News

Format: 2015-04-01
Format: 2015-04-01
April 1, 2015
Hannah Bloch-Wehba and Adam Marshall Dozens of state legislatures across the United States are considering legislation that would exempt footage from police body-worn cameras, or "bodycams," from disclosure under state open records laws, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has learned. Though the new technology is supposed to enhance transparency and accountability, the proposed measures may actually increase secrecy.
March 24, 2015
Adam Marshall and Hannah Bloch-Wehba Alan Morrison, a dean and constitutional law professor at the George Washington University Law School, has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency for access to records detailing the legal justification for rendition and extraordinary rendition programs conducted by the United States. Attorneys at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are representing Morrison pro bono. For many years, the United States has sought to bring criminal suspects to the United States for prosecution without using extradition procedures, a practice referred to as rendition. After September 11, 2001, the CIA began a program of so-called “extraordinary rendition.” Under that program, detainees would be transferred into the custody of third-party nations, or to secretly-operated prisons known as “black sites,” for detention and interrogation.
March 10, 2015
The Supreme Court of South Carolina has dissolved a prior restraint against a small-town newspaper reporter covering the ongoing legal battle for the estate of singer James Brown. The reporter, Sue Summer, had received an anonymous package containing the diary of Tommie Rae Hynie Brown, who was recently recognized by a South Carolina court as the widow of James Brown. The diary, which was filed under seal with the court, contained passages that seemed to imply that Ms. Brown was not, in fact, married to Mr. Brown.
March 5, 2015
A federal appeals court today invalidated a gag order and sealing order that had been entered in the criminal case against Donald Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy Co., who faces charges stemming from the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in 2010 that killed 29 people. The ruling is a victory for the media, which had been unable to access many court filings in the case and had been unable to discuss the substance of the charges with lawyers, parties, victims, victims’ family members, and others, who were subject to a broad gag order.
February 25, 2015
Media organizations are fighting to overturn a gag order and sealing order entered in connection with the criminal trial of Donald Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy. The matter is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
February 13, 2015
The makers of Citizenfour, the Oscar-nominated documentary film about Edward Snowden, have moved to dismiss a federal civil lawsuit that alleges they aided and abetted the “illegal and morally wrongful acts” of Snowden.
February 12, 2015
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has sent a letter to the Virginia House of Delegates urging them to reject Senate Bill 1393, which would exempt crucial information on the drugs used in executions, as well as the pharmacies that produce them and any investigations into those pharmacies, from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Virginia FOIA). The bill passed the Virginia Senate Tuesday by a vote of 23 to 14.
January 30, 2015
Issues of compliance with the Freedom of Information Act received some attention during Loretta Lynch's eight-hour confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Lynch said she will work with Congress to improve public access to open records, and described the Freedom of Information Act as "an important tool for the American people." But Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas asked Lynch about "critical comments" made in a FOIA management evaluation of the U.S. Attorney's office of the Eastern District of New York, where Lynch was in charge.
January 29, 2015
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg has fined two whistleblowers in Atlanta for contacting members of the media during a five-year period while the suit was under seal. Whistleblowers Victor Bibby and Brian Donnelly, mortgage brokers at U.S. Financial Services Inc., discussed the case confidentially with FOX investigative reporters nearly four years after they initially filed their complaint but a year before the case was unsealed. Their punishment, imposed in a January 5 order, is to pay a $1.61 million fine. The order was first reported by the Atlanta legal newspaper The Daily Report.
January 23, 2015
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, along with 36 news organizations, filed an amicus brief last week with the U.S. Court of Appeals (6th Cir.) arguing that mugshots taken by the U.S. Marshals Service must be released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. The brief argues that not only is there no privacy right implicated by releasing photos of persons who have been arrested, indicted, and appeared in open court, but that there is a powerful interest in ensuring the criminal justice system remains open to the public.
January 14, 2015
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments Tuesday in Cause of Action v. FTC, a case that challenges whether the Federal Trade Commission properly denied fee waiver requests made by the non-profit group Cause of Action. The group asserted it was entitled to a fee waiver both because its requests were in the public interest and they are a representative of the news media. Katie Townsend, Litigation Director at the Reporters Committee, argued before the court as amicus curiae in support of the Cause of Action, focusing on the changing nature of disseminating information to the public in the digital age.
January 14, 2015
Yesterday, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (OIG) released its 2012 report on Activities Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for the first time. When the report was originally issued, it was classified and not disclosed to the public. The report, in redacted form, was released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by The New York Times, and reveals that the FBI failed to report that it illegally collected information on individuals inside the United States.
January 13, 2015
Two new lawsuits are challenging the continued secrecy of the grand jury investigations related to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. The suits demonstrate just how secret the information gathered by a grand jury is, while also making a compelling case for the public interest in greater access.
December 16, 2014
An Illinois appellate court has reversed a trial court’s order that a reporter reveal his confidential source, shooting down the judge's conclusion that finding the identity of a leaker of a police document in a murder case justified compelled disclosure. The Reporters Committee, joined by 38 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the case, People of the State of Illinois v. Bethany McKee, in April 2014.
December 12, 2014
The European Union has claimed the authority to regulate search results that appear on American servers in a November proposal regarding the ‘right to be forgotten,’ a proposition that is worrisome to U.S. journalists. Under the current European privacy law, individuals can ask the European versions of search engines to remove links to information about themselves from search results. Sites like Google.uk and Google.de have been forced to comply with the requests unless the information serves a compelling public interest. Users who want to access the delisted links are switching from European sites like Google.uk or Google.de to Google.com, which is hosted on U.S. servers.