Wednesday, July 26, 2006

CIA v. The "UFO Press"

By Larry W. Bryant
7-22-06

[LWB Note: Ever since its inception 40 years ago, the U. S. Freedom of Information Act has served as a nuisance to such agencies as the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency. Now, can you imagine this: any federal agency's using taxpayer funds to thwart the spirit and/or letter of this venerable open-access statute aimed at serving the informational needs and interests of the nation's taxpayers (especially since some of those funds were used to generate the records in question)]


Bryant     Well, fellow FOIAphiles, that's what we now have in the upcoming federal lawsuit of Bryant v. CIA. By his July 19, 2006, letter to me (quoted below), CIA FOIA chief Scott Koch has thrown down the gauntlet -- tossing me back into the FOIA briar patch, where I'm shaking hands with a similar victim, called the National Security Archive. For you see, this public-interest organization housed at the George Washington University in Washington, D. C., has once again filed suit against the CIA FOIA folks because of the Agency's refusal to honor the Archive's requester status as a "representative of the news media." (See a copy of the Archive's June 14, 2006, complaint at http://tinyurl.com/kepsu ).

It so happens that I, as a columnist for the newsstand monthly periodical "UFO," share the same requester status as the Archive's. But no, says Koch & Co. I, like the Archive, must get on my knees and justify my existence under some arbitrary and capricious criteria not envisioned by the intent of Congress.

But there's a slight variation on the theme here. I notice that the Archive's complaint neglects to cite the organization's rights under the freedom-of-the-press clause of the First Amendment. Nowhere does that clause's language confine its protection to those who own a printing press, publish literature, and distribute (for example) entertainment media. Hence, individuals like me also enjoy the clause's protective scope in the matter of government-related oversight, editorial criticism, citizen-directed debate, and the eternal ideals of free access/inquiry and public accountability. In particular, the most self-revealing statement expressed by Mr. Koch -- "The July 1947 crash [near Roswell, N.M.] is not a current event, and the UFO press is not the general public" -- plants a red herring right at the feet of judicial determination in, at least, the Court of Public Opinion.

As with the Archive's case, Koch errs in trying to manipulate the definition of "news" to serve his agency's censorial proclivity. Understand this, sir: the term "news" constitutes whatever a publisher/editor/reporter/broadcaster/archivist and his/her readership deem it to be -- NOT what any federal agency might deem it to be. By levying unauthorized records-search fees upon any representative of the news media, you're imposing a de facto, inhibitory licensing fee upon those who'd dare exercise their freedom-of-the-press rights. First Amendment case law rejects that official policy/practice. Note: Koch's singling out the UFO press for disdain and disregard also violates the U. S. constitution's equal-protection-of-the-laws provision.

I therefore encourage all producers, content providers, and consumers of such media as UFO magazine, FATE magazine, the MUFON UFO Journal, the myriad of UFO-related web sites/blogs, and all UFO-oriented book publishers, along with the various UFO-related TV documentarians, to express to the CIA director their objections to this unfair, illegal, and dangerous policy; your doing so via your congressmen might result in an actual response from the Agency.]

TEXT OF MR. KOCH'S 19 JULY 06 LETTER TO L.W.B.:

Dear Mr. Bryant:

Reference: F-2006-01045

We received your 5 June 2006 letter seeking to change your fee status from "all other" to "news media." As we noted in our 20 May 2006 letter to you, a request must satisfy ALL of the criteria set forth in our published regulations to receive preferential fee treatment as a representative of the news media. The records being requested must:

* concern current events;

* interest the general public;

* enhance the public understanding of the operations or activities of the U. S. Government; and

* be disseminated to a significant element of the public at minimal cost.

You write: "Corso's role as a Pentagon-based intelligence/R&D analyst in helping exploit the advanced technological artifacts retrieved from the July 1974 crash-landing of a 'flying saucer' near Roswell, N. M., reverberates, to this day, in the UFO press." The July 1947 crash is not a current event, and the UFO press is not the general public.

In addition, as you know, you have an outstanding fee balance of $30.00 for request F-2006-01956. Please remit a check or money order made payable to the Treasurer of the United States citing F-2006-01956 to ensure credit to your account.

Before we can process your requests, we must receive your check or money order for $30.00 for request F-2006-01956, and we must receive your commitment to pay fees in the "all other" fee category for F-2006-01045.

Meanwhile, we will hold your request in abeyance for 45 days from the date of this letter. If we do not receive your commitment to pay fees in the "all other" fee category within that time, we will assume that you are no longer interested in pursuing this request, and we will close this case.

Sincerely,

Scott Koch
Information and Privacy Coordinator
More . . .

See Also: 'UFO Cover-up' Add Submitted To Classifieds at 'Robins Air Force Base'

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