Electronic Privacy Information Center
April 13, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC – The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has
obtained a Memorandum of Understanding between the FBI and the Virginia
State Police that details federally imposed limitations on the Virginia
open government law. The memorandum, a January 2008 agreement signed by
the FBI and the Department regarding Virginia’s fusion intelligence
center, references federal exemptions that would limit the ability of
Virginia citizens to obtain public records from a state agency.
The disclosure comes at a time when Virginia is considering HB1007
(“Fusion Intelligence Center; confidentiality and immunity from service of
process”) that would further curtail the state’s open government and
privacy laws for the Virginia Fusion Center. The bill before the Governor
would also eliminate several long-standing common law rights for citizens
harmed by information provided to the fusion center. Press groups have
criticized the proposed law, and warned that, if enacted, Virginia
citizens can “say hello to Big Brother.” “Fusion centers” are
intelligence databases that collect extensive information on ordinary
citizens. They have raised substantial privacy concerns.
Statements from Virginia officials have raised questions about the federal
government’s involvement in the pending legislation. Officials for the
State Police have denied federal involvement in the legislation, and the
official position of the White House is that the federally supported
fusion centers should respect state laws. But the documents obtained by
EPIC indicate that the fusion center proposal is directly impacting the
privacy rights and the open government rights of Virginia citizens.
EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said, “the FBI memorandum indicates
that the federal government is attempting to shroud the Virginia Fusion
Center in secrecy and prevent meaningful public oversight. Virginia
citizens deserve an open and transparent state government that is not
constrained by federal secrecy policies.”
At a hearing yesterday in the General District Court in Richmond,
Virginia, Chief Judge Joi Taylor ordered the State Police to provide to
EPIC additional documents concerning communications between the Department
and federal agencies. The hearing was the latest development in EPIC’s
lawsuit against the Department. EPIC sued because the State Police’s
response to EPIC’s February 12, 2008 freedom of information request failed
to comply with the Virginia open government law. EPIC has requested an
expeditious decision from the Court owing to the urgency created by
Governor Kaine’s ongoing consideration of HB1007.
The case is EPIC v. Martin and the Virginia Department of State Police,
Case No. GV08019225, (Va. Gen. Dist. Ct., filed Mar. 21, 2008). Marc
Rotenberg and John Verdi are litigating the case for EPIC.
EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. EPIC was
established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties
issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional
values. EPIC has a long history of open government work. EPIC has filed
freedom of information requests and lawsuits in matters involving
President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, traveler watch-list
errors, and possible government misconduct in intelligence investigations.
More information is available at:
“Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and the Virginia Fusion Center” (Obtained by EPIC. Apr. 7, 2008)
“EPIC v. Virginia Department of State Police: Fusion Center Secrecy Bill”
EPIC, “Information Fusion Centers and Privacy”
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