Out in Front: Feds Playing Footsie

December 1, 2011  - By

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know how Washington works.

I don’t know if Washington works, but that’s another story.

Lacking that knowledge, and a competent lawyer to pepper my filings with the requisite “Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1972) . . . claims of nonsegregability must be made with the same degree of detail” language, all my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for agency communications to the National Telecommunications Administration (NTIA) failed. My FOIA won-lost record stands at 0–7.

The reason cited by the Department of Transportation for withholding 11 documents and blacking out in their entirety the two pages that it thoughtfully provided was that being any more forthcoming might “cause harm to the government’s deliberative process.” If government told the people what it was up to behind closed doors, the people might object. Shades of Tammany Hall. “I’ll decide what is in the best interest of the electorate.”

Several government agencies, responding to a tasking by the National PNT Executive Committee, sent their thoughts on LightSquared and GPS to the NTIA, which shares responsibility for spectrum with the Federal Communications Commission. At last notice, the NTIA had not forwarded these communiques to the FCC, and it sure does not want to share them with anyone on the outside. The NTIA was first to rebuff my FOIA, followed by others. Only Interior and NASA provided substance, but in both cases the documents had already been released by a House committee.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) knows the system a lot better than I do. Its well (or at least copiously) worded FOIA to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for documents related to LightSquared elicited several boxloads of same.

A nonprofit organization, CREW uses research, media outreach, and litigation to force officials to act ethically and lawfully, and to bring unethical conduct to public attention.

CREW is combing through the voluminous documents, as you may now also do. So far, I’ve seen effusive emails from White House staffers to corporate folks they may or may not already know, fawning all over themselves about economic benefits and job creation that a new generation of wireless technology might bring.

Not a word yet about downside or job loss that undermining an infrastructure cornerstone will produce. In an election year, point to new or hypothetical blooms and hide the detritus.

This just in: LightSquared formally notified the FCC that any determination must not be based on “the subjective views of the federal agencies involved.”

Now I wonder what kind of thrall the company thinks it holds the FCC in, to instruct it so?

This article is tagged with , , , and posted in From the Magazine, Opinions

About the Author:

Alan Cameron is editor-in-chief and publisher of GPS World magazine, where he has worked since 2000. He also writes the monthly GNSS Design & Test e-Newsletter and the Wide Awake blog.

Comments are currently closed.