TX Cites Terrorism Concerns in Denying Public Record Requests


As the annual “Sunshine Week” on open government issues begins, the Austin American-Statesman says that terrorism concerns often are used by authorities to restrict public access to government records. In one 2010 incident a local resident, concerned about perceived inequities among the Birdville, Tx., school district’s three high schools, asked to look at blueprints of one school’s athletic area.

Administrators refused to release the information, which until recently had been posted on its website, because the building plans “detail particular vulnerabilities of the high school’s athletic area to a terrorist attack,” such as the location of “fire alarms, sprinklers, electrical outlets, entrances, dimension of walls, and switch boxes.” Texas appellate judges said that releasing pictures from cameras in a Capitol hallway – sought by journalists trying to track a lobbyist’s influence – could give a terrorist sufficient information to thwart the building’s security system. In the past two years, the decision has been cited by a half-dozen other state and local agencies to deny similar open records requests.

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