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N.Y. agencies to review records requests to see if info could aid terrorists

By The Associated Press

03.02.02

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ALBANY, N.Y. — The state's anti-terrorism coordinator has ordered state agencies to review all requests for public records last year to see if anyone asked for information that might be useful to terrorists.

James Kallstrom, director of the state Office of Public Security, made the directive in a confidential memorandum last January to agency heads.

"I've asked them (agencies) to check backgrounds," Kallstrom said during a Feb. 26 Assembly Governmental Operations Committee meeting.

The state's public records act requires people to write a letter outlining what data they want from state agencies.

Kallstrom's memo also ordered the agencies to restrict information on the Internet and to remove data about electrical power, gas and oil storage, transportation, banking and finance, water supply, and emergency services.

"I don't believe we should be stupid enough or ignorant enough to provide that information. So if someone came in wanting the information, they probably wouldn't get it," Kallstrom said.

Critics contend the crackdown on Web site content by state and federal governments since Sept. 11 is an ineffective way to deter terrorists and may hamper the public's ability to gain information.

"I think there is a real danger that this directive could be used to further block from public view information the public should have access to," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "The decision on what should be on the Internet or not on the Internet should be a public discussion, not a private edict."

Robert Freeman, the executive director of the State Committee on Open Government, said the Freedom of Information Law in New York state allows officials to censor some information if releasing it would endanger lives or compromise criminal investigations.

Related

Bill to amend N.Y. FOI law draws criticism
Open-government advocates say measure limiting access to terrorism-related information could give agencies carte blanche to restrict material.  05.09.02

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