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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April 8, 2014 12:18 PM

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been flooded with thousands of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from journalists, civil rights groups and private citizens who have asked the agency to turn over the top-secret records that former contractor Edward Snowden leaked to the media, Al Jazeera can reveal. 

In response to an open records request filed in November, the NSA has just released its FOIA logs to Al Jazeera. The hundreds of pages of documents describe post-Snowden requests that have been filed with the agency — on matters from its bandwidth consumption and it sprawling new data center in Utah to metadata records and contracts with Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s former employer.

Since details about the NSA’s spy capabilities were revealed by The Guardian and The Washington Post 10 months ago, the agency’s FOIA office has been the subject of several national news stories noting that the leaks have resulted in thousands of new FOIA requests. Continue>>>

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journalists, NSA, Snowden, spying
April 8, 2014 12:04 PM

A report published by the nonprofit Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch), has ranked 15 agencies on how well they are implementing the Freedom of Information Act, and it gave seven of them failing grades.

The report rated agencies on: how quickly they responded to requests, how quickly it granted requests, and how well their appeals process worked; the effectiveness of agency policy in terms of communication, the review process, and level of disclosure of records; and, website design in terms of facilitating information flow, online services and availability of maintained reading rooms.

The National Archives and Records Administration was among those receiving an F – perhaps not surprising considering its relatively heavy FOIA burden. Also receiving F's: the EEOC, and the Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Homeland Security, and State. Top performers were... Continue>>>
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April 8, 2014 12:03 PM

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu filed an ordinance aimed at providing greater transparency on municipal data. Right now, Boston has an open data portal, but the data on that site only shows information obtained through Freedom of Information Act obligations. The new ordinance would resemble other open data policies in cities nationwide, by disclosing datasets without first requiring a FOIA request.

46 datasets are currently available on the open data portal site but they do little to give the public much information on a city as large and diverse as Boston. The lack of data is surprising given previous transparency efforts under Mayor Menino, not to mention the healthy developer community in Boston and the surrounding metro area.

The proposed ordinance would set up similar open data processes and procedures common to municipalities with one. Boston would have a Data Coordinator role ensuring that datasets are posted and comply with applicable Open Data policies. The coordinator role would also be tasked with creating an open data plan for appropriate agencies including release timelines. Continue>>>
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April 8, 2014 12:01 PM

NASA is set to release on April 10 a comprehensive catalogue of software code that runs some of the most sophisticated robotics and rockets on the planet.

The agency, in line with the White House's Open Government policy, is also aiming to make the free online catalogue of more than 1,000 projects one of its most easily accessible.

According to Dan Lockney, NASA's Technology Transfer Program executive, the release is not a historical archive, but a collection of recent software solutions developed by the space agency. Continue>>>
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NASA, open data, open source
April 8, 2014 12:00 PM

The SC Republican Party filed a request for emails regarding the Richland County 2012 Election Debacle.

The SC GOP previously had requested internal communication emails regarding the November, 2012 Richland County Elections troubles residents faced.

When the GOP received emails from the County Election Commission, portions had been redacted, or whited-out. Specifically, one email in particular is of interest to the SC GOP, and their Freedom of Information Act request cites that email. Continue>>>
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April 8, 2014 11:59 AM

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has sent a letter to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele pressing the state government to engage in a transparent process as it participates in an effort to purge voter rolls.

The state is participating in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.

In his letter, Casey cited previous efforts by the state Administration to restrict access to the ballot through the state’s voter ID law in making the case for a transparent process that instills public confidence.

“I’m concerned that this program could be implemented in a way that adversely impacts Pennsylvanians who are simply trying to exercise their right to vote,” Senator Casey said. Continue>>>

April 2, 2014 2:09 PM

Shot officers suing ATF for records in federal court

Citing the federal Freedom of Information Act, four Drug Task Force officers shot while serving warrants at the Greenland home of Cullen Mutrie have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for unredacted records pertaining to the April 12, 2012 shootings.

Through Portsmouth attorney Christopher Grant, the officers allege the ATF has failed to produce the records in a timely manner and “thus has improperly withheld the records.” In the lawsuit, Grant tells the court the officers requested the ATF records more than a year ago and were informed three months ago that the documents would be forthcoming.

The lawsuit says the ATF information is needed for a Rockingham County Superior Court suit that the officers filed against Mutrie’s mother, Beverly. That lawsuit alleges Beverly Mutrie is responsible for their injuries because she knowingly, “wantonly and recklessly” allowed criminal activity to occur at the Greenland home, where she allowed her son to live cost-free. Continue>>>
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April 2, 2014 2:07 PM

Serving as a continuation from the most recent Belding City Council meeting on March 18, residents again voiced their concerns and disappointment Tuesday evening with respect to members of the council and City Manager Meg Mullendore.

The meeting followed a similar theme of two weeks ago, fueled by disgruntled citizens who again addressed their concerns during the meeting’s public comment period, which lasted nearly 35 minutes.

Council members listened as residents raised concerns involving alleged actions of Mullendore throughout the past year and prior to her time in Belding.

A three-page letter titled “City Manager Concerns” written by Belding resident Katherine Henry was handed to each council member, listing numerous reasons why she believes Mullendore should be removed. Continue>>>
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April 2, 2014 2:04 PM

Judicial Watch announced today that on March 24, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Treasury seeking agency records related to the delay of the "employer mandate" provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare"). Treasury has failed to respond to the FOIA request filed on October 28, 2013.

On July 2, 2013 the Obama administration disclosed in a blog post by Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur that it would unilaterally delay the controversial "employer mandate" provision of the law, which was to have gone into effect in January 2014, until 2015. The administration claimed it was delaying the mandate in order to give companies time to comply with the reporting procedures. A report on the delay in the Bloomberg news at the time, however, suggested that "and the delay potentially shields Democratic candidates from a backlash generated by the additional regulations on employers."

On February 10, 2014, the Obama administration again, unlawfully and unilaterally delayed the employer mandate, this time until 2016. Continue>>>
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April 2, 2014 2:02 PM

The U.S. Air Force conceivably has no idea that some journalists actually are journalists. At least when it comes to FOIA requests from news organizations such as the AP, ABC, CBS, NBC, LAT, NYT, Chicago Tribune and a ton more.

MuckRock, which tracks public records requests, has the report on the list of people and news organizations released by the Air Force that it has classified as “commercial” as it relates to FOIA requests.

Requesters falling under the commercial category reportedly pay most for their orders. Even MuckRock‘s own staff has been categorized under “commercial.” They explain that the categories include 1) commercial requesters 2) education, scientific or news media requests and 3) everyone else. Continue>>>
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April 2, 2014 2:00 PM

A watchdog group may be a step closer to obtaining Justice Department files concerning former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, following a Freedom of Information Act victory in federal court.

In a 31-page decision Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The Justice Department cannot simply categorically reject CREW’s FOIA request, according to the court.

CREW has been seeking various types of documents related to the FBI’s investigation of DeLay. In August 2010, DeLay announced that DoJ had informed him it had decided not to bring criminal charges against him related to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Continue>>>
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April 2, 2014 1:59 PM

Imagine this. You’re running for sheriff of San Diego County, a place that includes more than 3 million people. You collect money from donors and you spend money on yard signs, polls and campaign consultants.

How you collect and spend your money must be publicly accounted for. So, you take your stacks of paper records — perhaps more than a hundred pages in a single report — to the Registrar of Voters Office and hand them over.

What year is this? 2014.

Open government advocates, political treasurers, the media — and many voters — say they can’t believe this is still the case at a time when technology rules virtually every aspect of their lives. Continue>>>
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san diego
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