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

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>>>

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>>>

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>>>

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>>>

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>>>

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>>>

san diego
April 2, 2014 1:56 PM

Governor Dannel P. Malloy, joined by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, on Monday launched, 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. “ 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, 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>>>

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>>>

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>>>

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>>>

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>>>

NSA, obama
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