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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March 16, 2012 11:49 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. Be sure to check out Sunshine Week 2012 News while you're at it.

Government confirms it has secret interpretation of Patriot Act Spy Powers

The government has just officially confirmed what we've long suspected: there are secret Justice Department opinions about the Patriot Act's Section 215, which allows the government to get secret orders from a special surveillance court (the FISA Court) requiring Internet service providers and other companies to turn over "any tangible things." Just exactly what the government thinks that phrase means remains to be seen, but there are indications that their take on it is very broad.

Visit ACLU for the rest.

Requests for public records from Wis. Gov. Walker's office increase three-fold

MADISON, Wis. — The firestorm of debate ignited by Gov. Scott Walker's changes to collective bargaining rules last year also triggered an explosion of requests for public information from his office. The office received 214 written requests during 2011, some three times more than the previous governor saw just a few years earlier, Gannett Wisconsin Media found while checking public records activity as part of a Sunshine Week open-government initiative.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Results vary in local public records audit

Without access to public records, revealing the day-to-day happenings in government — from the mundane to the corrupt — would citizens be informed? Government really does control people’s lives, said Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington. It controls who puts money in and who takes money out.

Visit Daily Record for the rest.

FOIA request flushes out details of settlement

Details of the settlement reached in a former New Milford police official’s $10 million federal lawsuit against the town, Mayor Patricia Murphy and the town’s police chief have been obtained by The Housatonic Times in response to a freedom of information request.

Visit Litchfield County Times for the rest.

Obama FOIA efforts earn mixed grades

Many federal agencies have failed to track basic information in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee study released Thursday. A separate, rosier study from nonprofit OMBWatch noted FOIA progress compared to previous years.

Visit Government Executive for the rest.

Arizona Republic and 12 News fight to access public records

The Arizona Republic and 12 News in 2011 successfully went to court more than 10 times to open public records for inspection. Journalists fight every day to open records and meeting to the public, but these cases stand out as significant legal victories.

Visit TucsonCitizen.com for the rest.

Agencies to launch portal for online FOIA requests

WASHINGTON — Filing a request for public information under the Freedom of Information Act can be easy — if you know where to send it. If you don't, you may end up sending your request to multiple agencies, hoping you picked the right one ... By October, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce and the National Archives and Records Administration hope to launch an electronic FOIA portal that would give the public one place to file a FOIA request.

Visit Democrat and Chronicle for the rest.

March 16, 2012 10:37 AM

We've compiled a list of and links to articles and editorials about and in recognition of Sunshine Week 2012 and the events and observances that are being held in the states.

Read all about it here.

March 14, 2012 1:39 PM

From TheLedger.com:

LAKELAND | Joel Chandler's success in taking on public agencies that balk at turning over documents deemed in the public domain has earned the Lakeland man the 2012 Local Hero Award of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The committee, a national, nonprofit organization providing free legal assistance to journalists, recognized Chandler for his dogged efforts to get state and local government agencies to honor Florida's open records law.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is a member of NFOIC. --eds.

March 12, 2012 3:19 PM

Washington, D.C. (March 12, 2012) – Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC), is scheduled to appear before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary on the morning of Tuesday, March 13.

The hearing, entitled "The Freedom of Information Act: Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure Information and the Public's Right to Know," is to convene at 10:30 a.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, and dovetails with many events occurring in the District of Columbia and nationwide in recognition of Sunshine Week.

While recognizing that there are certain circumstances under which some information regarding critical infrastructure needs to be withheld from the general public, and commending the Senate for inserting language that addressed concerns of overly-aggressive withholdings in last December's National Defense Authorization Act, Bunting will state that "none of the measures we have seen dealing with cybersecurity have similar provisions."

"Protections against threats we might face as a nation need not, and should not, include carte blanche authority for the government to withhold information," Bunting continues, "under an exceedingly broad and ill-defined rubric that tosses aside FOIA's 'strong presumption in favor of disclosure.'"

See the rest here.

March 9, 2012 4:39 PM

Sunshine Week 2012 Events

Events around the country have been posted and we encourage you to not only add yours to the list, but also send photos, links, PDFs and other coverage. Federal, state and local lawmakers, as well as open government experts have contributed opinion columns on topics relevant to Sunshine Week. Editorial cartoons donated by the artists can be used by anyone for free in relation to their Sunshine Week coverage. Also posted is an infographic created by McClatchy-Tribune Graphics for anyone to use March 11-17.

Visit Sunshine Week for the rest.

Are you a 'Ray of Sunshine'?

The popular Sunshine Week Ray of Sunshine game is back with all-new questions for 2012. Take the quiz and wear the victory badge on your own site and Facebook page. You also can use the game button in your own pages with a link to the game to encourage others to test their open government knowledge.

Visit Sunshine Week for the rest.

Who is buying elections?

Welcome to a new era of exponentially more unlimited and undisclosed campaign spending. This is the first presidential election since game-changing rulings by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and a federal district court in SpeechNow.org v. FEC paved the way for a small group of elites to spend unprecedented sums — with little or no transparency — to influence voters. Since then, outside groups often called “super PACs” have proliferated, stimulating new ways for big donors to influence elections — often in secret.

Visit B.R. Hook for the rest.

Arkansas AG, journalists urge court to uphold FOI, reverse judge’s ruling

The state Supreme Court today granted requests from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and two journalists’ organizations to submit briefs in support of a challenge to a ruling that portions of Arkansas’ open government law are unconstitutional. McDaniel, the Arkansas Press Association and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argue in their briefs that a Sebastian County Circuit judge erred in the ruling he made in a lawsuit alleging the city of Fort Smith violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Visit Arkansas News for the rest.

Former Wisconsin supervisor honored for openness effort

A Wisconsin village president who resigned his county board seat rather than stay silent about an open records issue was one of several people honored Thursday by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. Hilbert Village President Ken Stenklyft was one of eight winners in six categories of the council's Openness Awards, or Opees. The winners were announced ahead of Sunshine Week, an annual national effort to draw attention to the public's right to know that begins Sunday.

Visit wisconsinrapidstribune.com for the rest.

Mayor unveils San Francisco open data cloud

Mayor Lee unveiled data.SFgov.org, a cloud-based open data site and the successor/replacement to DataSF.org. The city is adopting cloud services, “social citizen interfaces,” and APIs to power its new open data site, all in an effort to provide a more robust, technologically sound infrastructure that can drive innovation, access to information, engagement, and government efficiency.

Visit TechCrunch for the rest.

CIA claims that torture technique is an "intelligence method" exempted from FOIA

The CIA’s characterization of torture as an “intelligence method” is shameful, and at bottom it is simply another effort to prevent the public from learning the full scope of the torture program. We know from documents the government has already released that the CIA’s use of waterboarding violated even the minimal guidelines established by its legal memos. The Obama administration should fulfill its commitment to transparency and release these additional documents.

Visit ACLU Blog of Rights for the rest.

March 8, 2012 11:15 AM

From OpenTheGovernment.org:

All too often government openness and national security are thought of as opposing national interests and values. In reality, though, openness and security are not always in contention.

Join us in person at the Knight Conference Center in the Newseum or via webcast on Friday, March 16 from 1:15 to 3:30 EDT as our panel of experts, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Top Secret America, Dana Priest, discuss the practice and policy keeping and telling secrets in America.

Friday, March 16, 2012, 1:15 - 3:30 (EDT)

What?

Transparency experts from inside and outside government will discuss: the role of and risks to whistleblowers and the press in holding government accountable: and the intersections among secrecy, real national security, and openness. Panelists will take questions from the live and viewing audiences.

1:15p.m. - Welcome: Patrice McDermott, Executive Director
A discussion of secrecy, disclosure and the risks for security and accountability

1:20 pm - Whistleblowers & the Press: Roles and Risks in Divulging Information Needed for Accountable Government

Panelists:

  • Gary J. Aguirre, former investigator with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and whistleblower; currently represents other SEC whistleblowers
  • Tom Bowman, National Public Radio (NPR) National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon
  • Mark Cohen, Deputy Counsel,Office of Special Counsel, and former Executive Director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP)
  • Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press(RCFP); RCFP provides free legal advice, resources, support and advocacy to protect the First Amendment and Freedom of Information rights of journalists
  • Moderator: Abbe Lowell, Partner at Chadbourne & Parke LLC; Mr. Lowell has defended several high profile defendants charged with violating the Espionage Act by trafficking in government secrets

2:30 pm - Secret Government and Secret Laws: Do claims of national security trump open and accountable government?

Panelists:

  • Alex Abdo, Staff Attorney in the ACLU's National Security Project; Mr. Abdo is in charge of the ACLU's FOIA cases concerning torture, warrantless wiretapping, national security letters, section 215 of the Patriot Act, and the FISA Amendments Act
  • Liza Goitein, Co-Director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, which seeks to advance effective national security policies that respect constitutional values and the rule of law
  • J. William Leonard, former Director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO)
  • Dana Priest, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the Washington Post and author of Top Secret America
  • Jeffrey H. Smith, former General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)and current Partner at Arnold & Porter; Mr. Smith represents major media associations on "leaks" of classified information
  • Moderator: Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project On Government Oversight (POGO); POGO is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms

The event will be held and broadcast live from the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum as part of the Freedom Forum's National Freedom of Information Day Celebration.

Where?

The event will be held in the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington DC).

There is no charge to attend, but attendees are encouraged to guarantee seating in advance. To register for the 2012 conference, please contact Ashlie Hampton at ahampton@freedomforum.org, or 202-292-6288. When registering, please provide your name, title, affiliation and contact information for agenda updates and other news.

When?

The event will be held on Friday, March 16, 2012 - 1:15- 3:30pm (EDT), in coordination with the Freedom Forum's National FOI Day conference.

Why?

The first national "Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know" was launched in March 2005 and is celebrated in 2012 from March 11-17. Sunshine Week's intent is to raise awareness of the importance of open government to everyone in the community, not just journalists.

Who?

Sunshine Week 2012 National Dialogue is brought to you in celebration of Sunshine Week by the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research LibrariesLeague of Women Voters, National Freedom of Information Coalition, OMB Watch, OpenTheGovernment.org, Project On Government Oversight, Sunshine Week, Special Libraries Association, and the Sunlight Foundation.

March 5, 2012 12:46 PM

From National Archives:

OGIS is sponsoring a unique event to mark Sunshine Week (March 9-16, 2012), a celebration of government openness.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is acknowledging Sunshine Week by showcasing the original Freedom of Information Act, Public Law 89-487. The original historic document will be available for viewing from Friday, March 9, to Sunday, March 18, in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives (Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW, in Washington, D.C.). Admission is free.

February 7, 2012 2:58 PM

From North Carolina Open Government Coalition:

Please join the North Carolina Open Government Coalition (NCOGC) for Sunshine Day from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at Elon University.

Speakers will include veteran journalists from North Carolina and more than a dozen experts and advocates for open government, including our keynote speaker Barbara A. Petersen, the president of the First Amendment Foundation. We encourage citizens, journalists, government employees, librarians, lawyers, public officials, anyone and everyone to attend.

NCOGC and the First Amendment Foundation are members of NFOIC, and Barbara Petersen is director and past president of NFOIC.--eds.


 

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