Techdirt: Secret Service Sends FOIA Requester A Redacted Version Of A Public DOJ Press Release. “Emma Best — someone the government feels is a ‘vexatious’ FOIA filer — just received a completely stupid set of redactions from the Secret Service. Best requested documents mentioning darknet market Hansa, which was shut down (along with Alpha Bay) following an investigation by US and Dutch law enforcement agencies. The documents returned to Best contained redactions. This is unsurprising given the nature of the investigation. What’s surprising is what the Secret Service decided to redact. As Best pointed out on Twitter, the Secret Service decided public press releases by the DOJ were too sensitive to be released to the general public.”
Techdirt: Federal Agencies Are Still Abusing Their Favorite, Super-Vague FOIA Exemption Thousands Of Times A Year. “The Freedom of Information Act was supposed to result in, you know, the freedom of information. Obviously, not everything the government produces paperwork-wise can end up in the public’s hands, but far more should be turned over to the public than has been. Using a proprietary blend of stonewalling and excessive fee demands, countless government agencies have managed to keep public documents away from the public. It takes a lawyer to win FOIA lawsuits, which may be why corporations are getting their hands on far more documents than American citizens.”
Texarkana Gazette: FBI releases Phantom Killer archive | More than 1,100 pages available via internet. “The FBI on Thursday published an extensive archive of documents — some perhaps never before available — from the investigation of Texarkana’s infamous Phantom Killer murders of 1946.” It’s not clear if any of the information is new, but it’s been released all together in one big chunk.
Foreign Affairs: Trapped in the Archives. “Did the United States have a hand in assassinating Congolese and Dominican leaders in 1961? What did President Richard Nixon’s White House know about a successful plot to kill the head of the Chilean army in 1970? After the Cold War ended, did top U.S. military commanders retain the authority to strike back if a surprise nuclear attack put the president out of commission? The answers to these and other historical mysteries are likely knowable—but they are locked in presidential libraries and government archives and inaccessible to researchers. The reason: the U.S. government’s system for declassifying and processing historical records has reached a state of crisis.” A really important read. Please do not miss this one.
The Register: Top American watchdog refuses to release infamous 2012 dossier into Google’s anti-competitive behavior . “The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has refused to release an infamous report into Google’s anti-competitive behavior, claiming that staff reports are exempt from America’s Freedom of Information Act.”
MakeUseOf: 5 Freedom of Information Sites Full of Declassified Documents and Secrets. “Leaks from whistle-blowers and informants often lead to damaging exposes like with WikiLeaks. But more and more hidden information is surfacing through common people and activists. The trailblazers leverage the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the USA and its equivalents in other countries. These portals show how they are forcing changes and making an impact, and even gives you the power and guidelines to dig out data yourself.”
Muckrock: Looking for a better way to teach public records? Read what we’ve learned in Make FOIA Work. “Last August, with support from the Online News Association, we partnered with the Engagement Lab at Emerson College and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism to explore new ways of teaching public records to students and the broader community. Five workshops, four articles, and a hundred public records requests later, our partners at the Engagement Lab have put together a new website, Make FOIA Work, and downloadable guide on what we’ve learned, ideas to make Freedom of Information work more exciting and accessible, and a blueprint for others to build on.”
Techdirt: Techdirt Sues ICE After It Insists It Has No Records Of The 1 Million Domains It Claims To Have Seized. “There’s a pretty long backstory here, so let’s go back about a decade. In the summer of 2010, we found it somewhat disturbing that ICE had ‘seized’ a bunch of websites and was announcing this from Disney’s headquarters. It raised all sorts of questions, starting with the big First Amendment questions. There are a whole bunch of cases making it clear that prior restraint is not allowed under the First Amendment. ”
EPIC: National Archives Releases New Kavanaugh Records. “In response to EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the National Archives has released hundreds of new emails from Justice Kavanaugh’s time in the White House. The emails concern the controversial surveillance programs Total Information Awareness, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II (CAPPS II), and Secure Flight.”
Motherboard: Researchers Are Liberating Thousands of Pages of Forgotten Hacking History From the Government. “In 1989, just a few months after the web became a reality, a computer worm infected thousands of computers across the world, including those of NASA. The worm showed a message on the screens of the infected computers: ‘Your System Has Been Officially WANKed.’ Late last month—30 years after the ‘WANK worm’ struck NASA—the agency released an internal report that the agency wrote at the time, thanks to a journalist and a security researcher who have embarked on a project to use the Freedom of Information Act to get documents on historical hacking incidents.”
EPIC: EPIC FOIA: Massive DHS Biometric Database Still Lacks a Privacy Impact Assessment. “In response to EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act request, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that no privacy impact assessment has been completed for a vast DHS biometric database known as the ‘Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology.'”
Genealogy’s Star: Reclaim the Records Files the Biggest Lawsuit Ever. “If you are a genealogist and you are unfamiliar with Reclaim the Records, you should be not only familiar with them, but actively supporting them. Record access is one of the major obstacles to genealogical research. Granted, some records, such as the 1890 U.S. Federal Census have been lost through bungling and mismanagement. Other records have been lost through natural disasters and poor conservation practices. But here in the United States, many valuable genealogical records are merely unavailable to genealogical researchers either because they have been hidden behind a paywall or, what is worse, a bureaucratic wall. These obstacles affect all of us, whether we are searching out our ancestors or not.”
Boing Boing: The #ShellPapers: crowdsourcing analysis of all correspondence between Shell and the Dutch government. “The consortium has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for ‘a copy of all government documents sent by Shell, sent to Shell, or otherwise pertaining to Shell and any of its close to 1600 subsidiaries,’ and it’s created an online platform where the public can follow the path of those requests and collaboratively comb through and annotate the responses.”
The Intercept: Pentagon Says All Of Google’s Work On Drones Is Exempt From The Freedom Of Information Act. “All 5,000 pages of documents about Google’s work on the drone effort, known as Project Maven, are barred from public disclosure, because they constitute ‘critical infrastructure security information.'”
EPIC: EPIC FOIA: National Archives Releases New Batch of Kavanaugh Records. “In response to EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the National Archives has just released thousands of records about Justice Kavanaugh work in the White House Counsel’s office after 9-11. The records include e-mails from 2002-2003, briefings, meeting memos, and correspondence, and office files about anti-terrorism legislation and access to presidential records.”