Some open-government activists are urging members of Congress to revise a Pentagon bill that could keep vast portions of military documents secret.

The activists, including the National Press Club and the American Civil Liberties Union, assert in a letter sent Wednesday to members of the House and Senate committees on armed services that some provisions of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act would act as an unnecessary restriction of public access to military documents.

The bill, which has passed the House but still needs Senate confirmation, lists budget appropriations for the Department of Defense each fiscal year but also includes provisions on how the military operates. The Senate version includes a provision that would shield from public disclosure unclassified “information on military tactics, techniques and procedures,” that now may be considered public.

The general public and news media can request most military records — along with other federal documents — through the Freedom of Information Act. The act, commonly referred to as FOIA, also lists the types of documents that may be exempted from disclosure, such as some classified military records or documents whose release could threaten national security.

But for the most part, federal agencies are urged to treat records requests through FOIA with a “presumption of openness,” President Barack Obama has said.

Open-government activists argue in their letter that the bill’s new provision could create an overly broad exemption from freedom-of-information rules, effectively allowing the Pentagon to keep secret vast swaths of records previously available.

Read more at USA Today

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