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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November 18, 2014 11:17 AM

Watchdog group Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Administration in October, in order to obtain records relating to media monitoring plan records.

More specifically, the FOIA is against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and relates to a “Critical Information Needs” (CIN) pilot study conducted by the government agency. The study revolved around how media outlets make editorial decisions when covering stories.

The FCC's Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs study, announced in May 2013, had a stated purpose to analyse the "access/barriers to CINs in diverse American communities … with special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations." Continue>>>
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November 18, 2014 11:14 AM

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission does not have to release records about its supervision of Wall Street's arbitration process to a group of investors' lawyers, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ends, at least for now, a long-running battle about the public's right of access to documents about the SEC's oversight over the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's arbitration system.

FINRA, the Wall Street industry-funded watchdog, runs the arbitration forum where investors and brokerages must resolve their legal disputes. The SEC oversees and examines FINRA, which is a private organization. Continue>>>

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November 7, 2014 11:23 AM

New York's Southern District Court -- which has been hosting (along with the Second Circuit Appeals Court) the ACLU and New York Times' long-running, concurrent FOIA lawsuits against the government over its drone killing memos -- has reached a partial decision on some of the embattled documents.

The court's decision was actually delivered on Sept. 30th, but its conclusion and order have spent the last month under seal while the government applied its redactions. An accompanying memo from the presiding judge [pdf link] notes that the court isn't buying all the government's redaction arguments.

Indeed, page 9 of the order [pdf link] leaves almost everything to the imagination, retaining only a single sentence that really makes you wish the court hadn't deferred to the government's judgement. Continue>>> 

July 3, 2014 10:36 PM

The Fort Smith city clerk and four members of the city board of directors are accused of violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Sebastian County Circuit Court.

City Clerk Sherri Gard is accused of individually polling Directors Keith Lau, George Catsavis and Kevin Settle after Ward 3 Director Mike Lorenz contacted her to remove items from the June 17 and July 1 directors’ meeting agendas, in the complaint.

On June 3, At-Large Director Philip Merry requested a discussion seeking a three-year audit of the city’s legal contract with the law firm Daily & Woods be placed on agenda for the directors’ June 10 study session. At-Large Director Pam Weber seconded the move, and the item was placed on the agenda. Continue>>>
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March 26, 2014 9:50 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the Delaware Court of Chancery's appeal of a federal appellate court ruling declaring its confidential arbitration program unconstitutional. The Supreme Court's refusal to grant certiorari ends the Chancery Court's arbitration program after three years of litigation and two federal court decisions.

In an order issued Monday, the high court said it would not grant certiorari in Delaware Coalition for Open Government v. Strine, but did not provide more information.

The Supreme Court's decision means that an October 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit declaring that the arbitration program violated the public's right to access civil trials under the First Amendment will stand. Continue>>>
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September 6, 2013 8:56 AM

From ABC News:  The Justice Department is declassifying portions of some secret court orders concerning the government's authority to seize records under the Patriot Act.

The department revealed its decision to declassify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions in a filing with the federal court in the Northern District of California Wednesday. The government says it will provide hundreds of pages of documents to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil liberties group that had filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.

The release of the records is in response to an order issued by a federal judge in California. In its filing, the Justice Department said it was "broadly construing" that order and is declassifying a larger set of documents than the ruling required.

The Justice Department said it would provide the document to the foundation by Tuesday.

Continue >>

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September 6, 2013 8:39 AM

From Jason Leopold at The Public Record:  Late Monday evening, I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice to obtain a copy of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture program.

The panel spent four years “reviewing” the CIA torture program, which cost taxpayers more than $40 million. The substance of the 6,000-page report and whether or not it will be declassified has been the subject of debate since the committee voted 9-6 last December to approve it. Last month, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, a member of the Senate Intelligence Commitee, placed a hold on Obama’s nominee, Stephen Preston, who was tapped by the president to be general counsel at the Defense Department. Preston is currently CIA’s general counsel. Udall took action, he said, because he wants Preston to answer questions about the Senate’s report on the CIA’s torture program.

“At issue,” according to a report in The Daily Beast, “is whether the report should be declassified and released to the public.”

[. . .]

FOIA does not apply to Congress. Still, I want to report on the Senate’s findings. So, two weeks ago, I filed a FOIA request with DOJ to obtain the agency’s copy of the Senate report. My FOIA sought expedited processing, noting that as of late July a Google search of “CIA senate torture report” resulted in 4.6 million hits on the search engine, underscoring widespread media interest in the document.

Continue >>

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September 5, 2013 12:10 PM

From Electronic Frontier Foundation: In a major victory in one of EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, the Justice Department conceded yesterday that it will release hundreds of documents, including FISA court opinions, related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law the NSA has relied upon for years to mass collect the phone records of millions of innocent Americans.

In a court filing, the Justice Department, responding to a judge’s order, said that they would make public a host of material that will “total hundreds of pages” by next week, including: [O]rders and opinions of the FISC issued from January 1, 2004, to June 6, 2011, that contain a significant legal interpretation of the government’s authority or use of its authority under Section 215; and responsive “significant documents, procedures, or legal analyses incorporated into FISC opinions or orders and treated as binding by the Department of Justice or the National Security Agency.”

While the government finally released a white paper detailing its expansive (and unconstitutional) interpretation of Section 215 last month, more important FISA court opinions adopting at least part of that interpretation have remained secret. The results of EFF’s FOIA lawsuit will finally lift the veil on the dubious legal underpinnings of NSA’s domestic phone surveillance program.

Continue >>

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August 14, 2013 3:36 PM

From News-Gazette.com:  An Illinois appellate court has sided with The News-Gazette and ruled that the city of Champaign turn over to reporter Patrick Wade copies of electronic communications sent and received by city council members during council meetings and study sessions in May, June and July 2011.

But the same three-member court overturned a ruling by Sangamon County Judge John Schmidt that The News-Gazette's attorney was entitled to $7,500 in attorney fees and costs from the city.

[...]

Champaign City Attorney Fred Stavins said Wednesday the city would make a decision within the next two weeks whether to appeal the ruling.

Get the rest here.

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July 9, 2013 12:43 PM

From Wired:  A federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Friday ordered the government to promptly start releasing thousands of pages of Secret Service documents about the late activist and coder Aaron Swartz, following months of roadblocks and delays.

“Defendant shall promptly release to Plaintiff all responsive documents that it has gathered thus far and shall continue to produce additional responsive documents that it locates on a rolling basis,” wrote U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

The order was issued in my ongoing FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security – the Secret Service’s parent agency.

It was Secret Service agents who, in 2011, investigated Swartz’ bulk downloads from the JSTOR academic database, leading to the computer hacking and wire fraud case that loomed over Swartz at the time he committed suicide in January.

 

April 25, 2013 8:48 AM

From SOA Watch:

United States District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton from the Northern District of California ordered the Pentagon to release the names of who trains and teaches at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC), a U.S. military training school for Latin American soldiers that has been connected to torturers, death squads and military dictators throughout the Americas. Human rights activists had taken the U.S. government to court over its refusal to release the information, and won. You can read a PDF of the court ruling at http://soaw.org/judgment.pdf
 
SOA Watch compiled the names, course, rank, country of origin, and dates attended for every soldier and instructor at the SOA/ WHINSEC from 1946 to 2003. After researchers exposed many cases of known human rights abusers attending the WHINSEC (despite claims that the "new" school was committed to human rights), and shared this research with Congressional decision-makers, the Department of Defense (DOD) refused to disclose any future information about students or teachers at the WHINSEC. The human rights community and the U.S. Congress did not agree with the decision. In 2008 and 2009, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill demanding that the DOD release this information. 

 

April 9, 2013 3:37 PM

From PCWorld:

A privacy watchdog has filed a lawsuit contending the Federal Bureau of Investigation has failed to provide requested technical information about a biometric identification database expected to be the largest in the world.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, alleges the FBI failed to disclose documents after it filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in September 2012.

EPIC sought information on the FBI’s “Next Generation Identification” program, which will amass biometric information on mostly U.S. citizens from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including palm prints and iris scans. New York City’s police department began collecting iris scans in 2010 of people who were arrested.

 

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