Lawmakers will consider an exception to Florida’s public records law that would black out identifying information of active and retired members of the military’s special operations units.
The bill (SB 674/HB 185) gets its first review on Wednesday by the House Veteran and Military Affairs Subcommittee.
It would extend an exemption now covering home addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and other information now in the public record to special ops service members, their spouses and children.
The exemption already covers judges, prosecutors, police, firefighters and certain state investigators, among others.
In an interview Tuesday, state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, said he introduced the bill after a suggestion a couple of months ago by Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux.
“He just felt it was the right thing to do,” Evers said. “We’ve got these guys who go over to foreign countries and do undercover work. Should we not try to protect them and their families while they’re gone?”
U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees the service branches’ special operations forces — the Navy Seals and Army Rangers among them — is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
Officials at Socom said they were unaware of the measure and could not comment.
Barbara Petersen, president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit watchdog of the state’s Sunshine Laws, said her organization hasn’t yet taken a position on the bill.
But Petersen said a friend of hers, a retired member of a special operations unit, had a compelling argument in favor.
“He asked, ‘How hard would it be to get my military record, figure out I was in Iraq, and find my wife and hurt her?’” she said. “So I’m of a mixed mind about this.”
Scott Mann, a 23-year Army veteran and Green Beret now in consulting, mentioned the “growing threat and reach” of the Islamic State group as a good reason for the exemption.
That, “coupled with the boundless capacity of tribal revenge emanating from the areas where special operations forces operate, (means) this is probably a good call,” said Mann, who fought three combat tours in Afghanistan.
The proposed bill brings to mind the need for people who are connected with the special operations community to be careful in all their digital interactions, said David Scott, a retired Air Force major general who served as deputy director for Socom’s Center for Special Operations.
“From my perspective, this kind of protection against casual release of personal information is good,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, we are at a time where those at the ‘tip of the spear’ could be targeted.”
Stu Bradin, president and CEO of the Tampa-based Global Special Operations Forces Foundation, said he isn’t so sure.
“Everyone has an electronic footprint and you can’t exist in the modern world without it,” said Bradin, whose foundation aims to “bring together military, government, industry and intellectual leaders … to advance the capability and efficacy” of special ops forces, its website says.
Bradin said he’s never seen an indication that special operations members were being targeted.
“I am not sure why they want to do this,” he said.
But Evers suggests there’s no reason to wait until it’s too late.
“So many times legislation … is a knee jerk reaction to something that has happened,” he said. “This is more of a preventative issue that we’re bringing forward.”
Original article here.