Posts Tagged ‘court’


FOI DAILY DOSE: Colo. governor’s cell phone records deemed private, NYT reporter fights subpoena in CIA leak case

Colorado governor’s cell phone records kept private

The Colorado Supreme Court may have handed public officials a new way to keep business discussions free from public scrutiny – make the calls on a private cell phone.

The court ruled Monday that former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s private cell phone records would remain private, crushing The Denver Post’s three-year fight to obtain the information.

In a 4-2 decision, the court decided that the records aren’t covered under the state public records law because Ritter paid for the phone personally with no state reimbursements and didn’t give billing statements to a state agency. He only kept the statements for payment reasons, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The Post tried to convince the court that the phone records should be public because the governor used his private cell to make calls during business hours and to discuss official issues.

This ruling could allow other public officials to keep business matters off-the-record by discussing them via private cell phones – an allowance that could cloud government transparency efforts.

NYT reporter James Risen fights subpoena

New York Times reporter James Risen and his attorneys requested Tuesday that a court quash a grand jury subpoena that would force him to testify in the case against CIA leaker Jeffrey Sterling.

The ex-CIA officer is accused of providing Risen with classified information.

Sterling allegedly provided information on CIA sabotage efforts targeting Iran’s nuclear program, which later appeared in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”

Risen’s attorneys argued that the subpoena represented a government effort to retaliate against the reporter for writing critically of the government and that the information sought by the subpoena was protected under the reporter’s privilege supported by the First Amendment and through federal common law.

Check out Risen’s affidavit on the issue and a response from Sterling’s attorneys also arguing against the subpoena on the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News website.

Risen’s motion to quash the subpoena is scheduled for a court hearing on July 7.

– 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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FOI DAILY DOSE: Disciplined cops’ names withheld in Seattle, N.H. city’s lawsuits go public

Secret in Seattle

Despite dissension from the city government, the Seattle Police Department is keeping the names of officers who’ve faced disciplinary action secret.

A labor arbitrator demanded the names be withheld at the behest of the city’s police officers union.

The City of Seattle said it may pursue a court appeal of the decision. The case may depend on the Police Department’s legal responsibilities under Washington disclosure laws.

The department is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for its treatment of minorities and use of force.

It has also been criticized for being too secretive and has been disclosing more information on internal investigations in an attempt to shore up public trust.

Keeping the names of officers disciplined for misconduct, however, could throw a wrench in efforts to foster public faith in the Police Department.

N.H. town makes city lawsuits public

City officials in Danville, N.H., have decided to make town lawsuits easily accessible to the public.

Lawsuits both won and lost by the city are to be posted on the city website.

The city board voted unanimously to make the resolved lawsuits public.

In Danville this week, the open government tally so far is Transparency: 1, Secrecy: 0.

– 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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FOI DAILY DOSE: Drunken driving in Penn. and fingerprint data

FOIA’s public safety exemption is under scrutiny in Pennsylvania, where the state’s Commonwealth Court ordered the Office of Open Records on Tuesday to reexamine its choice to give a Harrisburg lawyer access to police training materials about drunken driving.

The open records office must conduct a hearing to decide whether disclosing police course materials from Harrisburg Area Community College could endanger public safety.

The college’s open records officer, Patrick Early, granted lawyer Justin McShane access to DUI-related records in July 2009. They excluded some records but included an affidavit explaining the reasoning for withholding the information.

However, the open records office said the explanation didn’t show how the training information could risk public safety or undermine police efforts to combat drunken driving.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security faces opposition as plaintiffs in a lawsuit accuse DHS of trying to hide information about an immigrant fingerprinting program by failing to disclose email trails despite court orders to do so.

The program, known as Secure Communities, allows officials to compare department database information to the digital fingerprints of those booked by local law enforcement agencies.

The most dangerous individuals, such as those convicted of murder, can then be deported.

Critics argue that it targets innocent people who have minor or dismissed charges as well as hardened criminals. Due to a FOIA request, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released many electronic files for statistics, emails and other information.

The agency is attempting to block a court ruling that ICE must provide the file formatting information, recipient trail and labeling data. But the plaintiffs – including the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network – said the metadata is key information that should not be stripped from the files.

– 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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