The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it." ~ BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 1787
ATF Requests Removal of Document From Public Intelligence
An unnamed representative of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives has requested the removal of a document from this website. The document in question was published more than 2 years ago in January 2010 when this website was less than six months old. The document is effectively one page in length, with a cover and an information page listing a phone number and contact information. The one page of content in the document describes an incident in September 2008 when a quantity of “Magnum Ultra” explosive detonator material from a supply store in Concord, North Carolina.
This website hosts more than a dozen documents from the ATF, most of which are restricted in some fashion. It is unclear why this document was identified by the ATF as meriting a removal request, given that it contains little to no sensitive information, and there are several other ATF documents on this website that bear similar markings. The unnamed ATF representative cites the fact that the document is “law enforcement sensitive” a designation which has no legal basis and functions as an internal restriction on employees and those who have signed non-disclosure agreements with the originating organization. The ATF representative then reproduces a warning from the bottom of the document to substantiate the position that this document should be removed: “All information, analysis, data, and methodology included herein are considered official products of work, owned by the Federal Government and held for the benefit of the public. No information contained herein may be duplicated, reproduced, or disseminated without the express authorization of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
The warning is interesting in that it describes the document as property of the ATF that cannot be duplicated or reproduced without the consent of the ATF. A similar warning can be found on FBI documents, like this one: “This information is the property of the FBI and may be distributed to state, tribal, or local government law enforcement officials with a need-to-know.” The problem with these assertions is that is unclear how the contents of a government document may be considered property. All works of the Federal Government and its employees in the performance of their official duties are inherently prohibited by law from copyright protection in 17 USC § 105. Most “sensitive but unclassified” government documents, such as this example from the ATF, make it clear that the “for official use only” and “law enforcement sensitive” markings only exempt a document from “mandatory disclosure” under the Freedom of Information Act. Unclassified markings are not binding upon members of the general public. In fact, even classified material can legally be disseminated by members of the general public.
Subject: Please remove ATF document from your website. From: “USBDC” Date: 2/16/2012 11:52 AM To: , , ,
From the document: All information, analysis, data, and methodology included herein are considered official products of work, owned by the Federal Government and held for the benefit of the public. No information contained herein may be duplicated, reproduced, or disseminated without the express authorization of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
U.S. Bomb Data Center Phone: 1-800-461-8841 E-mail: USBDC@atf.gov
BATS Online: www.BATS.gov
The information contained in this electronic communication is intended to be sent only to the stated recipient and may contain information that is privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure under applicable law. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient or the intended recipient’s agent, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of the information is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender and delete all copies.
******* NOTICE: This e-mail message and any attached files are intended solely for the use of the addressee(s) named above in connection with official business. This communication may contain Sensitive But Unclassified information that may be statutorily or otherwise prohibited from being released without appropriate approval. Any review, use, or dissemination of this e-mail message and any attached file(s) in any form outside of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives or the Department of Justice without express authorization is strictly prohibited.