Supreme Court Sinks Navy’s Stonewalling

The Supreme Court agreed Monday that a community activist could get copies of Navy maps showing the damage expected from an explosion at an ammunition dump in Washington. The Navy had opposed the activist’s Freedom of Information Act request for the maps.

The base at Naval Magazine Indian Island in Puget Sound is the Navy’s main repository for munitions on the West Coast. It stores weapons, ammunition and explosives. Community activist Glen Milner claimed to be concerned about the safety of residents at nearby Port Townsend in western Washington when he requested copies of the maps and data on the explosives.

Although no major explosion has occurred at the Navy base, the maps project the extent of damage if one took place. The Navy uses them to determine how far storage units should be spaced from one another to avoid a chain reaction if one of them detonates.

Navy officials said the maps were exempt from disclosure under the “personnel rules and practices” exception in the Freedom of Information Act. The exception protects the privacy of government employees. In Milner’s case, the Navy sought to protect the privacy of its personnel who work at the ammunition dump.

 

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