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Category Archives: Freedom of Information

The Atlantic – What Congress Is Actually Good at

Michelle Cottle is a contributing editor at The Atlantic: “Because while some of Congress’s flashier oversight crusades reek of politics, the committees are in many ways doing the Lord’s work. It’s just that no one hears much about the not-so-sexy, not-so-partisan probes that actually seek to improve government. “No doubt there have been some abuses by some committees,” said Danielle Brian, head of the independent watchdog group the Project On Government Oversight (more adorably known as POGO). “But it’s unfair to paint them with a broad brush.”…acknowledged Brian. “The best example was Fast and Furious. The Department of Justice was inappropriately withholding information from the Congress, and it ended up becoming a totally partisan inquiry when it didn’t need to be.” That said, Brian stressed that the bulk of congress’s oversight work isn’t so incendiary and tends to take place away from the cameras. “There are ongoing investigations that are in many cases bipartisan and are very constructive. They are just a little bit too boring for the public to be aware that they’re happening.” Brian offers up several prime examples. “There was a great bipartisan, bicameral effort in getting a FOIA reform bill passed. And that was not easy.” (Obama signed the bill in June.) “There has been great work in both the House and the Senate into the failures of the VA, resulting in informed legislation about how to change the way the VA operates.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee has been conducting an inquiry into opioid addiction “that is totally bipartisan and hasn’t gotten enough attention.” The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee held “great hearings on whistleblowers and on Iraq and Afghanistan contracting,” while Chaffetz’s Oversight committee has been looking at “reprisals against military whistleblowers.” And in the last congress, “Senators [Levin] and Coburn did great work on offshore banks and credit card company abuses…”

Advocacy Groups to Congress – Strengthen Congressional Oversight of Intelligence Community

September 13, 2016 via 33 organizations: “Dear Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi, We write to express our concerns about congressional oversight of intelligence activities. Congress is responsible for authorizing and overseeing these programs. In recent years, experts and policymakers have expressed concern that congressional oversight efforts are falling short. Experts have put forth reform… Continue Reading

9/11 – passage of 15 years brings new insights

There are many articles that continue to provide us with perspective and insight as we respectfully and with continued sadness, mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11. For many years there was an effort to obtain the release of the redacted “28 pages from the House Intelligence Committee’s 2002 report to Congress. As I posted July… Continue Reading

GAO Report on FOIA and Litigation Costs

Freedom of Information Act: Litigation Costs For Justice and Agencies Could Not Be Fully Determined, GAO-16-667: Published: Sep 8, 2016. Publicly Released: Sep 8, 2016. “Of the 1,672 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits with a decision rendered between 2009 and 2014, GAO identified 112 lawsuits where the plaintiff substantially prevailed. Litigation-related costs for these… Continue Reading

A high schooler’s guide to FOIA

Via MuckRock – Challenging authority, one public records request at a time by Beryl Lipton: “While teens across the United States prepare to return to their cliques and classes, MuckRock would like to introduce inquisitive minds and aspiring rebels to the paper path toward challenging your school, town, and local government. Encourage increased clarity in… Continue Reading

2016 Online Journalism Awards finalists announced

“Finalists for the 2016 Online Journalism Awards, representing a wide range of nonprofit, public, academic, major media and emerging technology organizations from around the globe, were announced today by the Online News Association. Twelve of the awards now come with $53,500 in prize money, courtesy of Knight Foundation, the Gannett Foundation and the University of… Continue Reading

McKinsey – Policy in the data age

Policy in the data age: Data enablement for the common good By Karim Tadjeddine and Martin Lundqvist “The tremendous impact that digital services have had on governments and society has been the subject of extensive research that has documented the rapid, extensive adoption of public-sector digital services around the globe. We believe that the coming… Continue Reading

Over 1,000 pages of declassified docs on Argentina posted online

Argentina Declassification Project, August 8, 2016. “During his landmark visit to Argentina in March, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. government would declassify records relating to human rights abuses under Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship. At a ceremony commemorating the victims of these human rights abuses, held on the 40th anniversary of the 1976 coup d’état,… Continue Reading

Declassified document offers view into drone strike approval process

Karen DeYoung – Newly declassified document sheds light on how Obama approves drone strikes – “The guidelines emphasize the importance of “verifying” the identity of high-value targets, even as they outline the criteria and legality of striking unidentified others when “necessary to achieve U.S. policy objectives.” Continue Reading

New Freedom of Information Act Request Documents Released by ODNI

August 3, 2016 – Read the full “Proactive Disclosure” press release at DOJ.gov. “The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is one of seven federal agencies participating in a pilot program to make records requested via the Freedom of Information Act more readily available to the public, as reflected in the recently released Third… Continue Reading

The Federal FOIA Ombudsman

“The National Archives and Records Administration established the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee in 2014 to foster dialog between the Administration and the requester community, solicit public comments, and develop consensus recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures. The Federal FOIA Advisory Committee reports to the Archivist of the United States.… Continue Reading

BBC – Syria’s secret library

Mike Thomson, BBC News: “When a place has been besieged for years and hunger stalks the streets, you might have thought people would have little interest in books. But enthusiasts have stocked an underground library in Syria with volumes rescued from bombed buildings – and users dodge shells and bullets to reach it…As it is,… Continue Reading