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 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
April 2, 2014 1:56 PM

Governor Dannel P. Malloy, joined by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, on Monday launched Data.ct.gov, Connecticut’s new open data portal that allows widespread amounts of raw government data to be collected, placed on the internet, and shared with the public in a major effort to increase government efficiency and transparency by providing an easily accessible database that residents can use for any number of purposes. The Governor made the announcement at SeeClickFix, a New Haven firm that has created a communications platform for citizens to report non-emergency issues, and governments to track, manage, and reply.

“We launched this website to as part of our goal to make the data collected by state government more open and easily accessible to its owners – the taxpayers of Connecticut,” said Governor Malloy. “Data.ct.gov will make vast amounts of data – data that was previously hard to find – easily accessible to individuals, researchers, entrepreneurs, academics, policymakers and other state agencies, and spur a new level of innovation and collaboration in our state.”

Created as a result of Executive Order No. 39, Data.ct.gov will serve as a portal where data collected across all state government agencies will be shared with the public. The website will also include access to economic development data that was made public under Executive Order No. 38. The Executive Order, No. 38, was issued in December 2013 and requires the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to create a searchable electronic database on the DECD website containing information regarding certain economic assistance and tax credits that were utilized for the purpose of recruitment or retention of business. Continue>>>
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Connecticut
March 31, 2014 10:12 AM

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) blocked the release of the names of hospitals where 19 veterans died because of delays in medical screenings, leading to calls for transparency from news outlets and a bipartisan group of Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Earlier this month, the VA denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Tampa Tribune reporter Howard Altman, who had been investigating the deaths.

CNN reported in January that 19 veterans died as a result of delayed gastrointestinal cancer screenings, while another 63 were seriously injured. CNN obtained internal documents from the VA listing the number of “institutional disclosures of adverse events”—the bureaucratic phrase for a mistake that gravely harms or kills a patient. Continue>>>
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March 31, 2014 10:11 AM

In public information clashes with Charleston police, some see need to change bill already in works. Investigators had told the medical doctor's attorney that they probably didn't have enough evidence for prosecution. Ward had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a date.

A few weeks after his arrest, prosecutors dropped the charge because they still lacked evidence. The ordeal raised Ward's curiosity about what happened behind the scenes to prompt his arrest, so his attorney, Andy Savage, filed a request under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act to find out. Continue>>>
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South Carolina
March 31, 2014 10:10 AM

THE FREEDOM of Information bill recently passed the Senate on Third Reading and moved on to the House of Representatives for concurrence. This early, I want to put the bill to a test, just to know in some detail what the advocates have been giving all-out support to.

I would like to use for this purpose an online piece written several months back by the eminent Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas S. J. on precisely the same topic.

Fr. Bernas contends that the people’s right to be informed has been adequately served by laws and jurisprudence that we already have in place. So, he writes, the “question that should be asked is what the Freedom of Information bill hopes to add.” I take this as my focus question.

What we have, first and foremost, is a Constitutional item, in the Bill of Rights, that guarantees our right to information. It says: Continue>>>
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March 31, 2014 10:07 AM

The Obama administration has used the Freedom of Information Act to increase rather than decrease government secrecy. In 2013, it increased use of exemptions to bar release of requested files by 22% over the previous year, according an analysis by the Associated Press. The government fully denied or redacted large portions of files in 36% of the 704,394 requests submitted

There also was a substantial increase in citing national security concerns as reason for withholding information. The administration did so 8,496 times in 2013 – more than double the rate in President Obama's first year in office. The National Security Agency censored records or denied FOIA requests 98%of the time in 2013.

This growing disregard for openness is especially disappointing from a president who, on his first full day in office, announced he would have the most transparent administration in history. It is evident not only in the administration's handling of FOIA requests, but also in the recent CIA dispute with the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee over the committee's report on the government's use of torture in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the scope and nature of mass surveillance by the NSA, known because of files made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Continue>>>
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NSA, obama
March 31, 2014 9:51 AM

Robert and Maureen Decherd received the John Henry Faulk Award for Civic Virtue Friday from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. The former chairman, president and chief executive of The Dallas Morning News’ parent company, A.H. Belo Corporation, was a founder of the foundation that honored him. He served as its first president from 1978 to 1981.

The foundation periodically bestows the award to Texans who show outstanding civic involvement and enlightened philanthropy. It is named after the author and humorist who fought for free speech.

“This is not a fight that goes away,” Decherd said at the foundation’s luncheon Friday. “It frankly becomes more complex by the day. The existence of the FOI Foundation in a state as large and important as Texas is a significant accomplishment for all of you.” The Decherds have shown their commitment to their community and journalism by contributing to the Belo Garden in downtown Dallas and the Belo Center for New Media at the University of Texas at Austin. Continue>>>
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March 31, 2014 9:50 AM

When someone goes to the doctor, they expect their medical information will be kept confidential. In the same way, when producers work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they also want confidentiality.

Livestock and crop producers, for the most part, do not want the EPA sharing their names and other personal information with various organizations.

Currently, the EPA can release producers’ names, addresses, GPS location, and sometimes email addresses and phone numbers. Through the Freedom of Information Act, they released information for over 80,000 producers to environmental groups in February and April 2013.

A law prohibiting the EPA from sharing producer information needs to be passed. A significant step occurred when three U.S. Congressmen recently introduced legislation titled the Farmer Identity Protection Act. Continue>>>
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epa, privacy
March 31, 2014 9:48 AM

Black columns run vertically down 700 pages, devoid of any information about the federal workers who spent thousands of hours doing union work while on the government payroll.

This is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

In the name of protecting employees’ privacy, USDA withheld their names, duty stations, job titles, pay grades and salaries. It even deleted names of the unions benefiting from the hours spent by these USDA workers who continued to draw full pay and benefits, courtesy of the taxpayers. Continue>>>
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epa, FOIA
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