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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May 4, 2015 11:45 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union is urging the District to postpone its plans to provide body cameras to Metropolitan Police Department officers, challenging the mayor’s plan to keep the videos from public view.

The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital says the city’s plan to spend $5.1 million to purchase 2,800 body-worn cameras for patrol officers should not occur without a mechanism for allowing the videos to be redacted and released to the public.

“Police accountability is not achieved by allowing the police to police themselves,” said Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, executive director of the local chapter of the ACLU. Continue>>>
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May 4, 2015 11:40 AM

In a groundbreaking victory for open-government advocates, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered the state Senate and its leaders to turn over the appointment calendars and other records of two former state senators.

In a sweeping decision, Judge Michael Kenny tentatively ruled that the appointment books, meeting schedules and calendars of former Democratic Sens. Leland Yee and Ron Calderon requested by two news organizations are public records.

The Los Angeles News Group and its sister news organization the Bay Area News Group sued the state Senate last year over its refusal to release portions of the appointment calendars of the senators. Continue>>>

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May 4, 2015 11:32 AM

The FBI has just released more than 5,000 pages of documents regarding its highly controversial "Stingray" cell phone location tracker, a device so secretive that the agency has forced local law enforcement to drop criminal cases rather than risk disclosing details about it at trial. But don't expect to open these documents with the intent of understanding, well, anything about how the FBI uses them—nearly everything is redacted.

Stingrays are used by the FBI and state and local law enforcement to track potential criminal suspects. Technically, Stingrays are called IMSI catchers, because they catch the "international mobile subscriber identity" of every cell phone within a certain radius of the device (usually a couple miles). This necessarily means that law enforcement is tracking everyone nearby when it uses one, often without a warrant even for the criminal suspect they're targeting.

Thanks to a series of lawsuits, Freedom of Information Act requests, and court decisions, we know that Stingray use is widespread, and we know that the FBI goes to great pains to hide their use. Continue>>>
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FBI, FOIA request, lawsuit
May 4, 2015 11:08 AM

A $403,000 resignation agreement between former Pasadena City College President Mark Rocha and the board of trustees was voided Wednesday when a Los Angeles Superior Court judged ruled the board broke open government laws while discussing the deal in closed session.

Rocha stated he resigned for “personal reasons” when he left with 18 months of severance in August, but court filings revealed the sudden resignation and payout stemmed from Rocha threatening to sue the board because of negative comments a board member made about him to the media.

The college never disclosed Rocha’s threatened litigation or its discussions about a settlement on its closed session agendas, despite open government laws requiring them to provide a description of the “anticipated litigation,” according to Judge Joanne O’Donnell’s ruling. They also never disclosed that the meetings were related to Rocha’s employment. Continue>>>
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May 4, 2015 11:05 AM

While not the only source of open data, government can play an important wider supporting role, no matter who manages or provides the information beyond the General Election, argues Open Data Institute technical director Jeni Tennison.

Government collects, maintains and provides access to a whole range of data. It manages information to aid decision making, including geospatial data, the census and crime surveys.

The day-to-day business of government also produces data, such as spending information, transport timetables or car registrations. Continue>>>
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May 1, 2015 11:50 AM

A new report from an open government advocacy group shows that agency responses to the same, basic Freedom of Information Act requests varied widely.

About 65 business days after FOIA requests were sent to 21 agencies asking them to detail their FOIA processing practices, only seven have furnished complete and usable records in response, says an April 24 blog post from The FOIA Project. Four of the agencies are still working on the request in good faith, the group says.

The requests were sent by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which administers the FOIA Project, on the afternoon of Jan. 22. Two of the requests – sent to the CIA and IRS – went out on the morning of Jan. 23. Continue>>>
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May 1, 2015 11:44 AM

Loudoun's Circuit Court declared Loudoun schools not in violation of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act on April 29.

Loudoun's School Board and school and IT staff were called to court last week when Lansdowne parent, Brian Davison, filed a Writ of Mandamus claiming Loudoun County Public Schools deliberately withheld information from the public and failed to fulfill multiple of his FOIA requests within the five day period mandated by law.

Davison has made more than 60 FOIA requests related to his belief that certain student test scores called Student Growth Percentile data should be released to the public, an ongoing lawsuit he has filed with the Virginia Department of Education in which the local School Board has intervened. Continue>>>
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May 1, 2015 11:42 AM

With a preposterous opinion, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has created an opportunity for each and every state employee to operate behind a curtain of secrecy.

It is OK to conduct public business on private e-mail accounts, the attorney general said. And the correspondence need not be subject to the Kansas Open Records Act.

The implications of this flawed logic are breathtaking. Schmidt is encouraging all public officials in Kansas to follow Hillary Clinton’s disgraceful example as U.S. secretary of state and use private email addresses to keep important business out of the public eye. Continue>>>
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May 1, 2015 11:34 AM

A federal judge has ruled that the State Department has roughly three weeks to propose a deadline for the release of tens of thousands of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails, Politico reported.

The deadline, mandated by U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras in an order issued Tuesday, applies to work-related emails Clinton sent or received on her personal account.

The State Department has promised to use procedures under the Freedom of Information Act to release close to 55,000 pages of emails Clinton turned over in December. Continue>>>
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May 1, 2015 11:30 AM

For more than six weeks, the encounter between a Hinsdale High School District 86 Board member and a Hinsdale South High School student has generated a lot of controversy and comments at board meetings.

The district has a recording of the March 12 incident, made by a security camera outside Hinsdale South, but it has not released it to the public or the press.

Yet, several people have been allowed to watch the recording at the district office. They include the people present when the incident occurred: board member Claudia Manley and her husband, Noel Manley; Marissa Dupont, the student involved; and Mary Sullivan, an adult who was handing out campaign material with Marissa. Continue>>>
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May 1, 2015 11:24 AM

President Obama has routinely promised greater transparency within the federal government. Now, Congress is making strides toward achieving this critical goal.

The House of Representatives and the Senate are considering nearly identical bills to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides the general public, including journalists, with access to federal government records.

This legislation has received broad support across media organizations, including the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of which the Newspaper Association of America is a member. And here’s why: Continue>>>
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April 30, 2015 11:53 AM

A Louisiana federal judge declined to say Monday that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and other government agencies skirted their obligations after an immigration lawyer’s Freedom of Information Act request, but said some questions remained unanswered.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Wilkinson Jr. recommended denial of two motions for summary judgement in a suit filed by Michael W. Gahagan, an attorney at The Immigration Law Firm of New Orleans.

Gahagan has alleged the government violated the law when it refused to turn over certain documents from the immigration file of a man he is representing. His motions sought declaratory and injunctive relief, including an order that CBP and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement hand over paperwork not exempt from FOIA requests.  Continue>>>

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