Saturday, April 7, 2018

Freedom Of Information Is The Biggest Threat Of All To Corporate Government

So this is an interesting development.

Back in February, during a trial where protesters (including me) were acquitted of criminal trespass after the State of Maine failed its burden of proof, the judge commented that Bath Iron Works had "outsourced" its security for events to the Bath Police Department. Justice Dan Billings added, "and that's not the way it's supposed to work." 

Bath police preparing to arrest the Aegis 9 on April 1, 2017

BIW, a subsidiary of the federal weapons contractor General Dynamics, had the Bath PD arrest us for being in the same space as the rest of the public invited to a ship christening[sic] event. Since none of us were doing anything more than standing 10 feet from the entrance holding signs, it was difficult for the state to make a cogent argument that we were a threat to security.

Counsel for defense Logan Perkins said at the time of the verdict, "The 1st Amendment is alive and well in the state of Maine, and I appreciate that the court was willing to hold the Bath Police Department to the standards contained in the U.S. Constitution."

Justice Billings concluded that we were arrested on the basis of protected political speech that BIW found odious at their celebration of profitable completion of a warship. A victory for the 1st Amendment, indeed.

A journalist from Rhode Island who follows General Dynamics tax giveaway schemes in New England, Alex Nunes, became interested in our case. He filed a Freedom of Access Act request for communications between the Bath PD and BIW executives that concerned their plans for the outsourced security. Bath Police Chief Michael Field denied the request, citing an exception to Maine's FOAA law when communications address planning to combat terrorism.

Nunes thus pursues the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press as it applies to freedom of information about the actions of government agencies like police departments.

Former Bath City Councilor David Sinclair attended the Aegis 9 trial and now has stepped forward with an offer to represent Nunes in an appeal of the FOAA denial. He will work pro bono (literally, for the good), donating his time and expertise as an attorney to defend the public's right to know.

Why would the public want to know how a contractor that has grown very wealthy on Pentagon contracts uses the police force of a cash-strapped town in Maine to suppress the speech of disgruntled taxpayers?

Maybe in light of the recent $45 million tax giveaway to BIW from the state of Maine which represents triple dipping; BIW receives tax breaks from the city of Bath, too.

Citizen outrage at these tax breaks for the wealthy has been intense. Hundreds of letters against the bill were sent to legislators and newspapers. Radio and television shows highlighted the absurdity of giving a profitable corporation $45 million while 43,000 children live in poverty in our state. Witnesses in the Maine State House saw the arm twisting and lying that BIW and its lobbyists engaged in to get the bill passed.

The biggest union at BIW, Local S/6, had a split vote and failed to endorse the tax giveaway bill (that was what the lie was about). This week their leadership sent this letter detailing why:

Information is power, and our corporate overlords want to make sure we get as little of it as possible. 

Hats off to Alex Nunes for his effort to turn over the rock of Patriot Act-era claims that government secrecy is justified in the endless "war on terror" we're all endlessly paying for. Also for pursuing the notion that public services like police cannot properly take direction from corporations like General Dynamics. I will be following his FOAA appeal with great interest.

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