FOI Advocate News Blog

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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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May 20, 2015 12:48 PM

In 2004, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 59, one of the most far-reaching government openness laws in the nation. Its premise was that government agencies, when facing requests for official records, should err on the side of disclosure, not secrecy. The law requires laws to “be broadly interpreted to further the people’s right to access government information,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office noted.

If there is a more ignored state law than Proposition 59, we are unaware of it. Recent Union-Tribune Watchdog coverage has shown state agencies obstructing attempts to get basic public information about still-unfolding scandals. Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 10:24 AM
 
During former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, her political staff personally reviewed and negotiated the release of public records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — and in some cases blocked documents' release, according to The Wall Street Journal.
 
A Journal investigation found there existed a culture of "delay and inefficiency" at the State Department.
 
Clinton’s disclosure of public records has made headlines since the revelation earlier this year that as secretary of state she exclusively used a private account and server housed in her New York home to conduct State Department business. Continue>>>
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May 20, 2015 10:13 AM

U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday released documents it said were recovered during the 2011 raid on the compound in Pakistan where US forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. 

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement that the release of the documents followed a "rigorous" review by US government agencies and "aligns with the president's call for increased transparency consistent with national security prerogatives." Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 9:56 AM

Cameras mounted inside patrol cars captured every moment.

With their guns drawn, Gardena police officers screamed instructions at three men on the sidewalk. The officers warned them to keep their hands above their heads, mistakenly believing that they had been involved in a robbery.

Exactly what happened next is in dispute, but what is undisputed is that the men were unarmed when police opened fire, killing one and seriously wounding another.  Continue>>>

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May 14, 2015 2:38 PM

Senators reached a deal Wednesday to move forward on President Barack Obama's trade agenda only one day after Democrats embarrassed him by blocking it.

Lawmakers said roughly a dozen Senate Democrats agreed to let full-blown debate begin after both parties' leaders consented to tweak the package that failed on a procedural vote Tuesday. Those Democrats' votes were the difference between blocking the agenda and letting it move ahead.

The breakthrough doesn't assure Obama of receiving "fast track" negotiating authority, which would let him send to Congress trade proposals it can kill or ratify, but not amend. That's still subject to weeks or months of Senate and House debates, amendments and votes. Continue>>>
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May 14, 2015 2:30 PM

Unresponsive democratic governments fail.

One deadly feature of such governments is a lack of transparency. When leaders decided citizens didn’t need to know about the workings of government, citizens lost a lens to determine how responsive government was, often this created mistrust, which led to anger and eventually, rebellion.

I was heartened when police body-worn camera bills were proposed in the S.C. legislature — it was a direct check on the power of the state’s executive branch by the legislature. Continue>>>
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May 14, 2015 2:25 PM

The state Freedom of Information Commission has ruled that State Police must release personal documents seized from Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza's home during the investigation of the December 2012 rampage that left 20 children and six educators dead.

The agency ruled Wednesday in favor of the Hartford Courant (http://cour.at/1huZAxM ).

Efforts by the Courant to obtain the documents since January 2014 have been blocked by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Continue>>>
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May 14, 2015 2:17 PM

The Boston Globe sued the police departments in Boston and North Andover as well as several state agencies on Tuesday to obtain copies of police reports, mug shots, and prison booking logs, arguing the records must be made public under the state’s open records law.

The paper filed the lawsuit after state and local police withheld photos and reports of more than a half-dozen law enforcement officers who were charged with drunken driving and a judge who was accused of stealing a watch at Logan Airport. Boston police wouldn’t even name the police officers who were arrested.

“This case raises important issues involving the public’s right to know and transparency in government,” said Mark Hileman, the Globe’s general counsel. “The Globe brought this suit because we believe the [Criminal Offender Record Information] Act is being applied to block public access to law enforcement records in ways never intended by the Legislature.” Continue>>>
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May 14, 2015 2:12 PM

Everyone in Springfield seems to know how to spell “transparency,” but hardly anyone seems to know what the word means.

That sad fact recently reared its head when officials in Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration said they wouldn't reveal who is involved in a series of high-level talks about some of the governor's most prized pet issues, ranging from his controversial plan to allow local right-to-work zones to an overhaul of state spending.

"They are private meetings," Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly told Kurt Erickson of the Lee Enterprises' Springfield Bureau. "They are private discussions that we're keeping confidential to protect the process." Continue>>>
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May 13, 2015 10:39 AM

The State Department’s latest defense on why it can’t comply with your ancient Freedom of Information request for documents is: Blame it on Hillary.

State says its document-reviewing personnel are too overwhelmed by reviewing those 55,000 pages of e-mails former secretary Hillary Clinton turned over last year to do much else.

That apparently means other folks, who’ve waited years on their requests for State Department documents, are being told they’ll have to wait even longer because of the Clinton review. Continue>>>
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May 13, 2015 10:37 AM

First Amendment advocates are asking Gov. Rick Scott to veto three Senate bills his office received on Thursday, arguing that each measure represents another diminishment of Florida’s long tradition of open government and open records.

The First Amendment Foundation, an advocacy group for open government funded by newspapers and other groups and individuals, is asking Scott to veto four bills, including a House bill he has yet to receive.

The FAF wants Scott to reject a bill (SB 248) on his desk that would block the public from seeing certain portions of recordings of body cameras that are now being used more frequently by law enforcement agencies, including city police departments. The exemption would apply to recordings in residences, health facilities or other areas where there was “a reasonable expectation of privacy.” Continue>>>
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May 13, 2015 10:30 AM

Five months after Maryland's open-meetings compliance board ruled that the Housing Authority of Prince George's County violated open-meetings law, the public housing agency has been accused again of holding an illegal gathering.

But the compliance board that issued two citations against the housing authority in December is unable to address the new complaint filed by Maryland Legal Aid.

Why? Because the board has no members. Continue>>>
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