Roll Call: Pentagon renews effort to withhold more unclassified records

Roll Call: Pentagon renews effort to withhold more unclassified records. “Pentagon leaders are asking Congress to expand the kinds of unclassified information about military operations that the department can withhold from the public, continuing what has been an annual tradition for seven years and spanning three administrations. Officials with the Pentagon general counsel’s office are requesting that the Armed Services committees, in writing the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill, prescribe changes to the Freedom of Information Act that would limit public access to certain data.”

Reason: The Confusion Surrounding Brian Sicknick’s Death Was a Failure of Government Transparency

Reason: The Confusion Surrounding Brian Sicknick’s Death Was a Failure of Government Transparency. “Because the Capitol Police are under the legislative branch, the department is exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act. You can’t put in a public records request for an incident report or the other sort of records that most every other police department in the U.S. is required by law to disclose when asked.”

FOIA for beginners: A state law guarantees access to public records. But it isn’t always that easy. (Chicago Tribune)

Chicago Tribune: FOIA for beginners: A state law guarantees access to public records. But it isn’t always that easy.. “At its core, the Freedom of Information Act is about the government being transparent and accountable to the people it’s meant to serve. Illinois’ FOIA law states ‘all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government.’ Enacted in 1984 and updated with changes that took effect in 2010, the statute lays out a pretty straightforward process for citizens to obtain public records. A request doesn’t need to read like a document crafted by a law firm — it just needs to be put in writing and delivered via email, by mail or in person.”

Techdirt: Imminent Win For The Public Domain: Court Likely To Compel Musée Rodin To Release Its 3D Scans Of Sculptor’s Works For Free

Techdirt: Imminent Win For The Public Domain: Court Likely To Compel Musée Rodin To Release Its 3D Scans Of Sculptor’s Works For Free. “Back in 2019, Techdirt wrote about a fascinating case involving a bogus CC license on a 3D scan of a 3000-year-old bust of Nefertiti. The person at the heart of the saga was the artist and open access activist Cosmo Wenman…. Following his success in liberating the 3D scan of Nefertiti, Wenman is now trying to do the same with 3D scans of the works of the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin.”

National Security Archive: “Still Interested” Letters Add Insult to Injury of Long-Ignored FOIA Requests

National Security Archive: “Still Interested” Letters Add Insult to Injury of Long-Ignored FOIA Requests. “The National Security Archive’s 2021 Sunshine Week Audit has found that many agencies still abuse ‘still interested’ letters – out of the 84 ‘still interested’ letters we received between November 2019 and the present, 17 provided fewer than 30 days to respond. Put another way, more than one in five, or 20 percent, of all ‘still interested’ letters the Archive received in the last year and a half did not follow OIP guidance.” I didn’t know much about “still interested” letters, but MuckRock

Politico: Groups press Biden to commit to transparency

Politico: Groups press Biden to commit to transparency. “When President Joe Biden was sworn in last month, he signed 17 executive orders and other directives. None was focused on transparency. Now, a coalition of advocates for more access to government information and deliberations are urging Biden to make such openness a higher priority and to reverse what they contend was a deterioration in public access to the inner workings of government under former President Donald Trump.”

Washington Post: Public records requests fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic

Washington Post: Public records requests fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic. “With most government employees still working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, the disclosure of public records by many federal agencies and local government offices nationwide has worsened or even ground to a halt…. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which provides legal support for journalists, has catalogued more than 130 instances in which state and local officials in 39 states and the District of Columbia cited the pandemic as a reason to curtail access to public records.”

Techdirt: Secret Service Sends FOIA Requester A Redacted Version Of A Public DOJ Press Release

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

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.”

FBI releases Phantom Killer archive | More than 1,100 pages available via internet (Texarkana Gazette)

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

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.

MakeUseOf: 5 Freedom of Information Sites Full of Declassified Documents and Secrets

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

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.”