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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December 10, 2013 10:47 AM

From Courthouse News Service: MANHATTAN (CN) - Two New York Times reporters sued the Department of Homeland Security for records on their interrogations at JFK Airport this year.

The DHS claims the records do not exist, though one reporter claims his interview was entered on a computer.

Mac William Bishop and Christopher Chivers sued the Department of Homeland Security in Federal Court.

Both filed FOIA requests for information about their questioning at the airport; both were brushed off.

Visit Courthouse News Service for more.

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December 6, 2013 1:03 PM

Press release from ACLU: SAN FRANCISCO – The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Popular Democracy today filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to provide details about the agency's relationship with the financial industry and its efforts to block municipalities from using eminent domain to prevent foreclosures.

Banks have foreclosed on millions of homes, and vast numbers of homeowners remain at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure because their mortgages are "underwater," meaning homeowners owe more than their properties are now worth. Communities with large African-American and Latino populations such as Richmond, Calif., and Irvington, N.J., have been particularly hard hit.

"For years, communities of color across the nation were targeted by banks peddling subprime toxic mortgages, greatly contributing to the current foreclosure crisis," said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey. "Now communities are responding by considering novel approaches to help save their neighborhoods. Municipalities should be able to consider all of their options."

[...]

The complaint, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, et al. v. Federal Housing Finance Agency, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It was brought by the ACLU, the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of New Jersey, and the Center for Popular Democracy on behalf of a number of community groups across the country.

Visit ACLU for more.

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December 6, 2013 12:58 PM

From Courthouse News Service: SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - The CIA properly handled a man's demand for records on his 1966 interrogation regarding telepathy and espionage, a federal judge ruled.

Phillip Mosier had sued the agency in San Francisco under the Freedom of Information Act last year, but his case was removed this past April to the Eastern District of California.

The complaint is sparse on details about the nature of the CIA's alleged interview with him nearly 50 years ago in Lebanon, Mo.

Visit Courthouse News Service for more.

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December 3, 2013 1:41 PM

From Courthouse News Service: WASHINGTON (CN) - The once-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has mishandled demands to reveal the government's attempted justifications of its program of collecting the call and email data of Americans, a media coalition said.

Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press filed the amicus brief with the FISC, just before Thanksgiving last week, alongside Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Courthouse News Service and 21 other media organizations.

The brief takes aim at a Sept. 13 ruling in which the FISC found that the ACLU and its D.C.-based Nation's Capital chapter alone had standing to seek the release of precedential FISC opinions that underlie the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

This decision denied standing to the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIAC) at Yale Law School based on the finding that only those entities that had previously discussed the scope of Section 215 of the Patriot Act can witness the court's proceedings.

[...]

Joining the RCFP as amici are the Bay Area News Group; Belo Corp; Bloomberg; Courthouse News Service; E.W. Scripps Co.; First Amendment Coalition; Gannett Co.; Hearst Corp.; Investigative Reporters and Editors; Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University; The McClatchy Co.; Media Consortium; The National Press Club; National Press Photographers Association; National Public Radio; The New York Times Co.; The New Yorker; North Jersey Media Group Inc.; Online News Association; Politico LLC; Radio Television Digital News Association; The Seattle Times Co.; and The Washington Post.

Visit Courthouse News Service for more.

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December 3, 2013 1:22 PM

From Voice of OC: The state Supreme Court has rejected a request by Voice of OC and open-government advocates Californians Aware to review a gag order Orange County government leaders imposed on themselves so they wouldn’t have to release information regarding allegations of sex abuse by a top county official.

The case involved a Voice of OC request under the California Public Records Act for documents that would show what top county officials knew about allegations that former Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante sexually assaulted female employees.

Opponents of the gag order fear the tactic employed by Orange County leaders will become a tool statewide for government officials who want to avoid complying with the 45-year-old Public Records Act.

Visit Voice of OC for more. Also see Voice of OC asking California Supreme Court to hear records case for more background.

The Californians Aware and the First Amendment Coalition are members of NFOIC. --eds

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November 26, 2013 3:31 PM

From PC World: The Federal Bureau of Investigation should make public a legal opinion it used to justify a past telephone records surveillance program because other agencies may still be relying on the document for surveillance justifications, the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued in court Tuesday.

EFF lawyer Mark Rumold asked a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to order the FBI to disclose a 2010 legal opinion from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, telling the judges that the OLC report amounts to final policy that agencies are required to disclose under open-records law. The EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the OLC opinion in February 2011 and later filed a lawsuit after the DOJ rejected its request.

Visit PC World for more.

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November 22, 2013 1:50 PM

From Courthouse News Service: SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Immigration officials will no longer fight a lawyer who claimed that quality representation hinged on accessing the notes asylum officers took on his clients.

San Francisco-based immigration attorney Jeffrey Martins sued the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and its director, Alejandro Mayorkas, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano under the Freedom of Information Act. While immigration officials made good on some of Martins' recent requests, they specifically withheld the notes officers took at asylum interviews, contained in alien records known as "A-files."

Visit Courthouse News Service for more.

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November 22, 2013 1:36 PM

From Sunlight Foundation: Today the Sunlight Foundation filed its very first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. In May 2013, we sent a FOIA request to the General Services Administration (GSA) requesting a copy of all contract notices that had been posted on FedBizOpps.gov since 2000. These notices would allow members of the press, researchers and our developers to analyze government spending patterns, to look for inaccuracies, corruption and waste.

FedBizOpps.gov is a government website where contracting opportunities and awards are posted. It also includes notices when something is sole-sourced without competition. However, most of these notices are archived soon after their posting and the FedBizOpps advanced search requires knowledge of the exact solicitation to really find what you're looking for. This prevents the public from researching the original solicitations when a contract goes bad. One notable example is Healthcare.gov. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services originally signed a contract for “Enterprise System Development” back in 2007, which eventually came to include work on the recently-launched health exchange website. Now that the contract has come under scrutiny, many want to examine the original solicitation. Some smart Googling might bring it up, but historical data on this site is pretty difficult to find. Additionally, there's no machine readable bulk export option to allow for broad analysis of patterns in contracting over time.

Visit Sunlight Foundation for more.

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October 22, 2013 11:19 AM

From McClatchyDC: A secret presidential directive on cybersecurity is going to stay secret, despite the best FOIA-filing efforts of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

In a decision issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected the long-running Freedom of Information Act request for the unredacted text of National Security Presidential Directive 54.

Visit McClatchyDC for more.

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October 16, 2013 12:56 PM

From The Washington Times: The government watchdog Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, insisting the agency release previously demanded documents made under a Freedom of Information Act request that would clarify how conservative groups were screened for nonprofit status.

Judicial Watch filed the suit on Oct. 9 but announced it Tuesday. President Tom Fitton said in a written statement that the suit was “designed to cut through the Obama administration cover-up of its IRS scandal.”

Visit The Washington Times for more.

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September 24, 2013 1:34 PM

From The Advocate: A New Orleans environmental activist is suing the state for copies of correspondence she says could shed light on conversations between Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top coastal-protection adviser and the energy industry about a local flood-protection board’s decision to file a massive lawsuit against dozens of oil and gas companies.

The suit comes in the wake of the state’s denial of a public-records request by Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, seeking all correspondence to and from Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves since December.

Visit The Advocate for more.

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September 24, 2013 1:13 PM

From The Federation of American Scientists: The Central Intelligence Agency tried to make “inappropriate” use of an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act to withhold information that was not subject to the exemption, a federal court ruled last month.

In a significant interpretation of the Central Intelligence Agency Act, Judge Beryl A. Howell narrowed the permissible scope of records that CIA may withhold under Section 403g of the Act. That section allows CIA to exempt from release information concerning “the organization, functions, names, official titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed by” the Agency.

Visit The Federation of American Scientists for more.

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