The right way to free information

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    It looks like the University of Virginia will be responding to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request for documents related to Prof. Michael Mann’s climate research there.  Yes, this is the same stash of info that Attorney General Cuccinelli is pushing U-VA to turn over, through a conspiracy-laden courtroom drama aimed at throwing Mann in prison for engaging in research that big oil and coal companies don’t like.

    But U-VA’s FOIA response is actually good news.

    First, from a First Amendment perspective, there is a huge difference between responding to a citizen petition vs. being compelled to respond by the heavy, tyrannical hand of Big Gov’mint. If you don’t understand the difference, then please read the Bill of Rights, which is all but obsessively focused on protecting individual rights vis-a-vis the government.

    (This is the same Bill of Rights that tea partiers endlessly howl is being denied by the concept of an individual health-care mandate. But a blatant assault on the First Amendment by a conservative like Kochinelli doesn’t seem to count.)  

    I certainly believe in information being “free”. But it needs to be freed in the right way. If VA FOIAs work the same way Federal ones do, the agency in question is allowed to use reasonable discretion re: what documents are truly relevant. A response to a subpoena like Kochy’s, which asked for every possible byte or slip of paper U-VA might possess, would not allow such leeway. It’s pure, unadulterated government harassment of an individual, an institution and profession that our Ayatollah General wants to just SHUT UP.

    An orderly FOIA response will make relevant research information public while avoiding the kind of right wing twisting of personal email discussions seen in the case of the theft of a British research institution’s emails into a phony “scandal” they hilariously dubbed “Climategate.”

    The final reason that this is good news is that it all but begs the Virginia Supreme Court to dismiss Kochy’s illegitimate case against Mr. Jefferson’s university.  Putting aside the facts that Cuccinelli’s actions are extremely offensive violations of both the Federal and state Constitutions, and that his case is entirely founded on wacko, baseless conspiracy theories, there is now absolutely no need for his subpoenas because U-VA is releasing the info in question anyway.

    Game over. Yes, I know full well that even if U-VA releases Prof. Mann’s full body scans, Kochy will still find an excuse to say they didn’t release enough info and demand more, more, more.  But the courts now have one more excellent reason to throw out this taxpayer-dollar wasting case — and no reason left not to.