National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

NFOIC’s FOI Friday for March 30, 2012

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier.

Text messages enter public-records debate

Those supposedly private messages that public officials dash off on their government cellphones to friends and colleagues aren't necessarily private after all.

Courts, lawyers and states are increasingly treating these typed text messages as public documents subject to the same disclosure laws — including the federal Freedom of Information Act — that apply to e-mails and paper records.

Visit USA Today for the rest.

Judge calls for near-complete release of UC pepper-spray report

OAKLAND — A judge Wednesday rejected nearly all attempts by a campus police union to block release of portions of a report on the November pepper-spraying of UC Davis students by university officers.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo disagreed with assertions that large chunks of the report — designed to scrutinize the day's events and craft new policy — should be sealed because they contain the same kind of information as in officer personnel files compiled for disciplinary purposes. He also rejected union arguments that officers named in the report have a constitutional right to privacy.

Visit LA Times for the rest.

Justice accused of hindering multi-agency FOIA website

Open government watchdog groups are calling upon the White House to help resolve an apparent power struggle between the Justice Department and three other federal agencies over the creation of new websites for consolidating Freedom of Information Act requests and information.

The tussle is over, recently created by Justice, and a new FOIA Web portal being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency with assistance from the Commerce Department and the National Archives & Records Administration.

Visit Federal Computer Week for the rest.

FDA Gets High Marks for FOIA Request Transparency

A report by the House Oversight Committee has found many federal agencies to be deficient when it comes to tracking basic information regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, including the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Visit Regulatory Focus for the rest.

Bush and Cheney Are for Snooping In Everyone’s Library Records But Theirs

Libraries, you will recall, are playgrounds for terrorists—which is why George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made sure the that PATRIOT Act empowered the FBI to rummage through library records with impunity and without a warrant, confidentiality be damned. But now that there's a lawsuit seeking records from their presidential libraries, Bush and Cheney are hiding behind the Librarian's Code.

Visit Gawker for the rest.

CIA Withholds Documents Using Legal Exemption It Does Not Have Authority to Apply

For the past eight years, the CIA has used an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that "protects intelligence sources and methods" to justify the withholding of certain records from requesters.

But a federal lawsuit filed against the CIA charges that the agency does not have the authority to deny records under what is known as a (b)(3) exemption unless the Director of the CIA consulted with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and received specific authorization in each instance it had denied records under that rule, which it apparently has not done.

Visit TruthOut for the rest.

Records used in other states to uncover cheating on tests not open in Texas

While other states are finding evidence of school test score manipulation, the Texas Education Agency has managed to quash open records requests that would allow the public to investigate such a thing in this state.

Visit Texas Watchdog for the rest.

R text messages a loophole in Florida records law?

Florida public records laws are often called among the toughest in the nation. But that was b4 txt msging. The state updated its public records rules last year to advise that text messages, Facebook comments, Tweets and other communications on "emerging communications technologies'' might be public records, depending on their content.

Visit Orlando Sentinel for the rest.