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

March 1, 2014 4:44 AM

The Saratoga Springs Housing Authority may have hit on a novel way to get back at its critics — a hit in their wallets.

John Kaufmann, one of the housing authority’s most persistent critics, was recently hit with a bill for $394.25, after the SSHA responded voluminously to what he thought was a reasonable Freedom of Information Law request for documents.

Kaufmann, who began dogging the authority after questions arose in 2011 about the handling of a bedbug infestation, wanted copies of contracts for the authority’s legal and auditing services. As a citizen, he’s entitled to them, just like you and I are.

Kaufmann filed a FOIL request last September; the authority didn’t get back to him until February, and did so with enough loose material for two Russian novels or maybe three campaign-specific Civil War histories — a total of 1,577 pages. Along with them came a bill for $394.25, based on 40-year-old state law allowing the authority to charge 25 cents per copied page for FOIL requests. Continue>>>

March 1, 2014 3:33 AM

In recent years, the central government in the UK has been involved in pushing an open data agenda, not only on its home turf, but also globally through the Open Government Partnership of which it was one of the eight founding members. The idea is to create governments that are more open, accessible and accountable by giving the public access to a vast array of datasets that are downloadable and reusable.

The UK has had varying degrees of success with this at a central government level – it is working to fulfil its commitments and has released thousands of datasets, which can be found at, but has also been struggling with unleashing information from complex legacy systems.

However, in the pipeline there are plans to create a National Information Infrastructure, which will ultimately contain all public data in a way that can be accessed by anyone, in real time. Recent efforts have also been championed by inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who heads up the government’s Open Data Institute – which aims to nurture innovative data driven start-ups and support organisations in working effectively with open data. Continue>>>

March 1, 2014 2:22 AM

More than 3,500 pages of previously secret Clinton White House documents made public Friday showed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Some of the confidential memos, notes and other papers released by the National Archives referred to technological advances of the times, such as the 1995 memo that suggested then first lady Hillary Clinton use the Internet to speak to young women because it "has become very popular."

Others detailed political battles over health care reform that sounded like today's headlines.

"The Republican alternative, as it appears now to be shaping up, at least among the moderate Republicans in the Senate, is an individual mandate, we have looked at that in every way we know how to," said Hillary Clinton's notes from a 1993 meeting with Democratic leaders in Congress. "That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we've got -- a much harder sell." Continue>>>

Benghazi, Clinton, President
March 1, 2014 1:11 AM

A public policy research and information group has filed a lawsuit against the federal government over claims that it has denied its Freedom of Information Act requests seeking information on incidents involving nuclear weapons, nuclear components or radioactive material.

The organization, called Speaking Truth to Power, filed a federal complaint in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on Feb. 27 naming as defendants the U.S. Defense Department, U.S. Air Force Combat Command, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff and U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration.

The suit seeks the release of records of events identified as “Bent Spear” or “Dull Sword,” which are incidents the plaintiff maintains are public under Defense Department’s directives. Continue>>>

February 26, 2014 4:44 AM

The House on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill that would make Freedom of Information requests easier with potentially faster response times.

H.R. 1211, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2014 was co-sponsored by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and puts into action an executive memorandum from President Barack Obama that calls on all agencies to have a "presumption of disclosure" to all FOIA decisions.

Perhaps most significantly for journalists, the bill would create a centralized online portal for FOIA requests under the Office of Management and Budget, and set up a group that will recommend future improvements to the FOIA process. Currently FOIA requests can be a complicated and complex process of going through different agencies and offices, who often take weeks or months to respond. Continue>>>

February 26, 2014 3:33 AM

Putting Saskatchewan's municipal police under freedom of information and privacy legislation would be a pricey proposition for the Regina Police Service, according to its chief.

It would require hiring at least another staff member, and the money is something Chief Troy Hagen says could be better spent elsewhere.

"It wouldn't surprise me if this position certainly would be probably pushing six figures," said Hagen.

Although Hagen hasn't seen Saskatchewan's former privacy commissioner Gary Dickson's recommendations "verbatim," he said the nature of police work doesn't match up with the principles of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act. Continue>>>

February 26, 2014 2:22 AM

Recent requests to see the FOIA officer training and certifications at the 34 state agencies listed on the Attorney general’s website: 60% were not current and violating mandatory state law.

Health can family Services have two officers and both were out-of-compliance with the law for four years. State FOIA officers decide what information can be released or withheld under open records law. But, the officers themselves were violating the Act. They were not trained or certified and thus not qualified. Continue>>>

February 26, 2014 1:11 AM

The National Press Club, as part of its participation in Sunshine Week, is hosting a panel discussion the evening of Wednesday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. on transparency in the District of Columbia.

The third annual D.C. Open Government Summit will be an opportunity to hear from innovators who have used open government data and information to create useful tools for our daily lives, such as mapping restaurant health code violations or tracking the District's emergency response times. Traci Hughes, the first Director of the D.C. Office of Open Government, will give featured remarks.

The event is co-sponsored by the Club's Freedom of the Press Committee, the D.C. Open Government Coalition (, the D.C. Professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the American University School of Communication. Continue>>>

February 25, 2014 2:22 AM

British Columbia

British Columbia's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act came into effect on Oct. 4, 1993. A year later, the legislation was expanded to include municipalities, schools, hospitals and municipal police forces.


Alberta's FOIP Act was given royal assent in 1994 and came into force during five phases. The fifth phase, which happened on Oct. 1, 1999, brought local government bodies including police services under the authority of FOIP.


Saskatchewan proclaimed its FOIP act on April 1, 1992, which covered provincial government institutions. On July 1, 1993, the Local Authority FOIP Act came into effect, which oversaw municipal institutions. The next year, health care facilities and educational facilities were brought into the act. Currently, municipal police forces do not fall under the authority of the local FOIP act. Continue>>>

Canada, FOIA, privacy
February 25, 2014 2:22 AM

Chris Horner is deeply serious about his role as a climate-truth watchdog, but his sense of humor about his detractors is deliciously dark.

Take the story that broke just after New Year's of a Russian ship stranded in Antarctic ice, an incident seized by proponents as a certain sign that global warming was for real as polar sea ice continues to morph and melt.

The Chinese icebreaker sent in to rescue the trapped ship and its 73 passengers ended up getting caught in the ice, too, prompting one of the boat's scientific researchers to quip that his global warming-proving team was "stuck in our own experiment." Continue>>>

February 25, 2014 1:11 AM

A task force has been appointed by the chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and members of the Arkansas news media have been invited to meet with the group Friday.

I wasn’t one of the 207 people who got an invitation to the meeting, which isn’t surprising since I’m just a retired editor who continues to write a column. I had a conflict anyway.

UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart explained to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter that he wants the task force to ensure the university provides “transparency in all we do.” That’s an admirable goal, considering what the UA administration has been through over the past year. Continue>>>

Arkansas, FOIA, task force
February 25, 2014 1:11 AM “Transparency in Government Act,” sponsored by Assembly Republican Alison Littell McHose, cleared the Budget Committee on Monday.

McHose’s legislation, A-103, requires the creation of a State public finance website providing easy public access to data and details about State revenues, expenditures and total bonded indebtedness.

“This is an important step for our taxpayers. The website will lift the curtain, giving the public a clear understanding of how government is handling their hard-earned tax dollars,” said McHose, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris. “People deserve to know where their money is being spent, and the services they are getting from that investment.”

The bill stipulates that the website contain a comprehensive collection of financial information regarding annual expenditures by State all agencies, annual State revenues, and annual State bonded indebtedness. Continue>>>

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