Criminal Justice

H.R.1272 – Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017

Short Titles as Introduced:

Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017

Official Title as Introduced:

To provide for the expeditious disclosure of records related to civil rights cold cases, and for other purposes.

Summary:
Introduced in House (03/01/2017)

Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017

This bill requires the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of cold case records about unsolved criminal civil rights cases that government offices must: (1) publicly disclose in the collection without redaction or withholding, or (2) submit to a protected collection of records for which public disclosure may be postponed.

The Cold Case Records Review Board is established as an independent agency of impartial private citizens to: (1) facilitate the review, transmission to NARA, and public disclosure of government records related to such cases; (2) hold hearings and render decisions on determinations by government offices to seek to postpone the disclosure of such records; (3) direct government offices to make information available to the board; (4) subpoena private persons to compel testimony and records; and (5) receive information from the public.

Postponement is permitted based on clear and convincing evidence that public disclosure would: (1) impair national security or reveal intelligence sources or methods; (2) reveal the name of, and pose substantial harm to, a living person who provided confidential information; (3) constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy that outweighs the public interest; (4) compromise an understanding of confidentiality currently requiring protection between a government agent and a cooperating individual or group; or (5) reveal a security or protective procedure of the Secret Service or another executive agency responsible for protecting government officials.

NARA and the originating agency must review postponed or redacted records every 180 days. The reasons for any continuation of postponement must be published in the Federal Register.

Each cold case record shall be publicly disclosed and shall be available in NARA’s collection not later than 25 years after enactment of this bill, unless: (1) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to military defense, intelligence operations, or the conduct of foreign relations; and (2) the gravity of the identifiable harm outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

The President has sole and nondelegable authority to require disclosure or postponement of an executive branch cold case record under the grounds set forth in this bill after the board has made a formal determination concerning a record obtained or developed solely within the executive branch.

The board may request the Department of Justice to petition courts to release information related to cold cases under seal or held under the injunction of secrecy of a grand jury.

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