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CIA wins fight to keep MPs in dark on rendition

American intelligence agencies including the CIA and the FBI have won a court ruling allowing them to withhold evidence from British MPs about suspected UK involvement in “extraordinary rendition” – the secret arrests and alleged torture of terror suspects.

A judge in Washington DC granted permission for key US intelligence bodies, including the highly sensitive National Security Agency, to exploit a loophole in US freedom of information legislation which bars the release of documentation to any body representing a foreign government.

Downing Street underlined the gravity of the torture claims yesterday when it urged police to interview former Labour ministers as part of an investigation into the alleged rendition and torture of a Libyan critic of Muammar Gaddafi. Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary at the time and is expected to be interviewed by detectives, denies any complicity in rendition – as have his successors at the Foreign Office. Whitehall officials have made clear that the intelligence services believe their operations “were in line with ministerially authorised government policy”.

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Cahal Milmo and Nigel Morris | The Independent | 11th April 2012

University of Canberra (AUS) asks students to withdraw FOI requests

Investigative journalism students targeted journalism course cuts and the university’s sponsorship of the ACT Brumbies.

The University of Canberra asked five journalism students to withdraw Freedom of Information applications targeting controversial stories involving UC journalism course cuts and its sponsorship of the ACT Brumbies.

The students submitted their request as part of a final-year investigative journalism assignment into freedom of information processes but four of the five students withdrew them after intervention from the Dean of Arts and Design, Professor Greg Battye.

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Emma MacDonald | The Sydney Morning Herald | 10th April 2012

How the UK can learn from India’s Right to Information Act

India enacted its Right to Information Act at about the same time as the UK’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000, and campaigners in both countries have much to learn from one another.

India’s act is more powerful than its counterpart in the UK, particularly in its use of penalties for delay or non-compliance. Officials who fail to supply information, or delay, face a personal fine of 250 rupees (pounds 3) a day. The UK act gives officials a host of reasons to refuse information on the basis of various exemptions; this provision was strongly and successfully opposed by citizens in India.

There is greater provision in Indian law for access to information from private companies, including those running outsourced agencies. One example of information obtainable in India that would not have been possible to obtain in the UK or the rest of Europe was when a subsidiary of Monsanto was forced to reveal information related to trials of genetically modified crops, which the company had claimed was protected by commercial interest

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Aruna Roy | The Guardian | 10th April 2012

Fire crews in Wales facing violents attacks at rate of one a week     

Fire crews in Wales are facing violent attacks from the public on a weekly basis as they attempt to go about their work.

Information from fire services show firefighters being attacked, pelted with objects and verbally abused as they try to respond to emergency call outs.

Overall, crews across Wales have been hit by 181 attacks over the past four years, one every 7.6 days, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

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Claire Miller | Wales Online | 9th April 2012

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