A recent article by online sports betting information site 911 reported a suspicious response from US government employees when a third party requested details on the recently brokered US-European Union deal. The US negotiated a trade package with the EU along with a number of other countries for compensation upon their withdrawal of US WTO gambling agreements.
The name of the article, “National Security Is Whatever We Say It Is,” says it all. Their report articulates the experiences of freelance journalist Ed Brayton, who has been diligently seeking details of the compensation package negotiated with the EU, Japan and Canada.
"What concessions did the U.S. make so its government could keep restricting the rights of its citizens to play poker online? And how much would those concessions cost those citizens who were having their freedom constrained?" Brayton was quoted as asking after being refused information by the US Trade Representative spokesperson.
Determined to get his story, Brayton filed for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In his request he was seeking a copy of the actual agreement. His second attempt at attaining the information was also rejected—the reason being that the details of the agreement are classified.
The unsettling response from the US Trade Representative’s office stated: “Please be advised that the document you seek is being withheld in full pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1), which pertains to information that is properly classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958.”
Brayton has taken a critical tone against the government for refusing to unveil details on such a groundbreaking resolution, saying:
Yes, the United States government is claiming that its attempt to restrict Americans from gambling online is so important that their efforts are a matter of national security. And that whatever under-the-table deals they make that might cost taxpayers billions of dollars can be classified and hidden from public scrutiny as if they were nuclear launch codes.
Americans, according to this administration, have no right to know how many billions of our tax dollars they've spent with no legislative authorization whatsoever in order to buy the cooperation of other nations and allow them to continue to violate the rights of American adults by preventing them from gambling in the privacy of their own home.
Brayton is now in the process of filing an appeal against what he believes is a capricious decision.
Adding another interesting element to the drama is the recent move by both Costa Rica and Antigua applying for WTO arbitration on the matter. These two countries both lost a great deal as a result of the unlawful UIGEA legislation and the WTO is on their side.
Hopefully the added pressure put on the US by Costa Rica and Antigua will help push for a reversal of these agreements. The compensation package struck between the US and the EU is widely unpopular and may encourage them to join in the arbitration process. We can only hope that this will open new doors in the fight to reverse the erroneously passed UIGEA.