Thursday, November 18, 2010

Corporations Have Personal Privacy?

From Secrecy News:

Do Corporations Have Personal Privacy Rights?
November 18th, 2010 by Steven Aftergood

The Supreme Court will decide next year whether corporations are entitled to “personal privacy” and whether they may prevent the release of records under the Freedom of Information Act on that basis. FOIA advocates say that assigning personal privacy rights to corporations could deal a crippling blow to the Act.

The case before the Court — known as FCC v. AT&T — arose from a FOIA request to the Federal Communications Commission for records of an investigation of a government contract held by AT&T. The FCC found that the requested records were subject to release under FOIA. But AT&T challenged that decision and won an appeals court ruling that the documents were law enforcement records that were exempt from disclosure because their release would constitute “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” — namely, the “personal privacy” of AT&T.

The appeals court noted that the word “person” is defined in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) to include corporations, and it went on to infer from this that the FOIA exemption for “personal privacy” in law enforcement records must logically extend to corporations as well.

But “that analysis does not withstand scrutiny,” the government argued in its petition (pdf) to the Supreme Court for review of the case. Personal privacy can only apply to individual human beings, it said, and not to other entities. “The court of appeals’ novel construction would erroneously create a new and amorphous ‘privacy’ right not only for corporations but also for local, state, and foreign governments [which also fall under the APA definition of 'person'].”

A concise description of the pending case as well as key case files and amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court by several FOIA advocacy organizations are conveniently available from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. (EPIC prepared one of the amicus briefs and I was among the signatories to it.)

Corporate information that qualifies as a “trade secret” has long been exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. But prior to this case, no court had ever held that a corporation also has personal privacy rights.

If affirmed by the Supreme Court, the appeals court ruling “could vastly expand the rights of corporations to shield their activities from public view,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy this week, and it “would close a vital window into how our government works.”

“Congress never intended for this [personal privacy] exemption to apply to corporations,” he said. “I also fear that extending this exemption to corporations would permit corporations to shield from public view critical information about public health and safety, environmental dangers, and financial misconduct, among other things — to the great detriment of the people’s right to know and to our democracy.”

“I sincerely hope that our nation’s highest Court… will narrowly construe the personal privacy exemption, consistent with congressional intent,” said Sen. Leahy. “Should the Court decide to do otherwise, I will work with others in the Congress to ensure that FOIA, and specifically the personal privacy exemption for law enforcement records, remains a meaningful safeguard for the American people’s right to know,” he said.

FCC v. AT&T is scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on January 19, 2011


Friday, November 12, 2010

Selection of Interesting Books On the Way....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


I. J. Kay's MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON, about a woman newly released from prison and the mystery of who she is and what led her there; taking us from a casino in Bristol to the Ruwenzori mountains of Africa as she bounds backwards, sideways, and ultimately forward with her many selves, to Carole De Santi at Viking, at auction, by Zoe Pagnamenta at the Zoe Pagnamenta Agency on behalf of Anna Webber at United Agents (NA).
UK rights to Dan Franklin at Jonathan Cape, by Anna Webber at United Agents, at auction, and German rights to Helga Frese-Resch at Kiepenheuer & Witsch, by Jessica Craig at United Agents on behalf of Anna Webber.

Dana Gynther's CROSSING ON THE PARIS, chronicling the lives of three women of different generations and classes whose lives intersect on a majestic ocean liner traveling from Paris to New York in the wake of World War I, exploring the power of chance encounters, to Erika Imranyi at Dutton, at auction, by Michelle Brower at Folio Literary Management.

Brandon Jones's ALL WOMAN AND SPRINGTIME, about human trafficking that follows two orphaned girlfriends as they are taken from their factory jobs in North Korea, smuggled across the Demilitarized Zone, and eventually shipped to the United States, to Andra Miller at Algonquin, by Wendy Weil at the Wendy Weil Agency.


Pulitzer Prize winner and NYT bestselling author of I, SNIPER Stephen Hunter's two untitled thrillers, the first featuring a Marine sniper, to Sarah Knight at Simon & Schuster, in a two-book deal, for publication in Fall 2012 and Fall 2013, by Esther Newberg at ICM.

COLD and THE ANARCHIST author John Smolen's THE SCHOOLMASTER'S DAUGHTER, a tale of historical intrigue featuring a young girl who is caught between family loyalties during the American Revolution as the city of Boston burns, to Claiborne Hancock and Jessica Case at Pegasus, on behalf of Noah Lukeman at Lukeman Literary Management (World).


Charlotte Rogan's THE LIFEBOAT, a story set at the turn of the twentieth century, about a wealthy young woman whose life is forever altered when the ship she is honeymooning on mysteriously explodes and she is cast adrift on an overcrowded lifeboat with thirty-nine strangers, to Andrea Walker at Reagan Arthur Books, in a pre-empt, by David McCormick at McCormick & Williams Literary Agency (World English).

Past fellow of the NEA and the recipient of the NBCC Citation for Excellence in Reviewing Carol Anshaw's CARRY THE ONE, spanning almost three decades and following four characters whose lives are forever altered and entwined by the events of one night, to Trish Todd for Touchstone, in a nice deal, for publication in spring 2012, by Joy Harris (NA).

Jo-Ann Mapson's MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, in which a woman begins a new life with a man and their adopted daughter, whose sister's kidnapping and disappearance formed the backdrop of the first novel, to Nancy Miller at Bloomsbury, for publication in the US and UK, by Deborah Schneider.



Veteran publishing executive, attorney and consultant Martin Levin's ALL I KNOW ABOUT MANAGEMENT I LEARNED FROM MY DOG, a 91-year-old management guru's touching account of the insights he gained from his experiences with a golden retriever named Angel, to Mark Weinstein at Skyhorse, in a nice deal, for publication in Spring 2011, by Levin (world).


Author of 2010 James Beard Award winner Pasta Sfoglia, Chef Ron Suhanosky's THE FAMILY TABLE, family-style meals featuring Italian-influenced "new traditional" cuisine with an uncomplicated, family-friendly approach, to Anja Schmidt at Kyle Books, by Celeste Fine at Folio Literary Management.


Journalist Elizabeth Nickson's A SOFT PLACE TO FALL, an expose about the destructive and obsessive side of environmental movement that has run amok, to Adam Bellow at Broadside, by Don Fehr at Trident Media Group.

Daniel Ellsberg's THE AMERICAN DOOMSDAY MACHINE, a memoir of his experiences as a high level nuclear planner for the US Department of Defense and detailing the shocking and untold story, much of it still secret, of the approved US nuclear stategy calculated to kill 600,000,000 people, to Peter Ginna at Bloomsbury Press, in a very nice deal, by Andy Ross at Andy Ross Agency (World)


Charlotte Silver's CHARLOTTE AU CHOCOLATE: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood, tracing the author's childhood through scenes in her mother's famous, sumptuous restaurant, Upstairs at the Pudding, located above Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club: a life of foie gras and Shirley Temples on school nights; of candied violets, pink linens and party dresses; of front room vs. kitchen; and of a rotating cast of eccentric staff members as parental surrogates, to Sarah McGrath at Riverhead, by Emily Forland at the Wendy Weil Agency (World).


NYC-based Guardian writer Emma Brockes's untitled memoir, about something that happened in her mother's family in South Africa fifty years ago, the repercussions it continues to have on her family, and the author's journey, after her mother died, to reconcile the person she had known her mother to be with the person who emerged from the story she uncovered, to Ann Godoff at Penguin Press, at auction, by Zoe Pagnamenta at the Zoe Pagnamenta Agency (NA).

UK rights to Hannah Griffiths at Faber, by Simon Trewin at United Agents, Dutch rights to Arbeiderspers and German rights to DTV, by Jessica Craig at United Agents, all at auction.


Expert on the scientific study of death and near-death experiences, Dr. Sam Parnia's THE LAZARUS EFFECT: The Science that is Erasing the Boundaries Between Life and Death, a work of narrative nonfiction that brings together compelling stories with the latest research at the frontiers of resuscitation medicine to shed light on the ultimate mystery -- what happens to human consciousness during and after death -- and to show how medical science is rendering previously unthinkable outcomes entirely plausible, to Roger Freet at Harper One, at auction, by Andrew Stuart at The Stuart Agency (World).
UK: Robert Kirby at United Agents


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts on Veteran's Day...

Today is Veteran's Day...and I'm thinking of my better half, plus all my brothers, uncles, and the rest of the extended family back to 1630 when they first landed on these shores...knowing that in every single war the US has been in since then has had one of my family in the service, including 2 of my sons. That's pretty amazing.


Monday, November 08, 2010

One Unhappy Dem Calls It Like He Sees It....



Keith Taylor

Okay I've had it. You are Tea Party dudes, Dittoheads, America Firsters, Birthers, Minutemen, and, Republicans from places like Ohio. The names are different, but your message doesn't change. You've bitched, strutted around, brandished your damn fool guns all in the name of . . . uh what was it you wanted?

Oh yeah, you wanted your country back. Or, maybe, you wanted it back like it was. If you get your wish will you be the one to tell your wife she can't vote? That's the way it was. Or did it mean you wanted to own another person? Tell you what go make an offer to buy one of them football players, maybe a guy who makes eight or nine million a year because he can take another guy's head off.

And do you really want our good old religion and no other to provide a wisdom and morality for our country? Thems the guys who gave us the inquisition, crusades, witch burning, countless wars, and priests who rape little boys knowing the worst the holy church will do is move you to another parish where you can find new children for you to rape. Or, maybe, you want to torture those who believe in evolution?

Just what the hell is it you want? You got the megaphones and the signs but you shout so loud it's hard to figure you out!

I know you don't want gays in the military cause we didn't never have none, and by cracky we won all those wars -- uh, most all of them anyhow. Yeah, I know that. I was there for 22 years, 9 months, and 11 days. But is it really that bad? In this new world you protest, the CIA has openly gay people spying for us. So does the outfit where I worked, NSA. Also damn near every police department in the country including the FBI has lifted the restriction. And overseas we see no other country in NATO has a prohibition against them except Turkey. We're in good company there my jingoistic friends.

I also hear from your strutting, shouting, and sign waving you don't want the government to have be involved in your health care. No sir. No socialistic medicine for you! And that's too bad because ours is easily the most expensive in the world. YES THE WORLD!! It consumes nineteen percent of our gross national product and is rising faster than inflation. Ask any high school math teacher where that will lead. That brick building is the school house. Now go ahead, take your stupid gun down there ask for an answer.

The answer ain't good, you dimwit redneck. It means the country can now look down the road and see where keeping folks alive will take more money than we got unless we do something about it except whine.

Maybe we could limit medical care to those who can prove they are able to think good enough to be productive. Wouldn't that be a hoot, unless you are actually as dumb as you act?

And what else? Oh yeah, you don't want no new taxes and you want to eliminate waste. That a way you can pull off a miracle and pay down the national debt without using no money. Sure, you betcha, and good luck. On this weekend's "Meet the Press" Alan Greenspan and Michael Bloomberg, both conservative Republicans, flatly stated that tax cuts will do nothing to reduce the deficit. It seems pretty simple except to them deadheads you just sent to Congress.

But you go right ahead and bellyache about it. And bring your shootin' irons when you do your bellyaching. Those fat bellies you dudes sport will look just dandy, them and those tea bags hanging from your hat and those misspelled signs you wave.

Now I apolygize for mocking your looks, idiotology, signs, and six shooters; but I'm kinda pissed myself right about now. It's been bad enough listening to the idiots in congress shouting "Like Hell I Will," and now you cretins brought us a new bunch of dummies -- no telling what they will do.

The country has been in terrible shape lately, and you just made it worse.

*//Keith Taylor lives in Chula Vista, Ca and can be reached at


Friday, November 05, 2010

Controlled Unclassified Info...

From Secrecy News:


The White House today issued an executive order to establish a uniform policy for handling "controlled unclassified information" (CUI), which is information that is restricted from disclosure because it involves personal privacy, proprietary data, law enforcement investigations, or for certain other reasons besides national security.

The new CUI framework will replace the multiplicity of agency markings such as "sensitive but unclassified," "for official use only," and over a hundred more. By prohibiting the use of such improvised markings and by adopting a standard CUI marking which is subject to external approval and oversight across the executive branch, the new policy is expected to facilitate information sharing among agencies without fostering new secrecy.

CUI policy had been an open, unresolved item on the government's information policy agenda for nearly five years, ever since President Bush directed agency heads to "standardize procedures for sensitive but unclassified information" in a December 16, 2005 memorandum.

Significantly, the executive order on CUI does not create any new authority to withhold information from disclosure. It limits the use of the CUI marking to information that is already protected by statute, by regulation or by government-wide policy. Furthermore, it requires agencies to gain the approval of the CUI "Executive Agent" before using the CUI marking on any particular category of information. And it mandates that all such approved categories are to be made public on an official Registry.

In short, the CUI program seems well-crafted to streamline information handling in the executive branch without creating any new obstacles to public access.

But it almost turned out very differently, and one of the most important secrecy policy stories of recent years is what did not happen in the lengthy deliberative process over CUI. What was poised to happen -- but didn't -- is that CUI nearly became an adjunct part of a vastly expanded national security classification system.

As recently as last summer, the proposed CUI concept had all of the essential attributes of classification. Under a July 2010 draft of the executive order (pdf), agencies would have been permitted to impose CUI controls using a loose, undefined standard ("compelling need"). Access to CUI would have been conditional on a form of "need to know." And unauthorized disclosure of CUI would have been subject to administrative or criminal sanctions.

In every significant respect, CUI would have constituted another level of classification, by another name. It would have overwhelmed efforts to rein in and reduce official secrecy.

Fortunately a different path was chosen. To an unusual extent, the Obama Administration consulted with public interest groups on the emerging CUI policy. In response to their comments, the attributes of classification that appeared in previous drafts were not merely modified but were eliminated altogether. The result is a tightly focused executive order that clearly articulates a problem and advances a sensible solution to it.