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Background

Section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 [Public Law 106-554] requires federal agencies to issue guidelines ensuring and maximizing the quality, utility, objectivity and integrity of disseminated information. The focus of Section 515 is on the federal government's information dissemination activities.

Federal agencies have disseminated information to the public for decades. Until recently, agencies have disseminated information principally by making paper copies of documents available to the public. In recent years, federal dissemination has grown due to the advent of the Internet, which has ushered in a revolution in communications. This enhanced information availability, combined with wider accessibility and ease-of-use, has required all federal agencies to revisit their dissemination control procedures and to ensure that appropriate information quality standards are in place and are being followed.

Accordingly, guidelines outlined here will facilitate Secret Service compliance with Section 515. As such, they are designed to improve the integrity, quality and utility of information to all users within and outside the Secret Service, including capabilities for ensuring dissemination of public information, public access to government information and protections for privacy and security.

Scope

Guidelines outlined here apply to information disseminated to the public in any medium including textual, graphic, narrative, numerical or audiovisual forms. However, these guidelines do NOT apply to information disseminated in the following contexts:

  • Between government employees or agency contractors or grantees
  • Intra- or inter-agency use or sharing of government information
  • Correspondence with individual persons, press releases, archival records, public filings, subpoenas or adjudicative processes
  • Responses to requests for agency records under the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act or other similar laws

These guidelines do not override other compelling interests such as privacy, trade secrets, intellectual property and other confidentiality protections. Nothing in these guidelines affects any otherwise available judicial review of agency action. The guidelines do not apply to opinions where the agency's presentation makes it clear that the material is an opinion or the agency's views rather than fact.

These guidelines apply to Secret Service or Department-sponsored distribution of information (where the agency directs a third party to distribute information, or the agency has the authority to review and approve the information before release).

Finally, these guidelines apply to information posted on the Internet by the Secret Service. (The guidelines do not, however, apply to hyperlinks to information that others disseminate.)