Office denies approving documents' release

June 07, 2006|By MICHAEL DRESSER | MICHAEL DRESSER,SUN REPORTER

The Maryland attorney general's office is denying an assertion that Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Gary W. McLhinney received the approval of state lawyers before releasing sensitive security information last month.

The documents McLhinney released included the names of Secret Service agents and other security officers providing executive protection to state and federal officials and their families - details government agencies generally resist disclosing.

The statement that McLhinney had acted on the advice of state lawyers came in an e-mail from another state transportation department law enforcement officer, Maryland Transit Administration Police Chief Douglas DeLeaver, to The Sun's public editor. In it, DeLeaver defended McLhinney, who on May 16 released the documents to the media - an action that was the subject of a May 28 article in The Sun.

DeLeaver wrote: "The Maryland Attorney General's Office reviewed and approved the dissemination of the documents before the release."

But Kevin Enright, a spokesman for Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., denied that McLhinney sought state lawyers' advice.

"If Chief DeLeaver is under the impression that this Office approved Chief McLhinney's document dissemination to The Sun and other news organizations on May 16, he is mistaken," Enright wrote. "As the custodian of the records, Chief McLhinney elected to produce the documents with the knowledge that we did not have the opportunity to perform more than a cursory review and despite our concerns about their contents. That was his right."

DeLeaver and state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan were at conferences out of the country and did not return calls. McLhinney did not return a call seeking his comment. But Trent Kittleman, executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority, dismissed the matter as "a dead issue."

McLhinney released the documents at a news conference he called to criticize a reporter who sought to speak with one of his officers on an executive protective detail at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The Sun had filed a public records request as part of an investigation of the Transportation Authority Police practice of providing armed escorts for celebrities passing through BWI, an unusual perk at a major U.S. airport.

In his e-mail, DeLeaver criticized The Sun for failing to mention in its May 28 article that "the Maryland Public Information Act requires Chief McLhinney to release the requested documents."

The Sun's request stated that it was seeking forms detailing police escorts to "private citizens (non-government employees)." Nevertheless, McLhinney released 305 pages that included details of travel through BWI by U.S. Cabinet secretaries, National Security Agency and Drug Enforcement Administration officials and other officials.

"The Public Information Act does not require the release of records that are not requested or that are excluded from a request," Enright said.

In many cases, the documents show signs that they were not fully reviewed before release. In some cases, information is redacted on one document but disclosed on another. On some, material that is usually withheld - such as cell phone numbers and license plate numbers of cars transporting a protected person - is disclosed.

In the May 28 article, experts on executive protection and law enforcement criticized McLhinney for what they called a security violation and a breach of the trust between law enforcement agencies. The Transportation Security Administration said he had not broken federal law by releasing its forms.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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