VerDate 0ct 09 2002
Senator CORNYN. One of the things that I also want to follow up on from my experience, and I know your experience in the AG’s Of- fice, is that many government entities, of course, they have their budgetary struggles. We are having to deal with the entire Federal budget. But, each agency has their own budget and perhaps is re- luctant to allocate a portion of those limited resources to having a Freedom of Information Officer or somebody who is actually there to administer it, someone to secure the records and the like. Can you just speak briefly to your experience in terms of what kind of commitment it requires government to make in order to be respon- sive to these requests?
Ms. CARY. In Texas, the law says that the Officer for Public In- formation by law is the chief executive officer of any agency unless they designate. So, there is a little bit of motivation on the part of most chief executives to make a designation of a Public Information Officer, at least one. At the Attorney General’s Office, we have two lawyers and one paralegal that work full time answering the re- quests that come just to the Office of the Attorney General. It is my experience that most cities get by with at least one Public In- formation Officer, with help from their legal counsel. So, generally speaking, one person is budgeted in most cities, most counties, and on the State level, there is usually a staff of several people that an- swer public information requests. So those things are committed to.
It is a top-down commitment, as you know, Senator Cornyn. If your executive head of your agency is supportive of prompt release of public information and they appoint an officer that shares that feeling, as you did with me when I was your Public Information Of- ficer, then things move very quickly because you just need to send the information out promptly. So it is a matter of just the time in gathering it and sending it out, so—
Senator CORNYN. Thank you very much. Ms. CARY. Yes, sir. Senator CORNYN. Mr. Mears, you alluded to, as we all are con- scious of, the fact that we are living in a post-9/11 world, and that security always remains a paramount concern for government. I be- lieve the first requirement of government is to keep the people safe. And I know that there are always concerns about whether govern- ment itself is perhaps protecting more information than it should in the name of security. But, what this bill does, in part, I think, is to require it not take away any security exemptions that exist under the law but require the government entity who requests the information to simply demonstrate in some satisfactory fashion that it is not just take the word for it, but to actually show how, without revealing too much, that indeed it is a security exemption.
And, I would like for you to comment on that, but first, let me say, you know, I am struck how, of course, in Washington that, un- fortunately, we get too embroiled in finger pointing, and, of course, people who criticize the current administration forget maybe that Democrat administrations had the same problems, and that was al- luded to here. But, one of the things I was struck by when I was thinking about the Iraq war, for example, is the historic embedding of reporters with our troops as they went into Iraq and elsewhere. I think we need to work to try to keep this balance, and I also want to make sure that we don’t degenerate into finger pointing, which
09:04 Nov 08, 2005