FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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October 30, 2014 4:07 PM

A report commissioned by the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate says barriers to using and developing open source software must be addressed as IT budgets across government continue to tighten.

Security and the perceptions of security are just as problematic as "non-security" challenges to open source software, or OSS, says the report's authors ñ David Wheeler, a research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses, and Tom Dunn, senior research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

The report ñ based on interviews with 31 OSS experts, suppliers and potential users ñ exposed fears about low-quality code and malware, concerns about commercial support, inertia, procurement issues, and certification and accreditation, or C&A, problems. Continue>>>
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October 23, 2014 9:36 AM

Those seeking documents from the Department of Homeland Security will likely have to wait for their requests to be filled. According to a new report released this month from the DHS Privacy Office, the agency now has a backlog of more than 50,000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, The Hill reported, with most of those related to immigration records.

The office, which must report annually to Congress, said for fiscal year 2013, requests went up a record-setting 18 percent, hitting a total of 231,534. It will rely on contractors as well as staff directed at the largest backlogs, according to the report.

The department noted that about 95 percent of the requests were from agencies like the Immigration and Custom Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration Services, The Hill noted. Continue>>>

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May 4, 2012 3:05 PM

A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week:

NARA Survey Shows Continued Govt-wide Records Mis-Management

The May 1 release of an annual report by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), based on surveys agencies filled out about their record keeping practices, shows how much more work needs to be done before we can say with any certainty that the government is not at risk of losing potentially important records.

Visit OpenTheGovernment.org for the rest.

Ohio legislature intends to preserve accessibility to public records

I was disappointed to read the Rep editorial “JobsOhio bill is raising red flag” (April 27). As the state representative of this area, as well as the sponsor of House Bill 489, I can be a good source of information when misunderstandings such as this arise.

Visit CantonRep.com for the rest.

Utah names open records ombudsman

The state of Utah has named a GRAMA ombudsman to serve as an intermediary between the public and the state when dealing with government record requests.

Visit Daily Herald for the rest.

Chicago open records advocates fear information roadblocks

The state Office of Information Practices hopes a bill that would grant government agencies a new right to appeal open records decisions in court would give its orders more legal clout, yet open government advocates warn that it would delay public access to information.

Visit Chicago Tribune for the rest.

Chicago Police Sought Assistance From DHS On Occupy Chicago

Less than a month after Occupy Chicago faced two rounds of arrests for attempting to create its own encampment in Grant Park last year, Chicago Police sent a request for information to the Department of Homeland Security to see how other cities dealt with the movement. Documents released via a Freedom of Information Act request to Truthout show on Nov. 9, CPD was interested in contacting law enforcement in New York, Oakland, Washington D.C., Portland, Seattle, Boston and Denver to obtain information on Occupy movements

Visit Chicagoist.com for the rest.

4 frequent FOIA-ers led to new city hire

Repeated Freedom of Information Act requests filed by just four parties may have contributed to the planned hiring of a new deputy city clerk, who will earn $17,500 for a year of part-time work. During the April 10 city council meeting, city clerk Rodney Greene presented a graph showing four anonymous requesters and the number of FOIA requests they had each filed in 2011 and 2012. The most frequent requester filed 18 FOIAs in that time period.

Visit The Daily Northwestern for the rest.

State Ports Authority thwarts efforts to pry info loose

The Post and Courier’s recent series on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) highlighted one of the most important, and least appreciated, characteristics of a free society — the ability ordinary citizens should have to learn, without filters, what government is doing for them and, potentially, to them. Reinforcing The Post and Courier’s findings, the State Integrity Assessment, a project of Public Radio International, the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity, gave South Carolina an “F” for government transparency.

Visit The Post and Courier for the rest.

Consumer Watchdog Files FOIA Request Seeking All Documents In FCC's Investigation Of Google Wi-Spy Scandal

SANTA MONICA—Consumer Watchdog today filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the Federal Communications Commission seeking all documents related to the Commission's investigation of the Google Wi-Spy scandal.

Visit Market Watch for the rest.

Mayor orders camera off at council meeting

Meetings of the Cumming City Council rarely make the evening news, but that changed last week with video of a woman being tossed out of the public gathering.

Visit Politifact for the rest.

April 20, 2012 11:02 AM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier:

Jessica Dorrell, Bobby Petrino Scandal Shows Power Of FOIA

Bobby Petrino is just the latest Arkansas coach to reveal a bit too much on a state issued cell phone. Petrino was dismissed by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long on before his phone records became available, but the revealing records won't make it any easier for him to land his next job.

Visit International Business Times for the rest.

Judicial Watch Sues DHS for Records Regarding President's Illegal Alien Uncle

Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for records related to President Obama's illegal alien uncle, Onyango Obama, who was arrested in August 2011 on drunken driving charges in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Visit Wall Street Journal for the rest.

FOIA Requests Overwhelm City Clerk’s Office

A small number of individuals and entities are responsible for the 10 to 20 weekly Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that are overwhelming Evanston’s city clerk’s office, said City Clerk Rodney Greene at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Visit Evanston Patch for the rest.

Poisons lurk where lead-smelting factories once stood

Ken Shefton is furious about what the government knew eight years ago and never told him — that the neighborhood where his five sons have been playing is contaminated with lead.

Visit USA Today for the rest.

Hawaii Open Government Under Attack

All is not well in the Aloha state. “Sunshine” advocates including Rep. Barbara Marumoto are rising up to oppose a recent attack on Hawaii’s open government. A new bill that was introduced earlier this year is set to intentionally delay responses to public records requests. SB2858 “Creates a process for an agency to obtain judicial review of a decision made by the Office of Information Practices relating to the Sunshine Law or the Uniform Information Practices Act, and clarifies standard of review.”

Visit Government in the Lab for the rest.

CIA Digs In, Refuses to Repeal Damaging Mandatory Declassification Review Regulations.

The CIA has responded to a letter signed by 36 groups requesting that the it withdraw new MDR fee regulations that allow it to charge up to $72 per hour to search for documents –even if none are found.  The response from the CIA’s Information Management Services: Talk to our lawyers, not us.

Visit Unredacted for the rest.

Groups File FOIA Request on 2009 Yemeni Attack

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed a Freedom of Information Act request looking into a 2009 U.S. missile strike that killed 41 Yemeni people, the groups announced on Tuesday.

Visit National Journal for the rest.

Watchdog Group Sues County For Records Of Investigation Of Freeholder’s Son

The Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA) has filed a lawsuit in Union County Superior Court seeking access to investigatory records involving a former county employee, Patrick Scanlon, Jr., who is the son of Freeholder Deborah Scanlon.

Visit NJToday for the rest.

March 29, 2012 1:30 AM

From Truth-Out.org

The Occupy Wall Street Homeland Security FOIA documents are now available for download courtesy of Truth-Out.org.

February 16, 2012 4:51 PM

From NextGov:

The Homeland Security Department monitors social media sites, blogs and online comment threads to gather "situational awareness" about threats and emergencies, but it doesn't pull identifying information about average citizens out of those comments unless it's a "life or death situation," officials told a House panel Thursday.

The hearing of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence follows news that an agency contractor mined Facebook, Twitter and the comments sections of online news articles in 2009 to gauge Standish, Mich., residents' thoughts about a short-lived proposal to move Guantanamo Bay prisoners to an area prison.

January 3, 2012 1:55 PM

From Courthouse News Service:

NEW HAVEN (CN) - The Vietnam Veterans of America says the Pentagon has "systematically and wrongfully discharged" more than 22,000 veterans since 2001 "on the basis of so-called 'personality disorder'" - rather than post-traumatic stress disorder - to deny them medical care and save the Pentagon $12.5 billion in medical and disability payments.

"The military classifies PD [personality disorder] as a condition pre-existing military service," the four plaintiff chapters of the Vietnam Veterans of America say in their federal complaint against the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

December 23, 2011 10:45 AM

From Nextgov:

Privacy advocates are suing the Homeland Security Department to obtain information on a program that monitors the social media interactions of citizens following a federal vendor's private sector plans to sabotage certain groups' online activities with similar technology.

Homeland Security officials have expanded an ongoing initiative that tracks public online communications in the interests of public safety, according a February DHS notice.

December 12, 2011 11:08 AM

From Wired:

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said Friday he would demand answers from the Department of Homeland Security about its domain seizure program known as Operation in Our Sites after it was revealed that the government kept a hip-hop music review site’s name for a year without affording the owner a chance to challenge the seizure.

[...]

“I expect the administration will be receiving a series of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests from our office and that the senator will have very pointed questions with regard to how the administration chooses to target the sites that it does,” said Jennifer Hoelzer, a Wyden spokeswoman. She said the senator was “particularly interested in learning how many secret dockets exist for copyright cases. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious precedent or explanation for that.”

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