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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August 26, 2015 12:36 PM

Ask any journalist and they’ll tell you the Freedom of Information Act process is broken. Denials are at record highs, navigating the bureaucracy can be a nightmare, and the federal agencies recently killed a modest reform bill. But a series of FOIA lawsuits also have just shown how the 50-year-old transparency law can still be indispensable. And absent any change in the law, the best way for news organizations to make sure it stays relevant is to use it innovatively and aggressively.

A study by Syracuse’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse showed that, with the exception of The New York Times, no legacy news organization sued the government under FOIA in 2014. But where print newspapers have largely faded away, digital-only news organizations—including some that are foolishly caricatured as mere meme generators and gossip mags—are thankfully starting to spend the time and money to fill the gap.  Continue>>>

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FOIA, FOIA lawsuits, media
August 20, 2015 2:44 PM

Next to the Federal Election Commission’s front door is a quotation from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." 

But the agency is refusing to uncloak a pricey, taxpayer-funded study that details decay in the security and management of its computer systems and networks, which the Center for Public Integrity revealed had been successfully infiltrated by Chinese hackers in October 2013.  Continue>>>

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August 19, 2015 9:38 AM

The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, has received a lot of attention lately.  As has the subject of public officials using personal e-mail accounts to conduct government business.  

Sarah Pratt works in Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office as the Public Access Counselor.  Her job is to help Illinois citizens file FOIA requests, and to offer a legally binding opinion if there is a dispute between a citizen and a public official regarding a FOIA request.   Continue>>>

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August 19, 2015 9:21 AM

A state panel reviewing Virginia's open records laws recommended narrowing one of the law's most frequently used exemptions Tuesday.

The proposal would not change the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, but would provide clarification in the hopes of preventing the exemption from being used more broadly than intended.  Continue>>>

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exemption, FOIA, Virginia
August 12, 2015 1:56 PM

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld a request for booking photographs of criminal defendants sought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Detroit Free Press v. USDOJ.  Existing circuit precedent mandated this result. In their brief per curiam opinion, however, Judges Guy, Cook, and McKeague explained why they believe full 6th Circuit should reconsider this holding.  Continue>>>

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August 10, 2015 11:44 AM

University officials were found using personal emails while conducting University business, and withheld the emails from several Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a news release.

This comes one day after Chancellor Phyllis Wise resigned from her position, effective Aug. 12.  Continue>>>

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August 5, 2015 11:14 AM

The FBI is investigating the security of classified emails formerly stored on Hillary Clinton’s private server and now maintained on a thumb drive by Clinton’s personal attorney, David Kendall, officials said Tuesday night.

Kendall confirmed the inquiry, first reported by The Washington Post, but sought to portray it as the logical result of the recent decision by Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III to report the matter to the FBI as a potential security breach.  Continue>>>

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August 4, 2015 2:10 PM

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge dismissed most, but not all, of the National Security Agency's requests to dismiss a reporter's FOIA request on federal surveillance of judges.

Jason Leopold, formerly with Al-Jazeera America and now with Vice News, filed two FOIA requests for NSA and FBI "surveillance of federal and state judges."  Continue>>>

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July 31, 2015 9:43 AM

Here is the story of one Afghanistan War disabled veteran who did not back down when VA VocRehab employees unlawfully withheld his VocRehab records from him following a benefits denial.

Disabled veteran Joe Roth first received a denial for VocRehab retraining at the end of last year. When he tried to fight back, poorly trained VA employees unlawfully concluded his records were the VA property and that they could be withheld.  Continue>>>

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July 28, 2015 12:21 PM

As a part of the United States’ Second Open Government National Action Plan commitment to further modernize FOIA, in 2014 OIP launched the Best Practices Workshop series as a way to share and leverage successes in FOIA administration across the government. Today we are announcing details for the second slate of topics and workshops in this series.

Each workshop in the series focuses on a specific topical area and will include a panel of representatives that will share their success stories and strategies. For example, some of the topics covered in the first series of workshops included panels on reducing backlogs, proactive disclosures, and implementing technology in FOIA administration. Continue>>>

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July 22, 2015 3:47 PM

The Justice Department has no current position on whether first requesters should get a priority look at the documents released before they are made available to the public under a planned “release to one, release to all” policy, according to Melanie Ann Pustay, Director of the Office of Information Policy at the Justice Department.

The timing issue popped up quickly as a hot button topic for scoop-jealous journalists after Justice announced its pilot program to assess the value and costs of more online disclosure of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.) The timing of such online releases will be examined as part of the pilot program being conducted at seven agencies, Pustay said in written answers to questions submitted by FreedomInfo.org.  Continue>>>

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July 21, 2015 8:48 AM

LOS ANGELES — When the reporter Jason Leopold gets ready to take on the United States government, he psychs himself up by listening to the heavy metal bands Slayer and Pantera.

Mr. Leopold describes himself as “a pretty rageful guy.” He argued recently with staff members at his son’s preschool because he objected to their references to “Indians” and they objected to his wearing family-unfriendly punk rock T-shirts to school meetings.  Continue>>>

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