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Ohio anti-terrorism law blocks access to security records

By The Associated Press

08.27.02

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — State and business leaders are compiling a list of potential high-tech terrorism targets, but the public won't see the results.

The state's new anti-terrorism law exempts anything defined as a "security record" from Ohio's open-records law. The legislation was one of seven bills introduced immediately after Sept. 11.

Information now is flowing more freely, said Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor, head of the state's security task force.

Businesses had assumed that anything they gave the government became public information, she said.

"How smart is that — to identify your vulnerabilities, identify your plans for dealing with those vulnerabilities and then have that out there for people who would wreak havoc on their industries individually or collectively?" O'Connor asked.

The law also exempts minutes of the security task force from the open-records law.

"This is yet another one of those examples of the danger in how far you overreact and what you have done to the principles of open government," said Frank Deaner, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association.

The association lobbied the bill's sponsor, Sen. Robert Spada, a Republican from Parma, to make sure the exemptions were as narrow as possible. They exclude architectural drawings, for example.

Although Taft signed the anti-terrorism bill May 15, its impact is symbolic for now: Federal law would supersede Ohio law. It defines acts of terrorism and increases the penalties and was needed, supporters said, because the law previously only mentioned terrorism.

Lawmakers also increased penalties for people convicted of perpetrating hoaxes involving supposed weapons of mass destruction — such as last fall's anthrax hoaxes.

Related

Many new records laws balance free-speech, security concerns
Analysis First Amendment advocates, state lawmakers say middle ground has been found that protects sensitive information but doesn't unnecessarily freeze out public.  05.21.02

Public records tougher to view since Sept. 11
Culture of secrecy that traditionally has pervaded federal government was magnified after last year's terrorist attacks, panelists say.  05.09.02

State lawmakers draft more than 1,200 Sept. 11-related bills
Report outlines measures introduced nationwide that range from making terrorism a capital crime to requiring teachers to lead students in Pledge of Allegiance.  04.22.02

Newspaper editors worry about access to public records
Panel discusses concerns about war on terrorism's effect on records access at Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas conference.  09.23.02

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