US court rules against government in open records case

Washington Supreme Court in the US rejected the government’s broad use of an exemption in the federal Freedom of Information Act to withhold documents from the public by an 8-1 vote, ruling for a Washington state resident who wants Navy maps relating to its main West Coast ammunition dump.

The case revolved around competing ideas of public safety. The government said that releasing the maps could allow someone to identify the precise location of the munitions stored at its base on Indian Island. On the other hand,  Glen Milner, a longtime community activist, said the people who live near the base have valid reasons for wanting to know whether they would be endangered by an explosion. During World War II, an explosion at the Navy’s Port Chicago ammunition depot killed 320 people. Milner has raised concerns about several area naval facilities safety for the surrounding communities. While he could not get the map for the ammunition dump, an official at an area submarine base provided Milner a map of the probable range of damage from an explosion at that facility.

The case is Milner v. Department of the Navy, 09-1163.


Sachiye Day, VERTICES intern.


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