Editor's Note

The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

FOI Advocate Blog has moved

Hello, everyone.

We at NFOIC just wanted to inform you that the FOI Advocate has moved and now has a new address.

You can find us at http://www.nfoic.org/blog.

We've enjoyed our time at Blogger, but we're going to try it out on our new site at http://www.nfoic.org/.

Stop by and see us.



Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Former DOJ official: Obama could be forced to release the Osama death photos

from Gawker:
Barack Obama has finally decided against releasing a photo of Osama bin Laden's corpse as proof of his death. But the former chief freedom of information expert for the U.S. government tells Gawker that he may not have that choice.

Up until a few moments ago, when CBS News reported Obama's decision, the Administration had issued mixed signals on whether it intended to release graphic evidence of Osama's demise. CIA director Leon Panetta stated that he expected a photo would eventually be released, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton were reportedly opposed. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday that "there are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of this firefight."

But all the agonizing may have been for naught. According to Daniel Metcalfe, the former chief of the Department of Justice's Office of Information and Privacy—a post that effectively made him the government's top expert in the Freedom of Information Act—the odds are better than even that a FOIA lawsuit seeking the photo's release would succeed.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WikiLeaks: Guantanamo Bay terrorist secrets revealed

from The Telegraph:
Al-Qaeda terrorists have threatened to unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” on the West if Osama Bin Laden is caught or assassinated, according to documents to be released by the WikiLeaks website, which contain details of the interrogations of more than 700 Guantanamo detainees.

However, the shocking human cost of obtaining this intelligence is also exposed with dozens of innocent people sent to Guantanamo – and hundreds of low-level foot-soldiers being held for years and probably tortured before being assessed as of little significance.

The Daily Telegraph, along with other newspapers including The Washington Post, today exposes America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists. This newspaper has been shown thousands of pages of top-secret files obtained by the WikiLeaks website.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Report: After Michigan FOIAs, Wayne State takes down labor studies website

from TalkingPointsMemo:

As Wayne State University considers what to do about the Freedom Of Information Act requests Mackinac sent over last month, lawyers at the school have ordered parts of the Labor Studies Center website shut down over concerns from Mackinac that they violate rules against political advocacy with state resources.

The Michigan Information and Research Service News Service reports (sub req'd) that Wayne has pulled down parts of its labor studies dept website while they're "under review by the university's general counsel to make sure they are not running afoul of state law."
Read the rest here.

National security: When secrecy is a weapon

from The Bellingham Herald:
In a recent interview with Newsweek magazine, former CIA lawyer John Rizzo spoke with surprising candor about the CIA's "targeted killing" program. He discussed the scope of the program (about 30 people are on the "hit list" at any given time), the process by which the CIA selects its targets (Rizzo was "the one who signed off") and the methods the CIA uses to eliminate them ("The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head"). In a wide-ranging conversation, Rizzo volunteered details about a highly controversial counterterrorism program that had previously been cloaked in official secrecy.

What was most remarkable about the interview, though, was not what Rizzo said but that it was Rizzo who said it. For more than six years until his retirement in December 2009, Rizzo was the CIA's acting general counsel - the agency's chief lawyer. On his watch the CIA had sought to quash a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by arguing that national security would be harmed irreparably if the CIA were to acknowledge any detail about the targeted killing program, even the program's mere existence.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Open-gov sites likely to stay online under new CR funding

from ExecutiveGov:
The latest proposal for a continuing resolution to come out of the House Appropriations Committee includes $17 million for the Office of Management and Budget’s E-Government program, which administers funds for open-government sites, Federal News Radio reports.

However, while a marked increase from the $2 million previously proposed, it is still a far cry from the $35 million the administration has requested.

However, it will likely be enough to keep running eight open-gov websites slated to go dark in May because of a lack funding.
Read the rest here.

MSU labor prof says university will comply with FOIA

from The Michigan Messenger:
When the Mackinac Center’s requested emails from the labor programs at Wayne State and the University of Michigan, John Beck, Associate Professor and Director of the Labor Education Program at Michigan State University, says his phone started ringing off the hook.

The media, both local and national, wanted to know about Michigan State University’s request from the right wing think tank. Beck, however, didn’t return those calls and e-mails. Why? The university did not receive a request until Thursday.

“I didn’t want to remind them, in case they forgot about us,” Beck told Michigan Messenger with a smile on his face.

Regardless, he says, “We intend to fully comply with the law.” — though the Mackinac Center might be surprised at the response costs.
Read the rest here.

Court orders Chestertown Fire to address FOIL requests

from the North Country Gazette:
CHESTERTOWN, NY —-The Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company has been ordered to show cause why they shouldn’t answer outstanding Freedom of Information Law requests that sought copies of fire company minutes, run sheets, raffle proceeds and other financial information pertaining to fire company operations.

They’ve also been ordered to show cause why they shouldn’t have to comply with the state’s Freedom of Information Law and answer future FOIL requests.

On Friday, Warren County Supreme Court Justice David Krogmann signed an order to show cause submitted by Chestertown fire district taxpayers and residents Christine Hayes and June Maxam which directs the fire company and fire chief Jack Crossman to show legal cause why they shouldn’t answer the FOIL requests which they have ignored since last May.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A Semantic Web Founding Father Explains Why Americans Should Care About Keeping Open Government Data Alive

from semanticweb.com:
There’s still no official word on how much peril open government data initiatives such as Data.gov may be in. And perhaps to many Americans, the hand-wringing they’ve heard about funding cuts in this area seem trivial when the country is looking at the U.S. public debt nearing its statutory ceiling of about $14.3 trillion. After all, what’s the real applicability of structured government data sets – and projects that translate that data into RDF, hook it up to the Linked Data cloud, and build apps and demos off it – to their lives?

More than they know.
Read the rest here.

'Open' government vow may be undone by red ink

from SFGate.com:
Remember President Obama's vow, in his inaugural speech, to usher in an era of "open and transparent" government?

It's taken a couple of hits of late.

A White House award ceremony last week honoring his "commitment to transparency" was closed to the press, to the surprise and chagrin of the open government organizations that had joined together to present the award. One of the attendees called the press ban "baffling."
Read the rest here.

Assessing Illinois' new open records law: frustration, delays

from the Chicago Tribune:
Frustration from city officials throughout Illinois about an avalanche of records requests – including some they argue are motivated by petty agendas – has prompted dozens of new bills to scale back a new open records law enacted last year. Backed by municipal government lobbyists and opposed by open-records advocates, the proposals would limit the rights of repeat records requestors, add exemptions to such things as gun permits and dates of birth, and allow governments to post records online rather than make copies.
Read the several stories here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sunshine Week news from the states

Sunshine Week Shame: 10 Ways the Government Is Opaque

from Wired.com

As Sunshine Week sets, it's a good time to take a quick inventory of the federal government's ongoing failures of transparency. ...

District spends more than $30,000 on out-of-district travel this year

from The Kansan.com

NEWTON — Editor’s note: This story is part of the Kansan’s coverage for Sunshine Week, which is an event that encourages open government.

Creve Coeur council member wins Sunshine Hero award

from stltoday.com

The Missouri Sunshine Coalition has honored Jeanne Rhoades, a Creve Coeur City Council member, for efforts that promote open records and transparency in government.   

POGO at Sunshine Week Hearing: Bring FOIA Out of the Dark Ages

By Bryan Rahija

In case you missed it amid all the other open gov hullabaloo, late last week POGO Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury shared POGO's views on the state of government openness as a panelist on a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing. You can view footage of her testimony below (starts at the 35:59 mark).

Jonathan Turley, Submitted By Lawrence Rafferty, (rafflaw), Guest Blogger

It wasn’t discussed much in the Corporate Mass Media, but this past week was dubbed, Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week was supposed to celebrate “open Government practices”. I for one, wasn’t convinced that our government had any “open” practices.

Sunshine Week


There have been times in recent years when the Sunshine Law, the name for the open records law in Missouri, has been used purely for political purposes. At both the state and local levels, the Sunshine Law has been used irresponsibly by a few politicians and some media to make life difficult for political foes, usually by skewing context. That's unfortunate.

SUNSHINE WEEK: Digital records outpace state law

Clarksville Leaf Chronicle

The information age has made more government documents available to the public than ever before, but experts say open records laws themselves are behind the times.

Sunshine Week ends – but principle doesn’t

Nashua Telegraph

Sunshine Week is now over – at least officially.

No more stories with the logo depicting the sun peeking out from behind the capitol dome that proclaims: “Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know.”

Sunshine Week celebrates openness in government

Joplin Globe

News organizations and watchdog groups across the country are wrapping up Sunshine Week, an initiative designed to highlight the importance of open government. The laws, commonly called sunshine laws, vary among states, but each generally requires that ...

Battles Over Open Government Cast Shadow on 'Sunshine Week'

AOL News

In the middle of Sunshine Week promoting transparency in government, open-government advocates say the apparent demotion of a high-level Department of Homeland Security employee for whistle-blowing is particularly dark. "Our government is sending the ...

Sunshine week coinciding with related court cases

Wisconsin Radio Network

It's been an action packed time for open government during Sunshine Week. Governor Walker's office this week settled a lawsuit brought forth by the Wisconsin Associated Press and Madison weekly newspaper, the Isthmus. ...

Sunshine Week promotes openness in government

Mountain Mail Newspaper

Salidan John Graham has been working to promote open dialogue between citizens and government since about a year ago, when he became board president of Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability. ...

Let the Sunshine In | Peer to Peer Review

Library Journal

It's Sunshine Week, the annual reminder that open government is good for democracy, that information is important, that freedom is protected when people are vigilant about their right to know what our government is up to. Started in 2002 by a Florida ...

Transparency in government: Is it a reality?

Legal Talk Network

Attorneys and co-hosts Bob Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams welcome Mark Rumold, the Open Government Legal Fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Kenneth Bunting, Executive Director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, to take a look inside Sunshine Week. Mark and Ken discuss which states have made the most strides for transparency, if technological advances are helping governments be more transparent and why it is important for government to stay transparent.

MP3 Link: http://websrvr82il.audiovideoweb.com/ny60web16519/LTN/C2C/C2C_031611_SunshineWeek.mp3

Let the Sun Shine in Berkeley Too

The Berkeley Daily Planet

This week is Sunshine Week all over the United States. What, you may ask, is Sunshine Week? It’s sponsored by American Society of Newspaper Editors, joined by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, California’s First Amendment Coalition and many other groups.

Why government's doors must be open

By Ken Paulson, President, First Amendment Center

This is Sunshine Week, a national effort organized by the American Society of News Editors, the news media and open-government advocates. It's an annual reminder of the importance of the free flow of information in a democracy. Taxpayers hire public employees to serve and protect, not to keep secrets from them.

N.C. open records requests can drag on

BY FRED CLASEN-KELLY, Charlotte Observer

Under North Carolina's open records laws, anyone who wants government documents is supposed to get them as soon as possible. But agencies can take weeks, months or even longer to produce public information. The delays often force citizens to rely on persistence or simply luck. Joann Hager, a Lincoln County animal rights activist, has tested the statutes--and two times, she says, they failed her.

Sunshine Week highlights threats to open government

by Frank Gibson, Tennessee Coalition for Open Government

Sunshine Week, which kicked off Sunday, started almost a decade ago when 150 proposals in the Florida legislature threatened to turn the Sunshine State's model "government in the sunshine" law into Swiss cheese. Newspapers mounted "Sunshine Sunday" -- a campaign reminding Floridians of the high level of openness they enjoyed, highlighting the benefits of government transparency and detailing potential consequences of the proposals. Only a few passed.

Sunshine Week: Optimism through the Clouds

by The Sunlight Foundation

After launching Sunshine Week with yesterday's successful Advisory Committee on Transparency event, it's a good time to reflect on positive transparency developments around the country (as opposed to yesterday's disheartening news).

Storm clouds are gathering over Sunshine Week

by Penny Lee, in The Hill

It is hard to disagree with the administration's philosophy of promoting open government and freedom of information. However, actions speak louder than words, and it is clear that there are a number of dark and stormy clouds hovering over Sunshine Week.

Mo. State Auditor Schweich recognizes Sunshine Week


JEFFERSON CITY – State Auditor Tom Schweich  today promoted increased transparency in government in recognition of March 13-19, 2011 as Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote freedom of information in local, state and federal government. The initiative was launched by the American Society of News Editors in 2005.

State auditor will monitor responses to public record requests

By Marc Kovac, news@vindy.com

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost said he will begin monitoring state and local agencies’ responses to public records’ requests as part of his office’s annual check of financial books.

Washington State Woman Wins Sunshine Week Contest

Editor & Publisher

The announcement of the Local Heroes kicks off Sunshine Week, which began yesterday. Howell will accept her award at the ASNE Convention, April 6-9, at the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. Howell, a former Stevenson school board member, got involved ...

Sunshine Week: Do Open Government Laws Still Matter in the Era of WikiLeaks?

Electronic Frontier Foundation

March 14-18, 2011 is “Sunshine Week”—a week to focus on the importance of open government and how we can ensure accountability for our leaders at the federal, state and local levels.

Editorial: How to fix a hole in Michigan's Freedom of Information Act

MLive.com, By The Grand Rapids Press Editorial Board

Following is one of a series of Press editorials during Sunshine Week, established by the American Society of News Editors to celebrate and safeguard open and transparent government. A Michigan Court of Appeals ...

Susy Schultz: It's a week to think about doing government business in the sunshine

Kankakee Daily Journal

Sunshine Week is to remind people what it should look like when government is open, transparent and respects the freedom of information that really equates to the public's right to know what the government it funds is doing with that money. ...

Records become public for sunshine week

A & T Register

These records not only include official reports and minutes of meetings, but also items like hand-written notes, phone messages, e-mails, databases, spreadsheets – nearly anything created or received by a government agency while conducting the public's ...

Editorial: Sunshine Week Governor less than open with last-minute release

Naples Daily News

Amid this Sunshine Week, which observes the importance of Florida's open records and open meetings laws, the leadership style of Gov. Rick Scott invites attention. Only a short time before a meeting with the Cabinet the other day, Scott passed out ...

Sunshine Week: Optimism through the Clouds - Sunlight Foundation

By Ellen Miller

After launching Sunshine Week with yesterday's successful Advisory Committee on Transparency event, it's a good time to reflect on positive transparency developments around the country (as opposed to yesterday's disheartening news).

Sunshine Week; Spelman STEM; LBGTQ Wedding Service : The Michael Eric Dyson Show


This week in March marks Sunshine Week, an initiative that emphasizes the need for government openness and transparency. Andy Alexander, spokesperson for the American Society of News Editors, which sponsors Sunshine Week, discusses the ...

Sunshine Week Arrives at GSA

from the U.S. General Services Administration

Learn about all of GSA's Open Government initiatives. GSA invites the public to play an active role in our government. ...

March 15

Glass half full

from the National Security Archive

Washington, D.C., March 14, 2011 - The Obama administration is only about halfway toward its promise of improving Freedom of Information responsiveness among federal agencies, according to the new Knight Open Government Survey by the National Security Archive, released Monday for Sunshine Week at http://www.nsarchive.org/.

SPJ 'honoring' Utah governor for closing records

from Cache Valley Daily

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The national Society of Professional Journalists plans to present Gov. Gary Herbert with a first-ever Black Hole award Wednesday to highlight the law, which increases fees for records request and makes text messages private.

U.S. alone among Western democracies in protecting hate speech

Commentary by Peter Scheer, Executive Director, FIRST AMENDMENT COALITION

An inebriated John Galliano, sitting in a Paris bar, unleashes an anti-Semitic rant (“I love Hitler”) that is captured on a cellphone camera and posted on the internet. Within days the Dior designer is not only fired from his job, but is given a trial date to face criminal charges for his offensive remarks.

Shining A Light On Open Government


Spread a little sunshine and celebrate freedom of information in our democracy during Sunshine Week, March 13-19. Sunshine Week, March 13-19, is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of ...

Sunshine mixed with clouds, rain

Laconia Citizen

@Editorial body:Although the forecast for later this week tells us to expect rain, we still celebrate these few days as Sunshine Week, a time for us to remember our very special form of government, which calls upon elected officials to do the public's ...

Some Feds keep the shades drawn on Sunshine Week

OhMyGov! (blog)

That's right kids, we're talkin' Sunshine Week! For those not in the know (ie anyone who doesn't consider Jay Carney an A-List celebrity), Sunshine Week is an annual event founded by the American Society of News Editors and funded largely by the John ...

FdL, NFdL Schools provide open records for Sunshine Week

Fond du Lac Reporter

Sunshine Week, which started Sunday, is an annual initiative to promote freedom of information. Participants include news gathering organizations, civic groups, libraries, nonprofit groups, schools and others. Five Gannett Wisconsin newspapers, ...

Sunshine Week Feature: Politicians embrace social media & technology


By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican Among the millions of people tweeting, blogging or posting their thoughts to Facebook each day are an increasing numbers of politicians. While office holders use these platforms to promote their efforts or to draw ...


Open government doesn't just happen

Visalia Times-Delta

Here during Sunshine Week, it is another indication that the objective of completely open government is an ideal that is rarely realized. CalAware sampled 197 school districts in California at random to assess their compliance with public records ...

GRAY MATTER: Let's bring the sunshine back to Spring Grove government

Spring Grove Herald

By Heather M. Gray This week is what is known as "Sunshine Week," which is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors. ...

Here are ways to learn about your lawmakers

Fond du Lac Reporter

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and citizens interested in the public's ...

Openness laws play critical role in bringing investigations of crime and government to light in Oklahoma


March 13-19 is Sunshine Week, a national effort to promote open government. BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Leave a comment Political candidates with criminal backgrounds and financial problems; accusations of incompetence, laziness and fraud at the ...


Obama wants it both ways on Sunshine Week | Examiner Editorial ...

By Examiner Editorial

James Madison's birthday will be celebrated Wednesday at the Newseum with the induction of a new class of members into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, to be hosted by the First Amendment Center.

Lawmakers attack public access during Sunshine Week | theCLog

By Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the ...

Happy Sunshine Week | Capital Blog

By mkovac

Happy Sunshine Week. Posted on March 15, 2011 by mkovac. Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann talks about the state's open meetings and public records laws in this state-produced clip that was distributed with the 2008 Ohio Sunshine ...

Welcome to Sunshine Week « VIVIAN J. PAIGE | All Politics is Local

By Mark Brooks

This is the 7th Annual Sunshine Week and is being celebrated by lovers of open government all over the country. Started by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and supported through a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight ...

Track headlines about Sunshine Week and government transparency ...

By Robertson Adams

Each year, the media and civic groups celebrate Sunshine Week - a national initiative to promote open government and freedom of information. So far, the effort has spurred articles calling for transparency in Michigan's campaign finance ...


Sunshine Week | Richmond Times-Dispatch

"There's no law that says how you keep a record. That's why you have a lack of uniformity," - Maria J.K. Everett of the Virginia Freedom of Information ...

Sunshine Week is reminder to protect Right-to-Know law

Pennsylvanians have reason to celebrate during Sunshine Week; we're entering the third year of the new Right-To-Know Law, which finally allowed us to look ...

Let's follow Florida and shine light on public's right to know access


It isn't often that Montanans can say, "Thank you, Florida." This time of year, however, the Big Sky owes the Sunshine State a tip of the cap.

Support public’s right to know: On week celebrating freedom of information, back legislation preventing pre-emptive lawsuits

Missoulian editorial

At about this same time each year, we long for sunshine to welcome the days of spring. Meanwhile, newspapers across the country join forces in calling for sunshine - for a transparent, open government - to highlight the importance of free-flowing public information every day of the year.

Agencies struggling to meet Obama's order on FOIA

Associated Press

Dozens of federal agencies are struggling to meet President Barack Obama's 2-year-old order that requires the government to respond more quickly and thoroughly to request for records under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, a study finds.

See the Ohio Newspaper Association Bulletin for more headlines this week.

See the Sunshine Week Round up from the Sunlight Foundation

Knight Survey: Nearly Half of Federal Agencies Lag in Responding to FOIA Information Requests

from WisOpinion.com — Opee Awards toast open government, by Bill Leuders, president, Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council   03.10.2011