A lawsuit filed May 19, 2008 in Washington D.C. alleges that the United States Government is illegally withholding transcripts of its World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement concerning online gaming.
In 2007, journalist Ed Brayton began his own investigation into the and more specifically, the negotiations held between the WTO and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR.) These negotiations are widely thought to spell out the connections between concessions made to the European Union for the US’s 2007 failure to comply with international gambling laws (and subsequent rejection of all gambling sections of the WTO) and possibly point to the business interests involved in the inception of the 2006 UIGEA. Brayton was denied his request in December 2007 on the grounds of “National security.” Yesterday, Brayton responded to the denial by filing a formal lawsuit against the USTR demanding the full transcripts and negotiation details.
This “matter of national security” response from the USTR has augmented concerns over the intentions behind recent internet and other remote gaming, as well as the legitimacy of the current Bush Administration. Bonnie I. Robin-Vergeer, a Public Citizen attorney representing Mr. Brayton on the US Government’s actions:
Americans have a right to know what kinds of trade concessions the U.S. government is granting other countries, especially when those deals have a significant impact on domestic policy and may be worth billions of dollars.
The Bush administration’s decision to withhold the agreement under the Freedom of Information Act has more to do with its desire to prevent public and congressional scrutiny of the settlement before it is enshrined in a new WTO schedule than it does with national security. FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requires the agreement’s release.
The newly elected Democratic Congress has also initiated an informal inquest into the USTR. In March 2008, Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR) circulated a letter to his fellow congressmen urging a release of the transcripts in question on the grounds that:
There is a concern that the USTR may have been ambitious in its use of a 'national security' classification to avoid any publicity of which new business sectors are to be subject to the GATS treaty.
While the details of the settlement between the US and EU are as of yet unknown to the public, it is believed that the deal not only guaranteed foreign entities certain advantages in the US market place but also spelled out billions of dollars in penalties and compensation to European nations.