Posts Tagged ‘CIA’


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 – 7/11/14

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.

  • A CIA employee with the highest level of security clearance tried to get the agency to release info that was a decade old. They told him no, so he submitted a FOIA request and it “destroyed his entire career.”
  • The Center for Investigative Reporting is collecting ideas on how to improve the FOIA request process. Have ideas? Fill out the form here.
  • Two local activist groups file suit against a Florida county claiming that the commission skirted state open-government laws in allowing a controversial business park to go forward.
  • Which U.S. agencies sprung for the extra legroom provided by first class? MuckRock obtained Agency Premium Travel Reportswhich show how millions in upgrade fees were spent from 2009-2013.

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 – 6/13/14

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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Must read FOI stories – 5/23/14

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

Wisconsin court ruling is a real danger to open records. It’s a big problem giving government officials the right to “consider the intentions of people who file open records request when deciding whether to fill them.”

The joy of public records — You can’t make this stuff up… No spoilers on this one, you just have to click it.

It took four months to redact a majority of a top-secret Pentagon report conducted to determine the damage done by the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden. It concluded that “the scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering.”

The FOIA Project just uploaded 97 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions. No need to pay for a PACER account now.

Federal Appeals Court ruling says that the CIA can keep their 50-year-old internal account of the Bay of Pigs secret indefinitely.

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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FOI Update: Federal appeals court rules against reporter’s privilege in James Risen case

A federal appeals court ruled July 19 that the First Amendment does not protect reporters from being forced to testify against confidential sources suspected of sharing unauthorized information with them, according to The New York Times.

This decision against the so-called reporter’s privilege came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. The court ruled James Risen, an author and a national security reporter for the Times, must testify against a former Central Intelligence Agency official charged with giving him classified information. Risen said he’s willing to go prison to protect his source, according to the Times.

The information was not for an article in the Times. It was for a chapter in Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War,” that portrays efforts by the CIA. under the Clinton administration to trick Iranian scientists as “reckless and botched in a way that could have helped the Iranians gain accurate information,” The Times said.

Chief Judge William Byrd Traxler Jr. justified the ruling by writing: “Clearly, Risen’s direct, firsthand account of the criminal conduct indicted by the grand jury cannot be obtained by alternative means, as Risen is without dispute the only witness who can offer this critical testimony.”

The 118-page decision comes one week after Attorney General Eric Holder announced new guidelines for leak investigations to supposedly tighten the circumstances for obtaining reporter’s records.

“It’s very disappointing that as we are making such good progress with the attorney general’s office and with Congress, in getting them to recognize the importance of a reporter’s privilege, the Fourth Circuit has taken such a big step backwards,” Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Times.

For more information about the case, read The New York Times article.

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

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NY Daily News reports special operations commander secretly moved Osama bin Laden raid records to sidestep FOIA

News organizations are calling out the nation’s top special operations commander for a secret move they say sidesteps federal rules and perhaps the Freedom of Information Act, as well, according to New York Daily News.

Adm. William McRaven secretly ordered military files about the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden to be moved from Defense Department computers and sent to the CIA, where they can be better shielded from disclosure obligations of public records law.

The CIA has special authority to withhold “operational files” in ways that cannot be challenged in federal court, the Daily News said. On the other hand, the Defense Department can be contested in court and forced to turn over non-sensitive portions of the records.

The move was described briefly in a draft report by the Pentagon’s inspector general last week, but CIA spokesman Preston Golson told the Daily News it’s “absolutely false” that the records were moved to sidestep the FOIA. Instead, he said, the files were moved because the raid was led by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta. A spokesman for the admiral declined to comment.

Federal rules require the National Archives and Records Administration to approve government record transfers from one executive agency to another, and a spokeswoman for the Archives told the Daily News they did not receive any request to transfer these records. But the spokeswoman said the Archives understands the military records belong to the CIA, so they do not require permission to transfer.

Even so, open government advocates are frustrated that transferring the records allows the Pentagon to sidestep a records request filed by The Associated Press more than two years ago because now they can tell the AP they couldn’t find any documents inside the Defense Department.

This could be a new strategy for federal agencies hoping to hold sensitive information out of public view, according to Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private research institute at George Washington University.

“Welcome to the shell game in place of open government,” Blanton told the Daily News. “Guess which shell the records are under. If you guess the right shell, we might show them to you. It’s ridiculous.”

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

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FOI Daily Dose: Controversial CIA whistle-blower speaks about prison life

Former CIA operative John Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in a low security Pennsylvania prison in January for revealing a covert officer’s identity.

But he’s sticking by his story that he’s really behind bars for blowing the whistle on the U.S. government’s use of torture techniques to obtain information from terror suspects.

“In truth, this is my punishment for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program and for telling the public that torture was official U.S. government policy. But that’s a different story,” Kiriakou wrote in a letter from prison first published by The Dissenter blog on May 29.

Kiriakou’s attorney, Jesselyn Radack, told ABC News she published the six-page letter to draw attention to “the way he’s being treated” in prison. But other than a security official allegedly trying to stage a fight between Kiriakou and an Arab prisoner, the ex-operative reports that “violence isn’t a problem.” Most of his letter details day-to-day observations around the prison and doesn’t divulge much more about the provocative predicament that landed him there in the first place.

Kiriakou was a CIA intelligence officer from 1990-2004, and in December 2007 became the first insider to publicly acknowledge the CIA’s use of waterboarding (a torture tactic that simulates drowning) when he told ABC News how interrogators got information from al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah.

Kiriakou told reporters Zubaydah broke after one session of waterboarding, but U.S. government documents released in April 2009 showed that the CIA used waterboarding “at least 83 times during August 2002 in the interrogation of Zubaydah,” ABC News reports.

Even so, according to the CIA, Kiriakou didn’t become the subject of  investigation until a separate incident in the spring of 2009 when he allegedly revealed information and photographs about CIA and U.S. government contractors to Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in 2010 to oversee the investigation of Kiriakou, and in 2012, Kiriakou was indicted for telling a reporter the name of a covert CIA operative along with classified information about that operative and another employee.

Kiriakou pled guilty to disclosing the name,  but four other charges, including three counts of violating the Espionage Act, were dropped.

Since then, more than 2,500 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling Kiriakou a “hero” whistle-blower and asking President Obama to pardon him.

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

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Tools for investigative journalists: NARA keeps some JFK documents secret; CIA shows interest in spy pop culture

Freedom of Information and government disclosure often conjure mental images of closed-door meetings and top-secret war documents. However, the government’s tight fist on some older, high-profile documents has piqued public interest.

Kennedy docs kept secret

The government is refusing to disclose some documents related to John F. Kennedy’s assassination, even though almost 50 years have gone by. National Archives and Records Administration houses many documents related to our government’s history.

When NARA posed a question on an open forum to see what it could do to boost transparency, JFK’s assassination came out on top, reports Salon.com.  However, those documents remain hidden from public view. Currently 50,000 documents related to the Kennedy assassination are still classified. David Ferriero, National Archives Chief, said they will likely remain that way until at least 2017. Naturally,  NARA’s refusal to release documents related to the Kennedy assassination has some people asking why.  One reason behind the delay may be attributed to the sheer volume of information:  Ferriero has been tasked with reducing the backlog of more than 400 million records older than 25 years.

Documents available on the the CIA website

Although there is much to lament about government’s lack of transparency, investigative journalists can utilize the information that is already available from government entities, such as these fun finds available at cia.gov.

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. 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: Alleged leaker bites back with subpoenas, Open Gov Partnership holds first big meeting

CIA leaker throws down with subpoenas for gov. employees

Ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling is tossing his own subpoenas into the mix in the court case investigating his alleged leaking of CIA information to New York Times reporter James Risen.

He is subpoenaing three current or former Senate Intelligence Committee employees, according to Politico.

Sterling’s lawyers filed a motion Monday for subpoenas of records from three committee employees, including its budget chief Lorenzo Goco. They also requested permission to subpoena official records from the Senate.

The staffers were working for the committee when Sterling complained to the panel in 2003 about the CIA’s Operation Merlin, which targeted Iran’s nuclear program and was detailed in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”

Sterling’s subpoenas could lead to legal conflict over whether internal Senate records are exempt from a defendant’s subpoenas.

These aren’t the first controversial subpoenas filed in the case. Risen has received three subpoenas so far, and is awaiting U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema’s decision on whether she will honor his request to quash the third.

If Sterling’s Senate subpoenas are honored, it could help bolster his defense’s argument that Senate staffers were the culprits for the leak, according to Secrecy News.

U.S. hosted Open Gov Partnership meeting

The State Department held the first major Open Government Partnership meeting Tuesday.

OGP is an international project focused on getting solid commitments from various governments to promote transparency and fight corruption, among other things.

The program could help advance the Obama administration’s plans to use technology to develop better governing methods and strengthen democracy and human rights efforts worldwide, according to the State Department’s website.

Topics at the Tuesday meeting included breakout sessions on encouraging civic participation and promoting transparency efforts. Also covered was technology that could be helpful open government tools for governments.

Scan the meeting agenda and OGP brochure for more details.

Put this one in the “win” category for international cooperation on some of the most important issues in government: being open with citizens about federal information and welcoming their participation.

– 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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