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.

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.