Posts Tagged ‘Attorney General Eric Holder’

Contempt case moves forward for Attorney General Holder; Kentucky whistleblower gets victory

Update on Attorney General Eric Holder contempt:

The House Committee of Government Oversight and Reform voted 27 to 17  Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failure to disclose documents related to the ‘Fast and Furious’ investigation.

Potential order of events:

  • If Holder does not produce the desired documents, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform will proceed with a full-chamber vote next week.
  • The entire House would need to vote in favor of contempt
  • The matter falls in the lap of  the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, who would need to determine whether to criminally indict Holder.

Look on this blog for additional updates on the case in the coming days and weeks.

Whistleblowing success:

A whistleblowing miner in Kentucky can have his job back , and is set to receive $30,000 in compensation.

Cumberland River Coal Company wrongfully discharged Charles Scott Howard in May 2011, said Administrative Law Judge Margaret A. Miller.  Judge Miller claimed Cumberland had been looking for ways to get rid of Howard after he told company officials about safety issues present in the mine in which he worked.

Howard was injured at his job in June 2010, and doctors cleared him to to return to work. However, one doctor who worked for the company disagreed with others, and Cumberland pulled the plug on Howard’s employment in May 2011. Judge Miller decided the company had ulterior motives and said Cumberland was  eager to get Howard — who has a history of whistleblowing — off the job.

“I find that the mine sought out and received the opinion they were seeking and immediately upon receipt of that single opinion, terminated Howard’s employment,” Miller wrote, according to CBS News.

This will mark Howard’s third court-enforced reinstatement to work.  The judge also ordered the company to pay a $30,000 fine for dismissing Howard.

Free Speech News Roundup:

  • Robots are taking over the world! Or at least some might suggest that will be our fate if government chose to recognize the free-speech rights of sites like Google, Amazon and Facebook.  Read an opinion on why this may be one step too far, and an opinion on why government legislation in this matter makes no difference.
  • A university can limit a student’s off-campus expression if it is not in concert with the professional standards of a student’s program, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled.  The case involved Amanda Tatro’s 2009 Facebook comments, in which she alluded to stabbing “a certain someone in the throat” and talked about getting to play with the cadaver on which she was working.   After learning of Tatro’s post,  the school put her on academic probation and gave her an ‘F’ in the related anatomy-laboratory class. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Tatro’s enrollment in a professional program made her subject to university regulation in her Facebook posts. Tatro was studying mortuary science at University of Minnesota.
  • Vietnam officials are attempting to restrict online speech by pushing a decree requiring people to use real names and information online. The decree also sets forth a requirement for Internet providers to use Vietnamese-based servers and locate their offices in the country, according to Article 19. If passed, these decrees would give the Vietnamese government an uncomfortable amount of power over online free speech, suppressing the voices of those who could be holding them accountable.

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email – –  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 It may be featured in a future post.


Rep. Darrell Issa moves forward with contempt vote against Eric Holder despite Obama’s intervention

The House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform will move forward with contempt proceedings against Attorney General Eric Holder, even after President Obama signed an executive order restricting access to documents in the botched Department of Justice “Fast and Furious” program, CNN reported.

In an attempt to possibly avoid the hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder met with Rep. Darrell Issa on June 19 to negotiate the release of additional relevant documents. After the  meeting, both parties continued to point fingers:  Holder’s camp claimed Issa refused the documents they offered, while Issa’s camp claimed Holder would not release the documents until the committee promised to cease pursuing the case.  Republicans took issue with the executive branch’s lack of transparency, while Rep. Elijah Cummings said Issa’s move was an attempt to embarrass the president. Cummings is ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform and attended the meeting between Holder and Issa.

“I’m just telling you, as a lawyer, I think that contempt is going far too far,” Cummings said in a CNN interview.

As a follow-up to the June 19 meeting, Holder sent a letter to President Obama requesting he exercise executive privilege over the release of the documents. Holder’s request was granted, and Deputy Attorney General James L. Cole sent a letter to Issa today informing him of the president’s decision.

“The documents responsive to the remaining subpoena items pertain to sensitive law enforcement activities, including ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions, or were generated by Department officials in the course of  responding to congressional investigations or media inquiries about this matter that are generally not appropriate for disclosure,” Cole said in the letter to Issa.

Despite this, Issa said he still plans to progress with holding Holder in contempt for failing to produce all the documents the House Oversight Committee requested.

Check out:


Changing the story behind freedom of information through peer pressure

In an article on changing corporate culture, strategic adviser Peter Bregman suggests the power of peer pressure to affect far-reaching change within the culture of a business .  Bregman cites a study by Leann Lipps Birch that showed children’s preferences for foods they disliked increased when they saw their peers eating the same foods.  Using this as a launching pad, he suggests the best way to change the culture of a company is to do positive, story-worthy things, or showcase those who are making positive efforts, and change the stories being told. Once people hear positive stories about their agency, they are more likely to follow suit.

We live by stories. We tell them, repeat them, listen to them carefully, and act in accordance with them. – Peter Bregman

What does this have to do with freedom of information? A look through stories in recent media shows that some public bodies and government officials are still less than excited to cooperate with the public’s demand for greater transparency and access to information. For example,  the House Committee for Government Oversight and Reform recently to investigated questionable Department of Labor policies that would affect media outlets. Additionally, committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) questioned Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the  ‘Fast and Furious’ operation.  These show public bodies need to shift from secrecy to transparency, ideally sparking a change among requesters — from suspicion to cautious trust.

However, there are still those who work to further government transparency, effectively changing the nature of the stories being told. For instance:

  • Maurice Frankel, a freedom of information expert in the United Kingdom, is using the power of peer pressure to force change in his corner of the world. In a recent article, he offered The Netherlands’ punitive measures as an example of what can be done in instances of  freedom of information violations. Adding insult to injury, FOI violators may be subject to fines of 30 euros daily for late responses to FOI requests, to be paid directly to the requester. Fines can reach a maximum of 1260 euros. Frankel adds that The Netherlands FOI laws are currently under review, so the efficacy of these punitive measures may soon be known.
  • Rosemary Agnew, Scotland’s  Information Commissioner,  is looking for ways to inexpensively train public bodies. Agnew is trying to help public bodies  respond correctly to requests when they’re first made, effectively freeing up resources in the process.  Agnew has experience with responding to freedom of information requests. She found training to be expensive, and is working to find ways to make training more affordable and accessible to all employees in the public sector.

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email – –  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 It may be featured in a future post.




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