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Nader watchdog group files suit over cross-border program secrecy

Nader watchdog group files suit over cross-border program secrecy

   Public Citizen, a non-profit watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader, has filed suit against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on behalf of a highway safety organization to compel the agency to release information about a cross-border pilot program to allow Mexico-owned trucks on all U.S. highways.

   According to a Public Citizen release issued Tuesday, the nonprofit group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety filed a Freedom of Information Act request with FMCSA in October 2006 for information about activities surrounding any program to evaluate Mexico-domiciled motor carriers that would be permitted to operate beyond the Mexico-U.S. border zone.

   No details about the methodology for evaluating this 'project' or its criteria have been revealed, the release said. Yet public safety is at stake. The AHAS group filed the request out of concern over how such a cross-border program would comply with congressional restrictions and safeguards established in the 2002 U.S. Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and the statute that governs pilot projects.

   In February, the Bush administration gave the green light to a year-long pilot project to allow Mexican-owned trucks to operate beyond the current 20-mile border trade zone. Although government agencies are required to respond to FOIA requests within 20 working days, FMCSA has not provided the requested documents about the program. The lawsuit seeks to require the agency to produce the materials requested.

   'FMCSA has been stonewalling us by not supplying the information on this program,' said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. 'We’ve been forced to sue because the agency has been trying to keep this material out of the public domain.'

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