining the system will cost
the city $19,000 per year.
Source: Miami Today
The Brechner Report U September 2008
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Weimer Hall, PO Box 118400
College of Journalism and Communications
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8400
http //www brechner org
e-mail brechnerreport@jou ufl edu
Sandra F Chance, J.D., Exec. Director/Exec. Editor
Kearston Wesner, Editor
Alana Kolifrath, Production Coordinator
The Brechner Report is published 12 times a
year under the auspices of the University of Florida
Foundation The BrechnerReport is a joint effort
of The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information,
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Communications, the Florida Press Association,
the Florida Association of Broadcasters, the Florida
Society of Newspaper Editors and the Joseph L
Super Bowl fine overturned
WASHINGTON An appeals CBS praised the decision as "an
court panel ruled that Janet Jackson's important win for the entire broadcasting
infamous Super Bowl "wardrobe industry," according to The Palm Beach
malfunction" exposed her breast for too Post.
short a time to warrant a $550,000 fine. The Parents Television Council
The Federal Communications and the FCC disagreed. "I continue
Commission originally fined CBS Corp. to believe that this incident was
for airing BROAD CASTIN inappropriate,
Jackson's K J J1 A 11N and this only
nude highlights the
breast for nine-sixteenths of a second. importance of the Supreme Court's
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals consideration of our indecency rules this
held that brief nudity fell under the same fall," said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin,
category as "fleeting expletives," or according to The Post.
isolated instances of foul language. The The halftime show yielded 540,000
Supreme Court is set to hear a case on complaints.
"fleeting expletives" this fall. Source: The Palm Beach Post
University of Florida
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Weimer Hall, P.O. Box 118400
Gainesville, FL 32611
Permit No. 94
*UF UNIVERSITY of
Declassification proposals u
The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB),
an advisory committee established by the U.S. Congress,
has been working quietly since 2006 to develop
recommendations to fix our broken declassification
system. The Board, whose members are selected by the
president and the majority and minority leaders from
each house of Congress, issued a report in December
2007 entitled "Improving Declassification," which
provides important recommendations for reforming the Me
Not surprisingly, the PIDB determined that the
classification and declassification process is plagued by excessive
secrecy, delay, obstruction,
The and avoidance. The funds
Bk P and attention directed
Back Pa e at secrecy continue to
B Meredith Fuchs dwarf the provisions for
By eredh Fuch declassification: in 2007,
the government spent
an estimated $8.65 billion on security classification but only
$44 million on declassification activities. The Board's analysis
implicitly acknowledges the problem of allowing the power for
creating and holding secrets to rest eternally with a small group
of executive branch agencies that may be disinclined to consider
the substantial public interests at stake in the release of certain
records or the damage to the government's own operations
caused by barriers to information sharing.
The Board's report is a useful tool for beginning a much-
needed dialogue about our flawed declassification process. The
report recommends expediting declassification of the most
significant records, such as presidential records and important
historical records; making the declassification process more
unified across agencies; facilitating declassification of electronic
records; and requiring agencies with significant classification
activity to establish historical advisory committees with agency
personnel and outside experts to report to the agency and make
recommendations on declassification priorities.
The improvements suggested by the PIDB, however, do not
go far enough. Notably, there is no broad recommendation
for comprehensive reform of the system. A piecemeal
implementation of the Board's individual recommendations
nlock the door to our history
may not accomplish the necessary change. Moreover,
implementing many of its more important proposals
would require a considerable increase in resources for the
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
In January 2009, the new president and the incoming
Congress will have an opportunity to address the
significant challenges of declassification. A presidential
commitment to reducing unnecessary classification,
both to enhance our security as a whole and to ensure
ehs accountability to the public, is an important first
step. But Congress must act legislatively to set a new
paradigm for declassification that ensures that the most important
documentation of our nation's history is released in a systematic
and timely process that preserves the public's right to know.
An omnibus Historical Records Act (HRA) that would
facilitate the declassification of historically significant
information in a timely manner, bring greater consistency and
efficiency to the declassification process, consider the significant
public interest in declassification of historical records, and reduce
the burden and delay entailed in the current declassification
process could transform the declassification system and open
up our nation's documentary history to the public. Agencies
should be required to participate in a National Declassification
Center that considers the input of an independent body that is
statutorily empowered to report on declassification processes and
order the release of particular records. Moreover, the standards
for reclassification and for declassification of records older than
25 years should be adjusted to make sure past gains are not
reversed and to speed up the release of historical records. Finally,
agencies should all be required to participate in funding these
activities. Each classification decision represents a chain of costs
for taxpayers. Declassification will stop the mounting costs and
will ensure each agency can better protect the genuine secrets.
The recommendations of the PIDB should not be allowed to
fade away unnoticed but instead should be taken up by the next
administration and the next Congress. These recommendations
are not partisan in any way, but are simply good policies to bring
greater accountability and transparency to our history.
Meredith Fuchs is General Counsel at the National Security