A Utah citizens group charges that the military is ignoring its requests for information about biological agents, a proposed electronic battlefield and air pollution.
Last year the group Downwinders filed three requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act, according to group spokesman Steve Erickson, Salt Lake City. Downwinders was founded as an anti-nuclear testing group but is now interested also in other military impacts on Utah.Erickson showed the Deseret News copies of requests and uncooperative responses from the military. He said the group filed requests on:
-April 19, 1988, asking the Army to supply a list of all biological agents tested at Dugway Proving Ground since 1951. Downwinders wanted to get dates and locations of tests, unclassified reports of test results, and records about biological and chemical toxic material at Dugway and its environs.
-Dec. 8, 1988, asking the Air Force to supply copies of its applications for Bureau of Land Management permits for the proposed electronic battlefield in Western Utah. The group requested copies of maps shown to BLM officials in meetings with the Air Force, and information used to narrow the choice for the battlefield to Utah.
-Dec. 23, 1988, a request for monitoring data on air pollution that resulted when the Air Force exploded a Hayman Igloo (a munitions storage unit) in a Tooele County test the previous month.
None of these requests has yet resulted in the military sending significant information to Down-winders, Erickson said.
Concerning Dugway, he said that after he filed his request, the Army admitted to the Deseret News that it had contaminated nearby parts of Dugway and some Bureau of Land Management property.
"Lee Davidson (the Deseret News' Washington Bureau chief) obtained two documents indicating contamination," Erickson said.
So he wrote again to Dugway in November 1988, "saying that now since this stuff's in the public domain, can I have a copy?"
A Dugway official responded on Nov. 22, 1988, writing, "The cost for reproduction of these documents is $42.50," and outlining methods to get a waiver of this fee.
"Why should I have to pay $42.50 for these two documents?" Erickson asked. "This is the kind of stuff they should have sent to me months before as part of my Freedom of Information Act request."
Meanwhile, he said, on the overall Dugway request, "we received no information."
Concerning the request for material about the proposed electronic battlefield, Erickson said that in early January he received notice that his request should not have been sent to the Pentagon, but to the secretary of the Air Force.
Then on Feb. 4, a second letter arrived saying more time was needed "to search for, collect and examine the records," and promising that he would receive a reply by Feb. 8.
Did he get the answer? "No," Erickson said.
In the meantime, he has been able to obtain some of this information through the office of Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah. But Downwinders is still waiting for other reports about the electronic battlefield.
Earlier Downwinders wrote to the Air Force for permit information, and received a response that no right-of-way permit applications had been filed with the BLM. "Draft permit applications are being coordinated with the appropriate BLM officers," the letter says.
It advises the group to write elsewhere for information.