FOI Advocate Blog

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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June 28, 2013 12:47 PM

A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.

 

Acting ND University System chancellor says NDSU president emails are not gone for good

BISMARCK, North Dakota — More than 45,000 emails reportedly deleted from the email account of North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani at the time of a state open records request are not gone for good, the interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System says. ... The emails are the subject of a state investigation into whether NDSU violated open records laws by deleting emails from Bresciani's inbox that might have been subject to a legislative public records request. The request came during months of controversy over the alleged overbearing leadership style of then-Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, whose contract has since been bought out by the state Board of Higher Education.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

ACLU files appeal in request for city SWAT records

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed an appeal in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court seeking records from the Pittsburgh police department. According to the filing, the ACLU submitted a request under the state Right to Know Law seeking records from the city's SWAT team and on acquisition of "cutting-edge weapons technology."

Visit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the rest.

Jacksonville expects fast end to Sunshine lawsuit, general counsel says

A Times-Union lawsuit that argues Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown broke the state’s Sunshine Law could be resolved by late July or August, the city’s top lawyer told a City Council committee Thursday. ... The suit says the pension proposal was the result of illegal secret negotiations. Times-Union Editor Frank Denton filed the suit because state law requires Sunshine cases to be brought by a Florida resident.

Visit The Florida Times-Union for the rest.

Northampton Community College locks down email addresses after records ruling

Northampton Community College will take steps to keep its students' email addresses private after an open records decision required administrators to provide the information to a Bucks County activist. The idea their email addresses could be released for commercial or political purposes outraged some students, who wrote to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records in an effort to influence its decision, said Helene Whitaker, the school's vice president for administrative affairs.

Visit The Morning Call for the rest.

Governor says he supports open records, meetings, but does not want state bearing the costs

SACRAMENTO, California — Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that he is committed to keeping government transparent but wants to do so without costing the state money. Brown made his first public comments about the California Public Records Act after lawmakers backtracked on a bill that would have made it optional, instead of mandatory, for local governments to comply with document requests.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Judge orders records in Lloyd case to be kept from public

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. — A day after his co-counsel, Michael Fee, issued an email rant at the media for "a flood of rumors, misinformation and false reports," defense attorney Jamie Sultan made a 15-minute visit to their client's home Tuesday, driving away without a word to the two dozen reporters camped outside the home of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Meanwhile, five miles away at the Attleboro District Courthouse, clerk magistrate Mark E. Sturdy issued a statement saying that all records handled by his office that relate to the investigation into the homicide of Odin Lloyd have been impounded by court order.

Visit USA Today for the rest.

May 10, 2013 11:19 AM

From Dissenter.com:  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has received documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that provide details on FBI and Justice Department policies, which appear to suggest the federal authorities can read emails without obtaining a warrant.

The FBI provided a copy of a 2012 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) that had not been made public. It contained nothing about the Fourth Amendment requiring a warrant for all emails.

 

April 24, 2013 1:58 PM

From San Diego City Beat:

I love public records laws like a firefighter loves his ax. I love the heft of the federal Freedom of Information Act (or the California Public Records Act) when I slam it into the door of the establishment. And I love it when it gets sharpened.

Since 2009, open-records activists and the city of San Jose have waged a court battle over how far these laws—which are designed to make sure citizens can access government documents—extend to digital communications, particularly when an official decides to use his private email rather than his government-issued account. 

[...]

Government documents belong to the people, and it doesn't matter where the documents are.

 

April 10, 2013 12:58 PM

From ACLU:

Everyone knows the IRS is our nation’s tax collector, but it is also a law enforcement organization tasked with investigating criminal violations of the tax laws. New documents released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the IRS Criminal Tax Division has long taken the position that the IRS can read your emails without a warrant—a practice that one appeals court has said violates the Fourth Amendment (and we think most Americans would agree).

Last year, the ACLU sent a FOIA request to the IRS seeking records regarding whether it gets a warrant before reading people’s email, text messages and other private electronic communications. The IRS has now responded by sending us 247 pages of records describing the policies and practices of its criminal investigative arm when seeking the contents of emails and other electronic communications.

So does the IRS always get a warrant? Unfortunately, while the documents we have obtained do not answer this question point blank, they suggest otherwise. This question is too important for the IRS not to be completely forthright with the American public. The IRS should tell the public whether it always gets a warrant to access email and other private communications in the course of criminal investigations. And if the agency does not get a warrant, it should change its policy to always require one.

March 12, 2013 1:19 PM

From The Washington Examiner:

SANTA FE -- It may be Sunshine Week -- a nationwide initiative focused on the importance of access to public documents and information -- but New Mexico lawmakers are halfway toward adopting a resolution creating an exception for legislative emails.

[...]

The House on Sunday voted 48-16 to pass House Concurrent Resolution 1, which proposes limits for releasing emails and other records.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government opposes HCR1, saying it's "a vaguely-worded measure" that would "pull a curtain of secrecy over important decisions that affect all New Mexicans."

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds



November 20, 2012 10:48 AM

From CNET News:

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' email privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' email, is scheduled for next week.

[...]

Marc Rotenberg, head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said that in light of the revelations about how former CIA director David Petraeus' email was perused by the FBI, "even the Department of Justice should concede that there's a need for more judicial oversight," not less.

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