RTNDA requests Congress cut FOIA exemption for satellite imagery

The Radio-Television News Directors Association has asked Congress to strike from the proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 language that would exempt from disclosure unclassified satellite imagery sold or otherwise provided exclusively to the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act.

The language, added to the Senate version of the bill at the behest of the Department of Defense, is contained in Section 1034, Nondisclosure of Certain Products of Commercial Satellite Operations.

Section 1034 would exempt from FOIA “data that are collected by land remote sensing and are prohibited from sale to customers other than the United States and its affiliated users under the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992.” The exemption also would include any “imagery and other product that is derived from such data.” The legislation would preempt state and local laws mandating disclosure by a state or local government.

In a letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, RTNDA president Barbara Cochran argued that the use of remote sensing imagery has become an important part of newsgathering, and that commercial satellite imagery is routinely used in network and local news broadcasts in addition to print and Web-based media.

To read the entire letter, visit www.rtnda.org/foi/090804.shtml.

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