The Georgia International Law Enforcement Program at Georgia State University is a program that sends local officers abroad to learn from international officers, including Israelis, about fighting terrorism. Officers also teach international officers about civil rights and how to deal with protesters.
Recently, a Georgia State student group, the Progressive Student Alliance, submitted an open records request asking for information on the GILEE program, including the names of officers, where they were training and what, specifically, they were learning. The students were provided with names of some participants and the topics of training, but sharing details that would threaten the security of the participants concerned lawmakers.
Olens told Channel 2 Action News anchor John Bachman that information was not only sensitive, but could be potentially deadly.
Tim Dalton with the Progressive Student Alliance told Bachman, "I'm not a terrorist. I'm a student. I'm a student that is concerned about programs in my community, which is the Georgia State community."
"We wanted to know the nature of the program because we want to be able to say whether or not it should be on our campus or not," said Dalton.
Olens told Bachman what the group is requesting goes beyond basic knowledge of the program and poses a security threat.
"Students have the right to expression, they have rights under the First Amendment like everyone else, but when you are specifically asking for data that explicitly harm law enforcement, that is no longer naive or innocent," said Olens.
Olens suggested someone is using the Georgia State students to obtain this information.
Bachman asked Olens, "Who has been prompting these students to make these request?"
"I'm not going to speculate," replied Olens.
"But do you think it's somebody bigger?" asked Bachman.
"Absolutely. Students don't wake up one morning and say I wonder where the Dunwoody police officers are receiving training in Israel on terrorism. I wonder where the bus starts from and goes to on day four of the program. I don't think that is something a student groups comes up with," said Olens.
State Rep. Tom Taylor helped pass a bill that would protect future inquiries.
"What this is, is a very narrowly defined bill to protect records, blueprints and plants from sabotage or terrorist attack or criminal mischief. It protects, from open records searches, identities, like home addresses of law enforcement officers who have received specialized training," Taylor told Bachman. Both he and Olens said the narrow scope of the bill does not hide most information, just the details they said could lead to danger.
"We couldn't be more narrow. In fact, we literally went to the lawyer who represents the Georgia Press Association, to assist us in the language, the language in the bill is his language," said Taylor.
"It makes the government less transparent, and it prevents information from going to the population, and it prevents our ability to be concerned, critically thinking citizens," said Dalton.
Cox Enterprises, the parent company of WSB-TV, is a sponsor of the GILEE program.