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US newspapers accused of complicity as drone report reopens security debate

US newspapers accused of complicity as drone report reopens security debate

US news organisations are facing accusations of complicity after it emerged that they bowed to pressure from the Obama administration not to disclose the existence of a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia despite knowing about it for a year.

Amid renewed scrutiny over the Obama administration’s secrecy over its targeted killing programme, media analysts and national security experts said the revelation that some newspapers had co-operated over the drone base had reopened the debate over the balance between freedom of information and national security.

On Tuesday, following Monday’s disclosure by NBC of a leaked Justice Department white paper on the case for its controversial targeted killing programme, the Washington Post revealed it had previously refrained from publishing the base’s location at the behest of the Obama administration over national security concerns. Read more.

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian | 6th February 2013

The sneak attack on Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act is an essential tool for the British people to hold authority to account. The Coalition’s new proposals will erode its powers, expose the NHS still further and deliver an underhand blow to democracy.

The Freedom of Information act was introduced to Britain after much delay, long after other democracies including the US and Australia. Less than a decade since it came into force, the Coalition are already trying to curtail it.

On January 24th, at a poorly attended debate in Westminster Hall, justice minister Helen Grant laid out plans to reduce the amount of money spent answering Freedom of Information requests by public authorities. It was also announced that private contractors, such as G4S, Capita and others working in the NHS, who work under public contracts, would not be made subject to the Act, despite pressure from campaigners. The proposals are likely to significantly limit the number of requests that are responded to, as well as impacting seriously on the public’s ability to hold officials to account.

The FOI act allows anyone to request information from a public authority, such as a local council, government department or school, as long as requests are not subject to an exemption, or go over a cost limit. At present, staff can reject requests which breach a cost limit of £600 for central government and £450 for other public authorities. In 2011, central government received 47,000 FOI requests, costing £8.5million in staff time.  Read more.

Matt Burgess | Open Democracy | 6th February 2013

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