Posts Tagged ‘RCFP’


FOI DAILY DOSE: N.J. phone records made more public, Kundra unveiled .gov task force, ACLU asked to return classified doc

N.J. court requires public officials to reveal cell phone call locations

Location, location, location.

That can’t stay secret when it comes to cell phone records, according to a New Jersey court ruling.

Public officials using taxpayer-funded cell phones must disclose the destination of the calls they make because such information is helpful to the public interest, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The court case, Livecchia v. Borough of Mount Arlington, arose after after the borough redacted the locations of calls made by public officials when it filled resident Gayle Ann Livecchia’s records request.

Livecchia and other citizens can use the phone call locations, which must now be disclosed, to find out whether government employees are improperly using their work cells.

Federal task force to evaluate gov websites

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra revealed the names of 17 people who will comprise a .gov task force that will slim down government websites and evaluate potential policy adjustments for running such Web properties in the future.

Those appointed include IT professionals from various federal offices, according to a Government Tech blog post.

This task force complements President Obama’s “Campaign to Cut Waste,” which aims to cut unnecessary expenditures.

This includes paring down the 2,000-plus federal URLs in use.

Here’s a list of 1,759 top Web domains for the executive branch, as well as a Q&A page on the project that includes a list of all task force members.

Gov demands ACLU return classified doc

The federal government wants a judge to order the American Civil Liberties Union to return a classified document that was released to the organization detailing how employees decide which Afghanistan detainees are Enduring Security Threats.

The ACLU must respond to the government’s court filings by July 29, according to the Washington Post’s Checkpoint Washington blog.

The ACLU wants to post the document, which it says was improperly classified, to its website.

The Pentagon gave the organization the document, along with several others, in compliance with a court order requiring their release. The ACLU notified the government about the Afghanistan detainee document on May 25.

– 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).

 

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).

FOI DAILY DOSE: 2012 spending bill’s open gov effects, RCFP involved in Ohio real estate records case

2012 spending bill includes boons, obstacles for transparency

The House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations subcommittee approved its spending measure for the 2012 fiscal year Thursday.

The bill shifts the Electronic Government Fund into the General Service Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, which handles government IT work such as the management of USA.gov.

The E-Gov Fund supports open government websites like Data.gov, and the bill would give OCSIT $50 million for the 2012 fiscal year. This is a $7.8 million increase from the 2011 funding for both OCSIT and the E-Gov Fund, but it is $20.5 million less than their combined budgets in the 2010 fiscal year.

The bill would also forbid the Consumer Product Safety Commission from spending money on its consumer product safety database, which it was required to create after a 2008 law responding to several major product recalls.

This could make it easier to conceal safety risks in consumer products, according to OMB Watch.

The legislation would also forbid agencies from spending money to implement President Obama’s draft executive order that, if he signs it, would make potential federal contractors disclose political contributions to bid on contracts.

The bill is scheduled for markup by the full House Appropriations Committee on June 23.

RCFP calls for Ohio county to stop overcharging for records

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief encouraging the Ohio Supreme Court to reject Cuyahoga County’s high copy fees for electronic real estate records.

The county has a $2 per page fee for the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s services when filling electronic records requests for real estate data. The RCFP brief argues that this requirement conflicts with state law and, if upheld by the court, could later become the normal fee structure for other Ohio recorders.

Charging such high fees (prices for some requests could hit the six-figure range) for copying real estate records onto a CD-ROM is unacceptable, RCFP Executive Director Lucy Dalglish said in a press release.

The resources used for an employee to physically photocopy pages versus copying them onto a CD aren’t comparable, and fees should reflect the actual cost of reproducing records, according to Dalglish.

Cuyahoga seems to be the only Ohio county where the Recorder requires such high fees for real estate records.

– 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).

FOI Tip of the Week: RCFP’s Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide

Whether you have your own blog or report stories for online production at a newspaper, you now have an easy-to-use reference guide for all your legal concerns.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press released its legal guide for digital journalists this week, and it touches on some of the major issues that journalists face when working online.

Each topic is divided into sections that include the history of a legal issue, quick answers to common concerns and links to other helpful resources.

The guide is also integrated with other RCFP Web materials, such as its state and federal guides to open government and The First Amendment Handbook.

Some of the topics covered in the digital guide focus on FOI issues, such as open records concerns and court access problems, but other covered topics that may be of help include privacy invasion issues and Internet regulation rules.

So if you run into a legal quagmire, mosey on over to the RCFP website and take a look at their handy guide.

– 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).

FOI Links: WikiLeaks, CIA refusals and an exemption debate

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