Site Map - Government

Quick Bytes: Criminal case files go online

- The Judicial Conference of the United States has released a guide for allowing remote electronic access to criminal case files. This guidance states that if a document would be available to a member of the public at the courthouse, it should be available through the court's electronic access system. It also calls for the redaction of Social Security numbers and other sensitive data, and explains the types of documents--such as arrest warrants and juvenile records--that will not be available electronically. A separate document provides a model rule for compliance. @ Both documents are at SM Online

Data Protection

- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a new law (formerly A.B. 779) that would have required retailers to increase security in an effort to prevent identity theft. The bill would have required that retailers implement security standards established for credit card information. In addition, retailers would have been responsible for notifying consumers that their credit card information had been compromised and for replacing the cards.

Retail Theft

- A new Arizona law (formerly S.B. 1547) establishes a state task force to investigate organized retail theft. Composed of law enforcement, public safety, and judicial professionals, the task force would investigate organized retail theft in the state and determine where the problem is most prevalent and how it can be combated.  

Rail Safety

- A bill (H.R. 2095) introduced by Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) that is designed to improve railroad safety has been approved by the House of Representatives and has been taken up by the Senate. The bill is currently pending in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. 

Food Safety

- A bill (H.R. 3610) introduced by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) contains several provisions designed to increase the safety of the food supply. Under the bill, all importers must meet U.S. food-safety standards and they must obtain certification before they are allowed to import food. The government would also be required to establish a program through which those companies importing food into the United States could agree to increase food safety and security in exchange for an expedited inspection process. In addition, the bill would mandate that the federal government conduct research on food testing and sampling methodologies.In the case of a food-safety issue that poses a health risk, the government would be required to issue an immediate recall notice.

Campus Security

- A bill (S. 2084) introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to help colleges and universities improve campus safety in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is currently pending before the full Senate. The bill would establish a matching grant program to help schools purchase and install surveillance equipment and establish hotlines for reporting potentially dangerous students and situations. Grant money could also be used to secure school facilities.


- A bill (H.R. 1680) that would regulate the sale and purchase of ammonium nitrate has been approved by the House of Representatives. The bill is now pending before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Ammonium nitrate is a critical ingredient used in making explosives.

Terrorism Insurance

- A bill (H.R. 2761) that would reauthorize the government-based terrorism insurance program for ten more years has been approved by the House of Representatives. The Senate has agreed to consider the measure. It has been referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. 

Corporate aviation

- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing to discuss whether general aviation, which includes corporate and private aircraft, will be allowed to operate out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Most of the witnesses represented industry groups and were in favor of returning general aviation to the airport immediately.

Cargo security

- Some of the vulnerable areas cited in the aforementioned report, including border and cargo security, have been the subject of recent scrutiny by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). GAO auditors, for instance, recently checked on the status of the US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) program, finding that it is "inherently risky, both because of the type of program it is and because of the way it is being managed." Specifically, US-VISIT is inherently risky because it is responsible for a critical, multifaceted mission; has a large and complex scope; must meet a demanding implementation schedule; and entails enormous cost. Risks relating to management include initial reliance on integrating existing systems that have problems. In testimony on cargo inspection, the GAO's Richard M. Stana noted that the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) fails to incorporate key elements of a risk management framework in its approach to risks posed by oceangoing cargo containers. CBP, Stana told the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, hasn't determined the level of risk for cargo or the responses necessary to mitigate that risk. Moreover, CBP hasn't subjected its method of selecting and inspecting cargo containers to external peer review or testing, he said.

Homeland security

- The United States is vulnerable to nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological attacks. Pathways to the country via land, sea, and air are insecure. Critical infrastructures have few defenses. While this assessment seems to have been made in the weeks following 9-11, it is actually the current conclusion of the Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. A new report by these members documents gaps in intelligence, nuclear material protection, biodefense, and critical infrastructure protection, among others. Read America at Risk: Closing the Security Gap.

Did You Know That?

- According to a recent survey by the Defense Manpower Data Center, active-duty U.S. troops have gotten the message about sexually harassing behavior. Over a seven-year period, the rate of harassment of female colleagues dropped from 46 percent to 24 percent, with fewer incidents by Marines spurring the decline. @ A summary of the survey is on SM Online.


- The TSA is testing explosives screening at train stations--just one of several recently announced initiatives.

Beyond Print

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