Coming soon, to a WikiLeaks mirror site near you…SaltBarnGate:
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the state after it refused to release the construction plans for a barn used to store road salt, on the basis that doing so would be a security risk.
According to the complaint, [Carole] Chiaffarano suspected that the salt barn was built “according to plans that were not approved by one or more governmental agencies.”
Chiaffarano, whose property is located 38 feet from the barn, had no difficulty in obtaining the plans from Bethlehem Township after filing an OPRA request. She wanted to compare the building plans provided by the township to those on file with the state.
Chiaffarano filed an OPRA request for the state’s building plans, but was denied her request as the state cited a 2002 executive order by Gov. James McGreevey.
The order, issued in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, allows the state to decline the release of public records that would compromise the state’s ability to “protect and defend the state and its citizens against acts of sabotage or terrorism.”
I think it’s entirely possible that the salt barn is actually listed as a critical infrastructure component in New Jersey on the grounds that a terrorist act could make it inaccessible during a snowstorm, leading to impassible roads that impair emergency response vehicles and damage the local economy by disrupting travel. The chance of this being the explanation is directly proportional to the amount of money New Jersey can get from federal anti-terrorosm funds by claiming critical infrastructure status for a barn full of road salt.
The other possibility is that some state bureaucrat was sick and tired of handling Open Public Records Act requests and figured that he or she could avoid the tedium of finding, copying, and mailing a set of blueprints by invoking the anti-terrorism exception to the public records law. After all, it wasn’t anybody important asking for the blueprints, just a citizen.
(Hat tip: Bruce Schneier)