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

July 3, 2014 9:43 PM

Tomorrow, many of us will gather to celebrate Independence Day, the first step our nation took to becoming a democracy. In signing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on July 4, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson said, “This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the nation will permit.”

FOIA gives everyone rights to a federal agency’s records upon request. It is a law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Under FOIA, agencies must disclose any information that is requested unless the information is protected from public disclosure. As part of the Executive Branch, the National Transportation Safety Board is mandated by Congress to make those records available to the public as appropriate. The fact is that our compliance with FOIA is an important component of our mission, Independently Advancing Transportation Safety, and our core values of transparency, accountability, integrity, diversity, and inclusion.

I started at the NTSB in 1993 working in the Office of Research and Engineering. As I reflect on my tenure here at the NTSB and the moment I began to understand the accident investigation process, I remember the first accident in which I had an opportunity to provide assistance—the crash of US Flight 427 in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania on September 8, 1994, where the entire aircraft was destroyed and no one survived. I was part of a group that had the daunting task of sorting through wreckage, personal affects, and meeting with families of the victims and other parties involved in the investigation. Little did I know that a few years later, I would move to an office to process and train other personnel to process FOIA requests. It is because of my experience working this and other accident investigations that I have an understanding for why investigators collect so much information. Continue>>>

March 10, 2014 3:44 AM

In the afterglow of the Edward Snowden talk at SXSW, the interactive world may be bullish about the future of privacy. And then they'll use free services that data mine their communications to talk about it. As David Tishgart of local security startup Gazzang warned, "If it's free, then you're the product."

He started his Saturday talk, "Dear Taco Vendor, How Are You Securing My Data?," with a brief personal résumé. Age, address, number of kids, even his time in the last Austin Half Marathon (about 90 minutes). "All this information is readily available. You just need my email address. You don't even need my Facebook login. Just my email."

Scared yet?

Tishgart said, "If I said, 'I'll give you this taco if you give me your email address,' would you do it?" Most of the crowd said yes. "How about if I ask you how much you made last year? Would you give me that for a taco?" Continue>>>

FOI, privacy, SXSW
February 12, 2014 4:44 AM

“One is a superpower and the other an emerging power. One for a long time was the embodiment of an established democracy where civil liberties reign supreme. The other created the conditions for developing a powerful civil society during the Lula years (2003-2010) on the basis of a democratic constitution adopted just three years after the end of two decades of military dictatorship (1964-1985). Rich in diversity, the United States and Brazil should have given freedom of information a supreme position both in their laws and their social values. Unfortunately the reality falls far short of this.

“In the United States, 9/11 spawned a major conflict between the imperatives of national security and the principles of the constitution’s First Amendment. This amendment enshrines every person’s right to inform and be informed. But the heritage of the 1776 constitution was shaken to its foundations during George W. Bush’s two terms as president by the way journalists were harassed and even imprisoned for refusing to reveal their sources or surrender their files to federal judicial officials.

“There has been little improvement in practice under Barack Obama. Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them. No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush’s two terms. While 2012 was in part the year of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 2013 will be remember for the National Security Agency computer specialist Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass surveillance methods developed by the US intelligence agencies. Continue>>>

FOI, journalism
May 10, 2012 1:50 AM


Alissa Black joined the New America Foundation in April to lead the newly-formed California Civic Innovation Project, focused on “identifying best practices to improving service delivery, opening new channels for public voices, and bridging the state’s digital divides.”

Black previously served as government relations director at Code for America and has worked for New York City and San Francisco governments, including developing and deploying SF’s Open311 citizen reporting system.

May 10, 2012 1:50 AM

From Gartner:

Open government initiatives are either aimed at providing greater transparency, usually as a reaction to an accusation or perception of excessive secrecy, or at engaging citizens in specific problem solution as well as service delivery. It is probably fair to say that the US federal initiatives are closer to the former, while UK initiatives are closer to the latter.

May 10, 2012 1:49 AM

From Code For America:

On Monday April 30, 2012, Oakland City Council reviewed an open data policy initiative put forth by city councilmember of the 4th District and Oakland native, Libby Schaff.

The open data policy agenda report composed by policy analyst Bruce Stoffmacher, proposes to make raw data sets accessible to the public on a new city data portal.

May 10, 2012 1:49 AM


State governments are beginning to focus on website analytics, something we here at GovLoop are very familiar with. They are taking advantage of Google Analytics, a free tool which assesses hits and traffic, to determine how people are utilizing their websites. States like California are even publishing these statistics right on their homepages for people to view.

California has created a dashboard which allows users to see how many people are on any given California website at that time. On weekday afternoons, there could be as many as 40,000 users logged in. There are also 2.4 million monthly visitors via mobile devices, which equates to 12% of total traffic.

May 10, 2012 1:48 AM

From iWatchNews:

Iowa’s only F grade on the State Integrity Investigation was in the category of public access to information, partly due to a lack of strong enforcement measures.

But Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill last week that would create the Iowa Public Information Board, a nine-member commission that will oversee and enforce the state’s open records laws. The governor noted that the lack of enforcement was highlighted by the State Integrity Investigation and affected Iowa’s overall grade. Iowa ranked 7th among the 50 states and earned an overall grade of C+. 

May 9, 2012 4:55 PM

From NYTimes:

In a blow to Illinois' sweeping eavesdropping law, a federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked its enforcement in cases where someone is recording a police officer at work.

It was a victory for activists who had feared that using smartphones or video cameras to record police responding to demonstrations during this month's NATO summit in Chicago could land protesters and bloggers behind bars for years. It's also the most serious legal challenge to the measure — one of the strictest in the nation — and adds momentum to efforts by some state lawmakers to overhaul the legislation, whose constitutionality has been questioned..

May 9, 2012 4:51 PM


Attorney General Chris Koster says he will give documents regarding proposals made on upgrading the Edward Jones Dome to requesting parties.

Koster says he sent a letter Monday notifying representatives of the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Bureau that the state will comply with the open records request.

May 9, 2012 4:50 PM


An environmental group says emails they obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show a close relationship between Maryland Gov. O'Malley and an attorney for Perdue Farms Inc.

The group, Washington-based Food & Water Watch, obtained 70 pages of emails between O'Malley and Herbert Frerichs Jr., general counsel for Perdue Business Services.

May 9, 2012 4:50 PM


The University of Nebraska Foundation spent more than $80,000 last year on 21 flights aboard its private aircraft, opting to use the twin-turboprop Beechcraft King Air instead of taking often less expensive commercial flights, according to flight records obtained by The Associated Press.

Syndicate content