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Catfish and Cod
Monday, September 01, 2003
Fun with the United States Code: II.
(Link path: FindLaw)

Today`s installment: Title 44, Public Printing and Documents.

Section 4104. As used in this chapter, the term ''Federal electronic information'' means Federal public information stored electronically.

As opposed to... what, exactly?

Section 3310. When the Archivist and the head of the agency that has custody of them jointly determine that records in the custody of an agency of the United States Government are a continuing menace to human health or life or to property, the Archivist shall eliminate the menace immediately by any method he considers necessary. When records in the custody of the Archivist are disposed of under this section, the Archivist shall report their disposal to the agency from which they were transferred.

Tell me, what records could pose a "continuing menace to human health or life"? Do they mean documents dangerously infested with the Cyanide Slime Mold of Death? I might -- possibly -- understand destroying moldy documents that pose a occupational hazard. (Better to put them in better storage, yes?) But I suspect that's not the purpose; this probably refers to destroying documents relating to CIA operatives that might be assassinated if their identities were discovered in the U.S. Archives somewhere.

(The really scary thing is that any documents can be destroyed on the word of two government officials because they constitute "a continuing menace to property". Whose property? Who decides? Does this mean that it's legal for the EPA Director, say, to conspire with the Archivist and destroy documents proving contamination, because they pose "a continuing menace to property"? Fortunately, there's a commission to answer such deep questions for us. See Section 3316 et seq.)

Did you know that the government distributes several thousand copies of the Congressional Record every day, free? It's true. See Section 906. I wonder how much that costs? Why can't everyone read the Record online, and buy what paper copies they really need at the going rate?

Section 306. Only skilled workmen can work at the Government Printing Office. It's true! You have to demonstrate skill to work for these guys. I'm not sure whether this is superfluous -- or whether it should be applied to every government office, everywhere...