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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today announced the launch of a "weblog" -- a continuous Internet chronicle updated regularly -- dedicated to helping journalists cover homeland security issues.
The launch of "Behind the Homefront" (www.rcfp.org/behindthehomefront) coincides with the first day of operations for the new Department of Homeland Security -- a law enforcement and investigatory agency whose duties include functions taken from as many as 22 other federal agencies. The reorganization of these operations reportedly marks the biggest government bureaucratic shake-up since the creation of the Department of Defense half a century ago.
Controversies already have arisen over not just how the department will operate, but what level of access to information it will allow, and how it will respond to news media requests. Will new exemptions be carved out of the FOI Act, either by law or by practice? Will officials and agents feel free to tap phones of journalists, or subpoena their records during investigations? Will the new director consider procedural safeguards, like those adopted years ago by the Department of Justice, to ensure that freedom of the press will not be denied? And will those practices be followed?
Questions like these led the Reporters Committee to launch "Behind the Homefront" so that there will be a centralized site on the Internet for journalists who want to follow these issues and pass along information they learn while covering -- or worse, being covered by -- the new department. Users are encouraged to submit comments and pass along tips to make this project as useful, thorough and up-to-date as possible.
"We plan to focus on issues surrounding access to government information about the war on terrorism at home and abroad," said Lucy A. Dalglish, Reporters Committee Executive Director. "The weblog will cover information access and free press issues, but we don't plan to follow debates over many civil liberties issues that, while important, are outside of our principal areas of interest."
Funding for "Behind the Homefront" was provided by The Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.