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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Contrasting FOI results either side of the Pacific

Summer Blog

The last few posts on this site have come from Washington DC where I am spending a couple of weeks.

This morning's column by Sydney Morning Herald FOI Editor Matthew Moore "So far, we've waited 550 days without peeking" is about the lack of response from the Department of Defence to a request for documents about the US treatment of prisoners. I have also had the opportunity to read today's front page story in the Washington Post that the American Civil Liberties Union has obtained 200 more documents to add to the 100,000 already obtained about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay during a long drawn out FOI court battle.

You can read the details of the documents released at the ACLU website. The site includes a search engine and "David Hicks" produces three documents, all of which seem to be representations (not from the Australian Government) concerning his continued detention and planned trial by military commission.

There is quite a contrast between the nil return for the Herald in Australia so far, and the voluminous documentation obtained in the US. Perhaps the lesson is that as the ACLU has demonstrated, time, effort and expense is required to place these issues before an independent review body or the courts, and only then can we expect controversial documents to be released. We'll have FOI laws that work when that sort of measure isn't required and documents that should be released are disclosed at first instance.

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