Q: I am a policy advocate working on a bill that would strengthen the California Public Records Act as it relates to government contracts and tax incentive programs. Recently, we have heard that there are concerns around national security when it comes to this bill. Thus, my question is–are there any existing national security protections built into the CPRA?
A: The California Public Records Act (CPRA) contains numerous exemptions to its disclosure provisions. The most relevant to your inquiry is the police investigatory records exemption, which broadly exempts “[r]ecords of complaints to, or investigations conducted by, or records of intelligence information or security procedures of, the office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice, the Office of Emergency Services and any state or local police agency, or any investigatory or security files compiled by any other state or local police agency.” Cal. Gov. Code § 6254(f). To the extent a state or local police agency possesses records relevant to “national security” broadly defined, then that might fall under the security procedures exemption.
We note several other exemptions from disclosure that likely qualify as “national security” exemptions. § 6254(aa) exempts documents prepared by or for a state or local agency that assesses its vulnerability to terrorist attack. § 6254(ab) also exempts “critical infrastructure information” that is voluntarily submitted to the Office of Emergency Services. § 6254.23 exempts risk assessments or railroad infrastructure protection programs filed with specific agencies including the Public Utilities Commission and U.S. Director of Homeland Security. Lastly, § 6254.19 exempts disclosure of certain information security records if, “on the facts of the particular case, disclosure of that record would reveal vulnerabilities to, or otherwise increase the potential for an attack on, an information technology system of a public agency.”
You may wish to review the text of § 6254 and related provisions for any other terms that might be relevant to national security concerns. The text of the CPRA can be found here.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation. No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.