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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September 16, 2011 9:26 AM

September 16, 2011

From the Politico:

Gov. Rick Perry’s straight talk may have made him an instant star of the Republican presidential field, but even some of his supporters say his frank one-liners don’t reflect his governing style in Texas, where Perry has been criticized as one of the most secretive governors in the country.

At home, Perry has fought for years to keep even mundane details of his schedule, spending and decision-making away from reporters and the public.

eds. -- NFOIC Executive Director Ken Bunting is quoted and NFOIC studies are cited in this POLITICO story.

September 16, 2011 9:22 AM

September 16, 2011

From the Billings Gazette:

HELENA — Does a government worker suspected of stealing from her employer have a privacy right that outweighs the public’s right to know?

That was the question Wednesday before the Montana Supreme Court as the seven justices heard oral arguments in the case involving a former Billings Police Department employee who resigned last year amid theft allegations.

September 16, 2011 9:18 AM

September 16, 2011

From the Walton Sun:

If you want to know more about public records and how to obtain them, you need to be at the First Amendment Foundation's annual Sunshine Seminar in Panama City on Tuesday.

The one day seminar at FSU-PC's Holley Center gives an overview of Florida’s public records and public meetings requirements, providing information for anyone who uses public records.

eds. -- The First Amendment Foundation is a member of NFOIC.

September 14, 2011 11:12 AM

September 14, 2011

From Mo. Attorney General's Office:

Jefferson City, Mo. - A free workshop pertaining to the Missouri Sunshine Law will be held on Tuesday, September 20 at 9:00 a.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, 2nd floor, City of Overland, 9119 Lackland Road, Overland, Mo. 63114. The public is invited to attend, along with all interested elected officials and members of boards and commissions.

A separate workshop for law enforcement personnel will be held at the same location at 10:30 a.m. The one-hour classes will be conducted by Tom Durkin, public education director for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

September 14, 2011 11:05 AM

September 14, 2011

From Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

Washington, D.C. — The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today published the 6th Edition of its Open Government Guide, a comprehensive overview of open records and open meetings laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The guide is available free on the Reporters Committee website at www.rcfp.org/ogg, where users can cross-reference and compare the laws in different states or simply get an in-depth analysis of one state. A CD version of the entire guide and hard copies of each state’s section also can be ordered from the Reporters Committee for a small fee.

Each state’s outline is prepared by attorney volunteers who are experts in access law; most have worked on earlier editions of the guide.

September 14, 2011 11:02 AM

September 14, 2011

From The Atlantic:

As the 2012 campaign season draws near, one of the major questions is what impact corporate spending will have on the balance of power in Washington and around the country. Money has been an increasingly important factor in American politics in the last 50 years, as big businesses ramped up their campaign contributions and lobbying to fight off a perceived wave of liberal, union-backed legislation that crested during the Nixon administration.

But the past three years have shown the naked face of corporate money in politics, as businesses have come out swinging against financial reform, health care reform, climate change legislation, and just about anything else proposed by the Obama administration.

September 14, 2011 10:59 AM

September 14, 2011

From Politico:

A federal judge ruled Friday that the Central Intelligence Agency does not have to release any records related to its use of unmanned drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Ruling in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Judge Rosemary Collyer said records about the use of drones could be withheld under the rubric of "intelligence sources and methods." She rejected the ACLU's arguments that lethal drones aren't really involved in acquiring intelligence.

September 14, 2011 10:53 AM

September 14, 2011

From Informationweek:

Most people prefer to use their PCs to interact with the federal government online or through email, although they still expect the feds to provide multiple channels for delivering services and information, according to new research by IDC.

Over a third--36%--of respondents to a new survey from IDC Government Insights, "Creating More Effective Government Information and Service Channels," said that they prefer to contact the government through their computers. IDC spoke to 2,048 U.S. citizens to glean insight about how frequently they interact with the government and how they like to engage in this communication.

September 12, 2011 2:16 PM

September 12, 2011

From nextgov:

An unofficial analysis of the roughly 1,800 top-level federal Web domains shows nearly a quarter of them are now unreachable.

That may mean those sites have been shut down or that their content has been consolidated into larger sites in accordance with a White House plan to drastically cut the federal Web presence over the coming year, said Benjamin Balter, a new technology fellow at the Federal Communications Commission and graduate student at The George Washington University who designed the analysis tool as a personal project.

Visit nextgov.com for the rest.

September 9, 2011 12:39 PM

September 9, 2011

From The Hill:

A group of Senate Republicans are demanding the supercommittee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings make all its deliberations public ... and provide streaming video or audio of each moment of its deliberation.

The supercommittee met for the first time Thursday and voted to allow some private meetings.

Visit The Hill for the rest.

September 9, 2011 11:48 AM

A few items selected from many of interest in the last few days.

Court ruling undermines privacy exemption to FOIA

A ruling Tuesday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit could signal the death knell for—or at least the erosion of—a two-decade-old Supreme Court case that has stymied many a Freedom of Information Act request.

Visit Politico for the rest.

ACLU wins round in battle against warrantless cell phone location tracking

The ACLU won a significant victory in our battle to ensure that cell phones don’t become Big Brother tracking devices. Following a four-year fight, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to comply with [their] Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and turn over the names and docket numbers in numerous cases where the government accessed cell phone location data without a warrant.

Visit ACLU for the rest.

DOJ must release records about cellphone location tracking

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held [this week] that the U.S. Department of Justice must release case docket information in certain criminal cases resulting in convictions or guilty pleas.

Visit RCFP.org for the rest.

Closed work groups are just a bad idea

Opinion from Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, a member of NFOIC:

"More voices are being heard. More opinions are being considered. That kind of transparency can be difficult for some to properly conceptualize, as it is a relatively new way of doing business at the government level."

That's what Gov. Bob McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin told Washington Post reporter Anita Kumar when questioned about why the Governor's Commission on Government Reform & Restructuring had used closed-door work groups to come up with the dozens of recommendations announced at its Aug. 31 meeting.

Visit Richmond Times-Dispatch for the rest.

Judge says St. Louis Police Board ignored Sunshine Law and court rulings

ST. LOUIS -- Using strong words, a judge ordered Friday that the Board of Police Commissioners release details of the investigation of officers who let family and friends use 2006 World Series tickets confiscated from scalpers.

Visit stltoday.com for the rest.

Voice of the Free Press: Government accountability calls for proper records

The failure to properly maintain public records undermines the whole concept of open government. Public records -- especially those that document actions taken by the city's elected officials and civil servants -- are a key instrument for citizens seeking to keep their government accountable.

Visit BurlingtonFreePress.com for the rest.

September 6, 2011 2:37 PM

September 6, 2011

From OpenTheGovernment.org:

This morning OpenTheGovernment.org released the 2011 Secrecy Report (formerly known as the Secrecy Report Card), a quantitative report on indicators of government secrecy. This year's report chronicles positive changes in some indicators of secrecy as a result of the Obama Administration's openness directives. The indicators tracked by the report also show a national security bureaucracy that continues to expand the size of the secret government.

According to Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, "We are not as yet at the level of 'unprecedented transparency' the Obama Administration promises, but we are beginning to see signs that at least some of the Administration's openness efforts are paying off." For example, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) backlogs government-wide were reduced by 10% in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 compared to FY 2009.

Positive trends are also prevalent in areas where the Executive Office has control. President Obama is the only President for whom we have records who has not asserted Executive Privilege to deny Congressional requests for information. Additionally, the number of times President Obama has used a signing statement to challenge specific aspects of a new law is significantly lower than other modern presidents. And, in unprecedented moves, the Obama Administration has declassified and released information about the U.S. nuclear stockpile, our nuclear posture review, and the full size of the national intelligence budget.

The statistics also indicate, however, that the Administration's openness agenda has not fully been embraced by the national security bureaucracy. The report highlights how, two years after the effective date of the President's Executive Order on Classified National Security Information, only a few agencies are taking the required Fundamental Classification Guidance Review process very seriously, with others ignoring or deferring it. The amount of classified material created annually by the government stays well above that created prior to 2000, and the declassification system continues to fall farther behind.

Visit OpenTheGovernment.org for more information and the complete report.

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