Simply more of what we’ve come to expect from Obama and his predecessors.
March 13, 2009
Plenty of folks are quite concerned about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations are being negotiated in secret. This is a treaty that (from the documents that have leaked so far) is quite troubling. It likely will effectively require various countries, including the US, to update copyright laws in a draconian manner. Furthermore, the negotiators have met with entertainment industry representatives multiple times, and there are indications that those representatives have contributed language and ideas to the treaty. But, the public? The folks actually impacted by all of this? We’ve been kept in the dark, despite repeated requests for more information. So far, the response from the government had been “sorry, we always negotiate these things in secret, so we’ll keep doing so.” At one point, even the ACTA negotiators held a closed-door meeting and then released a press release saying they discussed being more transparent, but haven’t actually followed through.
When the Obama administration took over, there was a public stance that this administration was going to be more transparent — especially with regards to things like Freedom of Information Act requests. The nonprofit group Knowledge Ecology International took that to heart and filed an FOIA request to get more info on ACTA. The US Trade Representative’s Office responded denying the request, saying that the information was “classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958.” This is a treaty about changing copyright law, not sending missiles somewhere. To claim that it’s a national security matter is just downright scary. As KEI points out, the text of the documents requested have been available to tons of people, including more than 30 governments around the world and lobbyists from the entertainment industry, pharma industry and publishing industry.
But when the public asks for them, we’re told they’re state secrets? This is transparency? This is openness?
As Declan McCullagh points out at News.com, Executive Order 12958 only allows material to be classified if revealing it would do “damage to the national security and the original classification authority is able to identify or describe the damage.” Can the US Trade Representative please describe the damage to national security if the public gets to see what’s being proposed that would require governments around the country to enact significantly more draconian intellectual property laws?