9 FOIA Update 1 (1988)

handle is hein.journals/foiaupd9 and id is 1 raw text is: 
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Legal Policy
Office of Information and Privacy


Vol. EX, No.1
Winter 1988


FOTA UPDATE


NewFFOIA Leglislation Proposed

IJ1-Thinote U.S. Competitiveness


     A new Freedom of Information Act legislative
proposal, one aimed at obtaining special protec-
tion  for ccmmercially valuable scientific and
technical information generated within government
laboratories, has been put forward by the Admin-
istration.
     Part of a recently proposed legislative pack-
age entitled the Superconductivity Competitive-
ness Act of 1988, this FOIA provision would take
the form of an Exemption 3 statute designed to
afford federal agencies the authority to withhold
government-generated data regarding such critical
technologies as superconductivity where FOIA dis-
closure could harm the economic competitiveness
of the United States.   Recent scientific break-
throughs in the field of superconductivity -- the
phenomenon of electrical conduction without re-
sistance -- have heightened concern over protect-
ing United States technology in such cormercially
valuable research fields.
     The proposed legislation, which has not yet
been formally introduced in Congress, is being
advanced by the White House's Office of Science
and Technology Policy (OSTP), in furtherance of
an eleven-point program announced by the President
last summr to promote U.S. competitiveness in
superconductivity research and comaercialization.
The OSTP Director, White House Science Advisor Dr.
William R. Graham, Jr., already has given congres-
sional testimony supporting the need for greater
FOIA protection in this area.
     The proposed Exemption 3 provision, included
under the heading Scientific and Technical Infor-
mation Protection, seeks to establish special
FOIA protection for any scientific or technical
information that (1) was generated in a labora-
tory      .  owned and operated, in whole or in
part, by the Federal Government, (2) has com-
mercial value, and (3) if disclosed under the
FOIA, could be reasonably expected to cause harm


to the economic competitiveness of the United
States.
     As is explained in the section-by-section
analysis accompanying the legislative proposal,
this provision is intended to promote United
States competitiveness in supercorductivity and
other  ccmercial   technologies resulting  from
recent scientific advances by enabling agencies
to  withhold commercially valuable   information
when disclosure could adversely affect United
States economic competitiveness. It thus would
remove the risk that federal agencies would be
required to publicly disclose commercially valu-
able scientific or technical information under
the Freedom of Information Act that is generated
by the federal goverrnment.
     Although this proposed FOIA legislation is
more narrowly focused than many previous FOIA
amendment proposals, it already has been the sub-
ject of some controversy and critical attention.
There seems to be considerable disagreement with-
in the academic commuinity as to whether the data
protection  sought through  the proposal would
actually promote U.S. research efforts and com-
petitiveness in advanced technological fields.
Some academics have expressed the concern that
restrictions on the dissemination of valuable
technology could have the effect of impeding
research efforts.
     Such concerns surfaced at a recent Senate
subcomittee hearing held on the general subject
of information policy and competitiveness. On
March 16, the Senate Judiciary Comittee's Sub-
committee on Technology and the Law, chaired by
                            Cont'd cn next page

     The four center pages of this issue of FOIA
Udate contain an updated list of the principal
FOIA legal and administrative contacts at federal
agencies.


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