USTR fights release of IP treaty details citing national security

Several months ago documents outlining a secret proposal from the US Trade Representative (USTR) for a new intellectual property treaty were leaked to the public. Although the few details we know about negotiahe Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) show it to be a collaboration between entertainment industry representatives and government officials in various countries. Unfortunately most of what's been published so far is really just speculation.

In an attempt to bring these negotiations into the open for everyone, instead of just entertainment industry lobbyists, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. But the office of the USTR has been less than forthcoming with information.

In fact they're actively trying to block the release of almost all the information requested. So far they've turned over just 159 pages to the EFF, while insisting that 1300 pages need to be remain secret.

And what reason are they citing for the secrecy. Actually there are two reasons given. The first is mostly just laughable. They claim some of the documents would endanger national security if released. But the other claim seems to just miss the point. The USTR is claiming an exemption from turning documents over that would expose their "deliberative process." If I'm not mistaken that's exactly the point of the request.

"ACTA could lead to new invasive monitoring of Internet communications by your ISP and raises serious potential due process concerns for Internet users," said EFF International Policy Director Gwen Hinze. "Because ACTA is to be adopted as an Executive Agreement, it will bypass normal processes of Congressional oversight. Therefore, it is crucial that citizens have access to information about its contents in a timely manner. The USTR's decision to withhold documents that citizens are entitled to see as a matter of law prevents citizens from evaluating ACTA's impact on their lives and expressing their opinions to their political leaders before it's a fait accompli."

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