U.S.

FOIA reform bill dies after House fails to schedule vote

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 12, 2014
Commentary
December 12, 2014

A bipartisan FOIA reform bill failed to be put to a vote in the House on Thursday after it was unanimously approved by the Senate. The inaction spelled death for the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, as House members are scheduled to leave town today and have not scheduled a vote on the measure.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the incident is that the House unanimously passed an even broader FOIA reform bill in February, leaving open government advocates wondering about the reasons for the House’s inaction.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who co-sponsored the Senate bill along with John Cornyn, R-Texas, blamed House Speaker John Boehner, tweeting on Thursday night, “And Boehner kills #FOIA improvements.”

FOIA Improvement Act unanimously passes Senate, heads to House

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 9, 2014
Commentary
December 9, 2014

After a last minute hold was released, the Senate unanimously passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 yesterday. The Act, which strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), will now head to the House for its approval.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) lifted his hold on the bill late in the day on Monday, allowing the bill to proceed. When asked about the reasons for his delay, the Senator rather mysteriously said, “it’s sort of the internal workings of the Senate.” Lifting the hold allowed Sen. Leahy to go to the floor and secure the unanimous consent of the Senate.

Important FOIA reform bill passes Senate Judiciary Committee, but is being held up by one senator

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 4, 2014
Commentary
December 4, 2014

Update: as of the end of the day on Dec. 4, Senator Coburn has reportedly lifted his hold on the bill, although it is now being reported that Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) is holding it up.

The Senate is poised to take action on the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, which would make great improvements to the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the bill is inexplicably being held up by a single senator.

Letter to DOJ, FBI regarding Seattle FBI media impersonation

November 6, 2014

The Reporters Committee led a media coalition protesting a Seattle FBI effort to use a fake Associated Press news article and web site to ensnare a criminal suspect. The protest letter was submitted to the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI.

Media coalition files comments on restrictive Department of Defense FOIA regulations

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | November 6, 2014
Commentary
November 6, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by a national coalition of media organizations, has filed comments on proposed Department of Defense (DoD) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. As the comments note, the press routinely relies on FOIA to gain access to government records in order to inform the public on the workings of the government and its elected officials. Ensuring agencies implement FOIA in a manner that is faithful to the spirit of the law and President Obama’s stated commitment to transparency is imperative in order for the press to perform its important role in our democracy.

Department of Defense proposed FOIA rule

November 3, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by a national coalition of media organizations, has filed comments on proposed Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act regulations.

Reporters Committee Joins Open Government Coalition Urging President Obama to Clarify Administration's Position on FOIA Reform

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | News | October 24, 2014
News
October 24, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has joined a letter sent by 50 transparency and open government organizations to President Obama asking for his position on legislative reform to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Citing the President’s day-one commitment to transparency, the letter points out that there remain “many challenges in fulfilling” that goal. “FOIA remains one of the most effective tools for the public to know what its government is up to,” the letter states, but “changing agency practices under that statute to meet your transparency goals has been especially challenging.”

Accordingly, the letter identifies six core components of FOIA reform that must be legislatively mandated to ensure realization of the President’s stated open government goals:

Tech companies' announcement of new encryption policies prompts pushback from law enforcement

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | Commentary | October 21, 2014
Commentary
October 21, 2014

Last month, Google and Apple both announced that their next mobile operating systems would encrypt user data by default. Both Google and Apple also noted that the new forms of encryption would make it impossible for the companies to "unlock" encrypted phones, including in order to comply with lawful search warrants. These announcements have prompted officials to express concern about the risk that encryption will interfere with government's ability to investigate crime.

Forest Service says it never intended permit policy to regulate photojournalists

Amelia Rufer | Newsgathering | News | October 8, 2014
News
October 8, 2014

A controversial proposal to restrict wilderness photography and regulate commercial filming was never intended to require newsgatherers to obtain permits, according to the U.S. Forest Service. But the wording of the regulation will need to be changed to satisfy the concerns of a media coalition that has protested the policy.

The agency's director and spokesperson both said the service intends to allow for a wide interpretation of newsgathering, which is exempt from the permit process, that extends far beyond the narrow definition of "breaking news" that appears in the directive.

Anderson v. Hagel

September 24, 2014

Freelance journalist Wayne Anderson had his "embed" status terminated by the military, and he was removed from Afghanistan. Anderson claimed the termination was in retaliation for his coverage of a conflict between Afghan and American soldiers. His case was dismissed by a federal judge over jurisdictional and service issues. In this brief on appeal, the Reporters Committee argued that Anderson sufficiently pleaded a First Amendment retaliation claim, as a pro se litigant, and the District Court should not have dismissed the claim so early.