SPD puts information law on ice
February 16, 2002
by Stephan Huetig
A comprehensive document access law planned by the federal government will not be decided upon before the federal election in Fall. "I cannot imagine that we will have the project ready in this legislative period," said interior political spokesman of the SPD faction, Dieter Wiefelspuetz, to FAZ.
Wiefelspuetz stressed that he is not letting the project slip through his fingers. However four years, he said, has not been enough to clear away the objections to general document access in individual ministries like the defense ministry and the chancellor's office.
With the so-called Information Freedom Law (IfG) the federal government wants to give all citizens free access to the documents, diskettes and photos of all federal authorities. Only in founded exceptional cases should the access law be restricted.
Criticism for the slow legislature
The proposal was made in 1998 at the initiative of the Greens in the coalition agreements with the SPD. In May of last year the federal interior ministry published the first proposal on the Internet. Originally the IfG was supposed to have been decided upon at the end of last year, thereby making the procedures and documents of the state and its agencies more transparent to the citizens.
Journalist associations and data security personnel continue to criticize the slow legislature and have accused federal minister Otto Schily (SPD) of delaying the law for political reasons. In the interview with FAZ, Wiefelspuetz asked for understanding. "Certainly people can criticize and say that others 'have no interest.'" But he says that he, as interior political spokesman of the SPD has always taken the subject very serious, no ifs, ands or buts.
Oezdemir: search for excuses
Interior political spokesman of the Greens faction, Cem Oezdemir, voiced the suspicion that "in reality people don't want to be involved in the subject area but instead are looking for excuses to prevent this document access law from coming about."
Oezdemir also said to FAZ, "If this law does not now come about, then the one and only reason for that is that individuals in the SPD faction and individual ministries do not have what it takes".
Theme stays on the political agenda
In the meantime there are state information access laws in Brandenburg, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and, since the beginning of this year, also in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
In any case the SPD wants to take up the law again after the federal elections. If his party forms the administration, then the proposal will most certainly be taken up in the coalition talks in the next election period, said Wiefelspuetz.
However the law is not dependent upon who is ruling in Germany. "If we are no longer in the ruling coalition, then we would probably pursue it even more strongly than if we were, because we no longer would have to bear the responsibility," said Wiefelspuetz. He said the theme was so important in Germany that it would not disappear from the political agenda.
Scientology was one of the first customers
New freedom of information law permits citizen access to public documents - the number of applications in Rhein-Sieg-Kreis is held within limits, and the municipalities are groping in the dark
January 18, 2002
by Joerg Manhold
For the one more visibility, for the other more work: the Information Freedom Law NRW (IFG). Since the beginning of the year, citizens may apply to look at almost all public documents. In city halls and administrative institution, officials are looking at significantly more work expended as soon as the new information law is known. The state data security commissioner views the "democratic participation of the citizens" being increased by this law.
At his point the number of applications, however, has been kept within limits. That may have to do with the law only having been decided upon by the state assembly in November - and so far no one has made a big public announcement. "I heard it on the radio at the end of the year," said the St. Augustine data security commissioner Angelika Zuell. She is responsible for the IFG applications in her city. "So far we have had little response." There is a similar scenario in the other city and county buildings.
According to the law, every citizen may in principle look at all public documents, meaning not only the ones which pertain to that person. Of course there are limitations, for instance if the public interest, corporate secrets or personal data is at stake. The application does not need a form, but must be "adequately definitive."
Agencies have to keep statistics on the applications submitted. IFG responsibility is regulated in different ways according to municipality. While in one place the applications are processed by the main office or the assembly office, in other places the house lawyer or the data security commissioner is the point of contact. "So far we have had six applications to access records," said Rheinbach mayor Stefan Raetz. Most of them are about construction projects, such as a new swimming pool. "We had to refuse the applications because they were too imprecisely worded."
"No applications yet," said Alfter mayor Baerbel Steinkemper. "We can't guess what sort of increase in the workload this will cause." But she is sorry that a law like this is being let loose upon people without more precise regulation. This concern was also felt by administrative workers in Bad Honnef, Niederkassel, Siegburg, Koenigswinter, Sankt Augustin, Alfter, Rheinbach and Meckenheim. Klaus Liniig of Honnefer main office said, "We feel helpless because there are no specific guidelines as to release of documents or as to collection of fees."
This uncertainty is also shared by the state interior ministry. "The terms of document release and collection of fees are still not clear," said Ludger Harmeier, spokesman of the Duesseldorf Interior Ministry. Fee regulation is currently before the state assembly. "That should go through as quickly as possible." Haste is warranted, because nearly all communities, including Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, have received a standard form inquiry via mail.
From its "German Human Rights Office" (see menschenrechtsbuero.de), Scientology has sent out similarly worded inquiries for access to information on the subjects of not only "Scientology," but also on "Sects" and "Psychogroups." "In our assessment there are technical inaccuracies in the requests such that they do not fall within the law," said Harmeier.
posted by Arnie Lerma yesterday
Images and text is here http://www.lermanet.com/house/ida.htmU.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Typed 4/25/01 Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts Branch NDH/CRD P.O. Box 65310 2001-0361(4-267) Washington, D.C. 20035-5310 144-12C-3512] Mr. Neil Levin Church of Scientology International Office of Special Affairs Los Angeles CA 90028-6329 Dear Mr. Levin: This is in further response to your Freedom of Information Act request for the information pertaining to any records referred to the department of Justice by Ida Camburn, aka Idamae Watson, Idamae J. Camburn and any other entities of persons referenced as connected to CSI, Church of Scientology, Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard, religious technology Center (RTC)< Church of Spiritual technology (CST). I have determined that the records you have requested pertain to an ongoing Civil Rights Division investigation and access to the records should therefore be denied pursuant to 5 USC 552 (b)(7)(A) since disclosure thereof could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforecement proceedings. I have further determined that certain information within the the records that is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 5 USC 52(b) (7) (A) should also be denied pursuant to 5 USC 552(b)(5) since the records contain attorney work product and predecisional deliberative material and pursuant to 5 USC 552 (b)(7)(C) since disclosure thereof could reasonably be expected to constitute unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Should you wish to appeal my decision with respect to your request, you may do so by writing, within sixty days, to the Co-Director, office of Information and Privacy united States Department of Justice, Flag Bldg., Suite 570, Washington DC 20530. The envelope should be marked "FOI/PA Appeal." Following review by the Department, judicial review of the Attorney general is available in the United States District Court in the judicial district in which you reside, in which you have your principal place of business or in the District of Columbia, Sincerely Neal D Hermilla Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts Branch Civil Rights Division
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