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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June 10, 2016 12:19 PM

You might call it a recipe for transparency.

Want to know when the president signs a bill into law? When congress votes on a bill? When a new legislator is representing you? Since 2014, The Sunlight Foundation has been connecting its massive trove of government data to IFTTT, the popular web service that connects things on the internet to other things. Continue...

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June 10, 2016 12:10 PM

The Maine court system reversed itself on sealing some court records after pressure from media groups, officials said Wednesday.

Dismissed criminal cases that had been ordered sealed will remain public records as they have in the past, according to a spokeswoman for the Maine court system. Continue...

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June 10, 2016 9:37 AM

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry ordered the State Department to investigate the State Department’s intentional deletion of a 2013 briefing where its spokesperson admitted that the Obama Administration misled the American people about the Iran nuclear deal.

This comes as the ACLJ expects a response later this week to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on this matter (something the State Department is legally required to comply with). Continue...

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June 10, 2016 9:31 AM

The D.C. high court ruled June 9 that an obscure law doesn’t work as an almost total exemption for the D.C. Council from the broad public access requirements of the District’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), extended by the Council to cover itself in 2000.

The law, known as the Legislative Privilege Act, is copied from similar language in the United States Constitution known as the "speech and debate clause" (Article I, Sec. 6) that protects Members of Congress and staff from lawsuits about what they say in their legislative function. Continue...

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June 8, 2016 1:06 PM

A plan to make police body camera footage more accessible cleared a House committee Tuesday afternoon, but some legislators and open-government groups say the bill doesn’t go far enough.

More law enforcement agencies in North Carolina are purchasing body cams. The departments are under pressure to make police activity more transparent in the wake of high-profile shootings involving officers. The legislature included $2.5 million in its budget for the current fiscal year to offer body-cam grants of up to $100,000 each to law enforcement agencies. Continue...

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June 8, 2016 12:54 PM

As The Washington Post reported this week, the FBI wants to exempt its growing database of fingerprints and photographs from Privacy Act rules. The Privacy Act of 1974, which was enacted as a way to ensure that federal agencies protected the expanding amount of private information that federal agencies held about the American people from inadvertent exposure, includes provisions that require agencies to tell individuals if their information is in a system and empower citizens to ensure that that information is correct.

The latter two provisions are what the FBI wishes to create an exception for in its Next Generation Identification program, which has more than 100 million fingerprints collected from convicted criminals and suspects and more than 45 million photographs of faces from mug shots, visa applications and hiring processes. Continue...

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June 8, 2016 12:32 PM

Every political observer knows that we’re living in a time of historically low trust in government and high partisan polarization. But a growing federal commitment to accountability and transparency could begin to change that. Two years ago, the President signed into law the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (the DATA Act), which could have far-reaching benefits for our democracy.

The DATA Act, which ensures a new level of government fiscal transparency, was developed with strong bipartisan support: It passed both the House and Senate almost unanimously. Now it’s on the verge of implementation, and a strong alliance of supporters is determined to see it succeed. Continue...

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June 8, 2016 12:10 PM

One of government’s leading officials on the Freedom of Information Act says agencies need more open channels of communication with members of the public seeking government records.

Melanie Pustay, the director of the Office of Information Policy at the Justice Department, said agency FOIA officers need to do more to break down the barriers of communication that exist between government and those filing requests for information. Continue...

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June 7, 2016 2:11 PM

We are a team of scholars, designers, scientists, and engineers building tools to preserve the fabric of the past and provide lessons for the future.  Continue...

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June 7, 2016 2:06 PM

With technical barriers soon to be cleared away, all that remains is working out access policies for the public to get court records online just as easily as at the courthouse.

This was the consensus in remarks Monday (6) at a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Council for Court Excellence at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law featuring four judges under consideration to be the next chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court—Judith Bartnoff, Erik Christian, Robert Morin and Hiram Puig-Lugo. Continue...

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June 7, 2016 2:02 PM

New York's taxpayer-funded weather system has dropped its $250 fee for data requests after Syracuse.com pointed out that policy might violate the state's Freedom of Information Law.

The weather system, called the New York State Mesonet, also dropped many restrictions on the data after the story ran Friday morning.  Continue...

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June 7, 2016 1:41 PM

Missouri Representative Jay Houghton (R-Martinsburg) is sponsoring House Bill 1414, which would make "any data collected for the purpose of animal health or environmental protection" a closed record and therefore exempt from not only Missouri's Sunshine Law, but the federal Freedom of Information Act. He is also chair of the committee.

The bill is currently under fire by several organizations including the Missouri Press Association and the Human Society of the United States for its vague wording. Continue...

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