Archive for the ‘Document story ideas’ Category


Must read FOI stories – 7/25/14

Every week I do a roundup of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me.

  • The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued the United States Customs and Border Protection to compel the agency to produce documents relating to a relatively new comprehensive intelligence database of people and cargo crossing the U.S. border.

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

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Must read FOI stories – 7/18/14

Every week I do a roundup of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me.

Special congrats to the FOIA advocacy website MuckRock, they got a shout out from the Daily Show this week for one of their FOIA requests:

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

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Must read FOI stories – 7/07/14

Every week I’ll be doing a roundup of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me (Missed last week because of 4th of July, so you’re getting a double dose this week.)

  • No moving targets in FOIA denials: Missouri judge rules that government agencies cannot give a different exemption than the original one used to deny the FOIA request after being sued.
  • Judicial Watch, a government accountability group, filed a legal motion about the “lost emails” of ex-IRS official Lois Learner.
  • FOIA suffers setback in South Carolina at the hands of the legislature and Supreme Court, which recently ruled that public bodies don’t have to issue agendas for regularly scheduled meetings.
  •  Massachusetts SWAT team claims they’re immune from public records requests, ACLU sues.

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

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Must read FOI stories – 6/27/14

Every week I’ll be doing a round up of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me.

  • FOIA from the “budget” perspective answers the following questions: How much are we spending on FOIA oversight? How does that compare to the costs of litigation? How much does the government spend on FOIA administration overall.
  • The FBI’s 83-page guide to Twitter shorthand. FMTYEWTK (Far More Than You Ever Wanted To Know).
  • A federal judge ruled that the Freedom of Information Act trumps an Internal Revenue Service policy for handling data requests after an advocacy group, Public.Resource.Org, filed a lawsuit against the IRS to make Form 990 returns available in a format that can be read by computers so the public can more easily search them for critical information about non-profit finances, governance and programs.
  • An Oklahoma County judge ruled that Gov. Mary Fallin can lawfully withhold public documents — relating to a decision on Obamacare  — which are covered by a “deliberative process” privilege.
  • Tulsa World editorial calls for the legislature to strike down the “deliberative process” exemption. A judge recently ruled that Governor Mary Fallin was allowed to withhold 100 pages out of 51,000 concerning her state’s decision on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
  • The “FOIA Warriors” (Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro) are at it again and have filed a lawsuit against the CIA compelling the agency to release documents about its spying on Senate lawmakers who were tasked with investigating CIA torture.

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

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Must read FOI stories – 6/20/14

Every week I’ll be doing a round up of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me.

  • In the above link about the document seizure by the U.S. Marshals, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion to try and claw back those records, but the judge dismissed it.
  • FOIA request reveals brutal photos of seals, dolphins, whales, and other sea life that were caught in California commercial fishing boats that use drift gillnets — one mile-long mesh nets that are intended to catch swordfish.
  • The Kentucky Court of Appeals has affirmed a Circuit Court decision paving the way for public access to court records related to a public official’s job performance and the contentious relationship she had with the former president of a local community college.
  • An appeals court backs a man who made an anonymous public records request. The court ruled that the city of Greenacres, Fla., could not require the man to fill out a form before obtaining the documents.
  • St. Louis police records released per a judge’s order in public records lawsuit show how vice and other drug officers scalped the scalpersFifteen police officers were either suspended and demoted or otherwise disciplined for giving St. Louis Cardinals’ championship tickets seized from scalpers to friends and family.
  • The Miami Herald questions the Department of Children & Families’ “paperless” investigation into why there were originally no records — “no reports, memos, notes, emails or smoke signals” —  of the deaths of at least 30 children who were in DCF’s active case files.
  • The Federal Bureau of Prisons is being sued for FOIA violations by Prisology, a non-profit criminal justice reform organization. They claim that the FBOP has been non-compliant with the law, which has required for decades the Bureau post online substantial information about its day-to-day decision-making.

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

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Must read FOI stories – 6/13/14

Every week I’ll be doing a round up of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me.

  • A Circuit Court Judge will decide on whether text messages exchanged between government officials need to be released under FOIA in a lawsuit filed by PETA. The first defense the city of Norfolk, Virginia, offered was that its public employees don’t save their messages, then it said there was no way of retrieving them. Maybe their next excuse will be, “The dog ate ’em.”
  • FOI advocacy groups want to close loop holes in FOIA regulations. Advocates say “agencies lack penalties for withholding information, overuse exemptions provided within FOIA and deal inconsistently and unfairly toward requesters.”
  • After 10,000 requests, MuckRock files FOIA lawsuit against the CIA. You can read all about in their editorial, “Why we’re suing the CIA.”
  • FOIA request filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveals FBI’s Next Generation Identification facial recognition program will consist of a database of more than 52 million pictures. FBI Director says he doesn’t think the agency will spy on Americans with it. (Apparently he missed the memo from the NSA.)

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

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Wikileaks behind fake Bill Keller-New York Times editorial

An apologetic piece extolling the virtues of WikiLeaks, written by a former New York Times executive editor?

Too good to be true.

As it turns out, it was.

The fake article,  posted online late July 28,  featured an almost wistful Bill Keller saying he was in “the awkward position of having to defend WikiLeaks.”

Keller, former executive editor of The New York Times,  had a rocky relationship with WikiLeaks, further adding to the shock factor of the piece.

The story used quotes pulled from Keller’s emailed responses to Matthew Ingram’s post in defense of WikiLeaks. The webpage was, in The Guardian’s words,  an “immaculate” replication of The New York Times webpage.

This piece came soon after reports that some United States government officials are looking for ways to prosecute journalists who publish leaked secrets.

Ultimately, Keller cleared the air with his July 29, all-caps tweet:

“THERE IS A FAKE OP-ED GOING AROUND UNDER MY NAME, ABOUT WIKILEAKS,” the tweet read. “EMPHASIS ON ‘FAKE.’ AS IN, NOT MINE.”

WikiLeaks later  claimed credit for the op-ed hoax.

A second  tweet from the organization hinted their motivation might have been to embarrass the Times into running something about the financial embargo against the company, according to The Guardian.

In retrospect, a few signs should have tipped off those who tweeted the column.

Not only did Gizmodo report inaccuracies with the missing favicon and inaccurate URL, but the column also contained several typos, Poynter reported.   (More tips on how to spot an internet hoax !)

WikiLeaks’ involvement with the hoax spurred mixed responses.

“Well done,” @LifeInGotham  said.

However, others weren’t so supportive of the prank:

“The people who  hate wikileaks(sic) will use this to cast doubt on the validity of everything you have/will ever leak,” James Gammell (@Destraudo) said.

Information pulled from:

Poynter

Gizmodo

The Guardian

GigaOM

The Christian Science Monitor

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with the Society of Professional Journalists. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email –  wevans@hq.spj.org –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

*Know something about Freedom of Information that you think we should cover in a blog post? We want to hear from you! Send information to wevans@HQ.SPJ.org. It may be featured in a future post.

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FOI DAILY DOSE: Gov limousine increase and Federal Reserve disclosure hearing

Limousines, limousines and more limousines

During an economic crisis, wasteful spending can seem like Public Enemy No. 1.

Public records can provide a great way to check on how local, state and federal governments are spending their funds.

The Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News did just that. Sifting through records revealed that one of the federal government’s extravagances as of late has been the purchase of extra fancy cars. Limousines, to be exact.

U.S. General Services Administration records showed that, during the Obama administration, the number of limos increased from 238 in the federal fleet in fiscal year 2008 to 412 in 2010.

From 2008, the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency, to 2010, there was a 73 percent increase in the number of federal limousines. Obama began his presidency in 2009, serving in the Oval Office for eight months. It was also in 2009 that the largest increase in limos occurred.

Some of the ’09 additions could have been part of previous requests from the Bush administration.

According to GSA, however, these limousine numbers aren’t reliable because ‘limousine’ is not a well-defined term and could include vehicles such as sedans. Overall federal fleet numbers are recorded every year.

Hearing on Federal Reserve transparency today

The Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee, chaired by Ron Paul and part of the House Financial Services Committee, will hold a hearing on transparency within the Federal Reserve today at 2 p.m. in Washington, D.C.

The event will focus on the information on emergency lending facilities, open market regulations and other topics that the Fed disclosed in order to comply with the Dodd-Frank Act and FOIA.

Also up for discussion is how the Federal Reserve will make future disclosures as demanded by Dodd-Frank Act provisions.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

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Keep drubbings by police open to the public

This week a New Jersey appeals court ruled that police use-of-force reports are public records. The township of West Milford claimed that the reports were ongoing investigations so they didn’t have to be made public. The court disagreed. The record is about when an officer uses a gun, taser, club, etc., not about a criminal investigation.

Good for the court. Use-of-force records should be open to the public to make sure police are held accountable for the power we give them to restrain people with force – sometimes lethal force. I remember looking at lawsuits and claims against a city I covered to find hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid out to compensate victims of overzealous officers (three of the officers were called “the cowboys” because of their propensity to go wild with their batons).

Request and analyze use-of-force reports in your town to see how how officers are handling suspects. Also look at claims against the agency and lawsuits. The problem is that even in states where the reports are clearly public records, agencies often will try to keep them secret and say they aren’t public, or just ignore your request. For example, a group of college students requested taser-use records from hundreds of Texas police agencies in 2006 and found that 74 out of 254 (29%) sheriffs ignored the requests. One of my students requested use-of-force records from all police agencies in Arizona in 2007 and 42% didn’t even respond (and only 9 out of 104 actually provided the records). It’s a shame that police, sworn to uphold the law, often ignore it. Like in Chicago, where a court ruled Tuesday that citizen complaints against police officers can be kept secret. That’s just wrong.

Don’t walk away. Keep after those records and keep our government accountable.

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Document story idea: problems in university athletics

Find out problems in major university athletic programs near you by going after NCAA sanction records.

The NCAA this week turned over documents regarding sanctions against Florida State University following a lawsuit brought by dozens of newspapers and TV stations (see Tallahassee Democrat story). The university faces punishment because of cheating by its athletes.

The NCAA, which is a nonprofit, said its internal documents were not subject to the public records law because it is not a government agency, but the courts said the records pertain to official government business regarding a state-funded institution, so they are public under Florida’s law.

So what does that mean to you if you don’t live in Florida? After all, that precedent applies only to Florida – such records might not be deemed public in your state. Well, the first step is to seek records directly from your public university (Florida State already had released the records). You can mention the Florida case, including the massive amount of negative publicity (nationally) against Florida State, and that might break it loose. Also, if the records are general in nature, covering the whole nation, you might be able to team up with a Florida journalist to request them from the NCAA through Florida and then localize it to your area.

The bottom line: If there are major problems going on at your local university, the public should know about that. Common sense often prevails, as it did in Florida.

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