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Some See Secrecy Sought in State Security Plans a Threat to Open Government

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The state adjutant general is seeking authority to keep Connecticut's anti-terrorist security plans secret, raising questions among civil liberties groups and advocates of open government.

Proposed legislation calls for certain military records to be exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Law. Maj. Gen. William A. Cugno, Connecticut's adjutant general, would have broad authority to deny documents based on who or what he decides is a security risk.

Those who are denied documents can appeal to the state Freedom of Information Commission.

Lt. Col. Michael J. Tuohy, staff judge advocate for the National Guard, told the legislature's Public Safety Committee Tuesday that safety risks would arise if security plans were disclosed.

If the measure were approved, the adjutant general would have authority similar to that of the state's correction commissioner. The General Assembly in 1999 approved legislation to prevent prison inmates from using the state Freedom of Information Law to obtain records that potentially could breach prison security.

The correction commissioner may refuse the disclosure of certain documents to inmates and members of the public.

Law enforcement officials say such legislation targets individuals who exploit the Freedom of Information Law to seek out sensitive information. Civil libertarians say such reasoning is too broad.

"It's the general principle that people have a right to know," said Teresa C. Younger, executive director of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union.

"The CCLU respects and understands that certain things need to be held close to the vest, but we hope our elected and public officials are honest as possible and do not take advantage of holding information secret," she said.

Colleen M. Murphy, associate general counsel and managing director of the state Freedom of Information Commission, said the commission is neutral on the legislation, though it approved the language in the bill, she said.

"We felt that they had a reasonable case," she said.

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