What we’re reading: Wikileaks reaction; FBI and Internet activity; SEC and FOIA

July 29, 2010 by Andrew Clevenger

Another installment of some work that drew our attention this week.

In the wake of the publication of a staggering amount of classified information related to the war in Afghanistan by Wikileaks, Propublica.org talked to Neil Sheehan, the former New York Times reporter (and Pulitzer Prize winner for his book about Vietnam, A Bright Shining Lie) who was on the receiving end of the Pentagon Papers leak. Propublica also provided a reading list to help put the leak into context.

The Obama administration is looking to make it easier for the FBI to gain certain information about e-mails and Internet activity without a court order, the Washington Post reported. The agency currently uses what are called national security letters, which require the recipient to turn over certain information and to keep the request a secret, the article notes. If the words “electronic communication transactional records” are added to the list of things the FBI can ask for, then companies may be forced to turn over information regarding who an e-mail was sent to, a user’s browser history and the time and date it was sent, but not, government lawyers say, the contents of the e-mail.

One outcome of the recently passed financial reform legislation was exempting the Securities and Exchange Commission from almost all Freedom of Information Act requests, according to this story by Fox Business. Under the new law, the SEC would not have to disclose records or information resulting from “surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities.” “Given that the SEC is a regulatory body, the provision covers almost every action by the agency, lawyers say,” the article states. “Congress and federal agencies can request information, but the public cannot.”

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