Friday, March 18, 2005

Kudos to the First Amendment Center's Freedom-of-Information-Day Conference!

By Larry W. Bryant
Director of CAUS
(Citizens Against UFO Secrecy)

The "usual suspects" (i.e., white males over/near fifty, including at least one USAF colonel) were there, amidst the 120-or-so members of the audience during the annual conference coinciding with National FOI Day, held March 16, 2005, at the Arlington, Va.-based headquarters of the First Amendment Center. But one couldn't help noticing, as well, a healthy sprinkling of minorities, women, and young people in the crowd.

Despite a dearth of sunshine outside the building, the event's attenders, speakers, and panelists displayed lots of enthusiasm for the eclectic mix of "sunshine"-on/from-the-government topics, issues, lessons learned, inspirational tips, and morale reinforcement in these times of excess government secrecy and of additional hurdles tossed into the path of FOIA-armed seekers of heretofore undisclosed official information.

During breaks in the conference, I had the chance to meet for the first time such luminaries as Michael Ravnitzky, that young, indefatigable FOI powerhouse from Silver Spring, Md. Also on hand was investigative reporter Patrick Clawson, who'd helped CNN look into the now-famous 1980 Bentwaters (England) air base's encounter with an alleged alien spacecraft.

And, at Day's end, a Texas newspaper editor, upon his spotting my name-tag identity as director of the Washington, D.C., office of Citizens Against UFO Secrecy, approached me with a question: "Larry, how much success have you had in getting the federal freedom of information act to help you gain information for your cause [CAUS]?" Noticing that he was jotting down my response, I presumed he was going to write something about my FOI experiences, pro and con -- so I offered to fill him in (or up!) via subsequent e-mail. Alas, in the rush of adjournment, I forgot to mention to him my latest FOI success story -- not federal but STATE: via my use of the New Mexico open-records act to acquire a copy of the various citizens' correspondence sent to N.M. governor Bill Richardson several months ago in response to his suggestion that the Roswell UFO-crash-landing/retrieval operation of 1947 be reinvestigated. (Look for my article on that material to appear shortly in a special issue of the monthly newsstand magazine FATE.)

Also attending the event was a representative from my home-town newspaper, the Newport News, Va., Daily Press, which, on March 13, carried a frameable editorial extolling the virtues of greater, easier citizen access to the inert iceberg of official-records holdings.

White-male-over-fifty Paul McMasters's deft hand at orchestrating and leading the conference deserves as much praise as I can muster here, and I'm certain that James Madison (born on March 16th) and the other National Founders would've been quite proud of his leadership. Thank you, sir, and your associates, for giving me this opportunity to bask in, and learn from, your wealth of wisdom, counsel, and good-hearted repartee. See you next year!

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