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 28, 2015 12:52 PM

In response to a State Department proposal to incrementally release former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails every two months, a federal judge ordered Wednesday that the department instead disclose them every 30 days.

Justice Department lawyers representing the State Department offered in a Tuesday court filing to start posting Clinton’s emails on the department’s Freedom of Information Act website on June 30, with “rolling productions” made public every 60 days.

“The Department is keenly aware of the intense public interest in the documents and wants to get releasable materials out as soon as possible,” the lawyers wrote on Tuesday. “Furthermore, the Department will continue to explore ways to devote more resources to this effort, consistent with its other obligations, to complete the review even earlier.”  Continue>>>

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May 28, 2015 11:05 AM

A veteran has sought information about Fort McClellan’s chemical contamination from the Department of Defense since last year, but his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has gone unanswered.

Raymond Pulliam – a 53-year-old veteran – was forced to retire in 2012 due to health issues he believes were caused by toxic contamination at Fort McClellan, where he was stationed in 1979 for basic training.

A previous report from Breitbart News and The Washington Times exposed a high-ranking official’s email putting budget concerns over veteran health issues tied to Fort McClellan.  Continue>>>

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May 28, 2015 10:53 AM

The Obama Administration is in a legal showdown over claims that officials are using the prospect of sky-high fees to try to block requests for government records under the Freedom of Information Act.

At a court hearing Wednesday, a non-profit research institute based at Syracuse University—the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse—complained to a federal judge that the government is arbitrarily denying the organization status as an educational organization and a member of the news media, designations that would allow the group to escape most of the fees that can be charged for FOIA requests.

During almost an hour of arguments on the issue, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper sounded sympathetic to TRAC's claims and, at times, incredulous of the government's position in the case.  Continue>>>

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May 28, 2015 10:40 AM

“The state Legislature made some changes to the Freedom of Information Act (at the end of 2014),” Township Manager Bill Cargo said. “These were the first major changes since the act was instituted.”

The impending changes include significant new requirements for municipalities and will change how the township responds to requests for information. According to Cargo, changes of this magnitude are unprecedented in FOIA’s nearly 40-year history.

“We have to have this information in place by July 1,” Cargo said, noting that is when the new regulations take effect. “If we don’t, we won’t be able to charge a fee for FOIA requests.”  Continue>>>

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May 21, 2015 9:47 AM

AUSTIN — Texans are likely to get greater access to campus police records and public meetings online.

But after a group secretly taped lawmakers in Austin, some are wary of legislation that could make it harder to record audio without the consent of all recorded.

A variety of bills still in play in the final days of the legislative session will affect government transparency, and so far, major legislative efforts are falling on the side of open government.  Continue>>>

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May 21, 2015 9:24 AM

Virginia won't be adding criminal penalties to its Freedom of Information Act any time soon.

The state's FOIA Council shot that proposal down Wednesday afternoon without even needing to send it to a subcommittee for study.

House Bill 2223, from Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, would have made the deliberate refusal to release public information a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The bill passed the House of Delegates earlier this year on a nearly unanimous vote, but the state Senate sent it to the FOIA Council – an appointed group that focuses on Virginia's open records and meetings laws – for further study.  Continue>>>

May 21, 2015 9:09 AM

Suffolk, Va. – A review of thousands of police replies to citizens seeking public records shows most Hampton Roads departments follow the law, even if they only release the minimum required. However, NewsChannel 3 found dozens of instances where citizens were improperly denied records, where police cited the wrong codes and exemptions, or where authorities failed to cite the specific reasons they were withholding documents.

Suffolk police, for example, wrote dozens of denials saying requests involved “current investigative information or material pending a court hearing.” That phrase is not found anywhere in the act’s exemptions. Suffolk usually followed that phrase by citing a code section — 2.2-3706 (A) — which is the entire police-records section of FOIA. The law says police must cite a specific exemption.

NewsChannel 3 provided the responses to Megan Rhyne, the executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. She said Suffolk’s responses were overly broad, and used cut-and-paste, form-letter language that didn’t serve citizens.  Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 12:51 PM

Government agencies could face a new authority for improperly withholding public records in the face of a Freedom of Information Act request.

But at the same time, government agencies could also strike back at people who make overly burdensome requests for documents.  Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 12:48 PM

In 2004, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 59, one of the most far-reaching government openness laws in the nation. Its premise was that government agencies, when facing requests for official records, should err on the side of disclosure, not secrecy. The law requires laws to “be broadly interpreted to further the people’s right to access government information,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office noted.

If there is a more ignored state law than Proposition 59, we are unaware of it. Recent Union-Tribune Watchdog coverage has shown state agencies obstructing attempts to get basic public information about still-unfolding scandals. Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 10:24 AM
 
During former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, her political staff personally reviewed and negotiated the release of public records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — and in some cases blocked documents' release, according to The Wall Street Journal.
 
A Journal investigation found there existed a culture of "delay and inefficiency" at the State Department.
 
Clinton’s disclosure of public records has made headlines since the revelation earlier this year that as secretary of state she exclusively used a private account and server housed in her New York home to conduct State Department business. Continue>>>
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May 20, 2015 10:13 AM

U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday released documents it said were recovered during the 2011 raid on the compound in Pakistan where US forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. 

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement that the release of the documents followed a "rigorous" review by US government agencies and "aligns with the president's call for increased transparency consistent with national security prerogatives." Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 9:56 AM

Cameras mounted inside patrol cars captured every moment.

With their guns drawn, Gardena police officers screamed instructions at three men on the sidewalk. The officers warned them to keep their hands above their heads, mistakenly believing that they had been involved in a robbery.

Exactly what happened next is in dispute, but what is undisputed is that the men were unarmed when police opened fire, killing one and seriously wounding another.  Continue>>>

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