Government openness

Intelligence agencies defend new review policy

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | May 12, 2014
May 12, 2014

Under increasing public scrutiny over a new pre-publication review policy, the Office of the Director National Intelligence released a statement claiming the media has "misconstrued" the policy, but open government advocates aren't so sure.

In April, DNI put in place a policy that, among other things, prohibits current and former ODNI personnel from citing in books and publications to information that has been leaked to the public.

"The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security," the policy states.

The policy goes beyond prohibiting officials from releasing classified information and extends the prohibition even to citing news reports about leaked information.

George W. Bush directs relatively broad release of presidential records

Michael Rooney | Freedom of Information | News | April 29, 2014
April 29, 2014

Former President George W. Bush has instructed the National Archives to release nine categories of documents from his presidency to the public, a much broader directive than expected.

POLITICO reported last week that Bush signed a letter to the Archives three years ago allowing the keeper of presidential records to release, among other things, informational and factual memoranda, talking points on policy decisions, and recommendations about whether to sign legislation. POLITICO obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"The relatively expansive directive stands in contrast to Bush’s approach to the public’s right to know while he was in office," POLITICO noted.

Detroit Free Press wins third mugshot lawsuit

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | April 25, 2014
April 25, 2014

The Detroit Free Press won a lawsuit this week over the public's right to federal mug shots. It was the third time in 20 years that the paper won after suing the federal government on this issue.

Va. high court clarifies FOIA exemption, redaction fee issues in case over climate change controversy

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | April 17, 2014
April 17, 2014

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled this morning that the University of Virginia does not have to release certain emails sent to and from a former professor.

The American Tradition Institute (now the Energry and Environmental Legal Institute) requested emails under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act from Michael Mann, a climate scientist and then-professor at UVA, in 2011. He intervened in the case at the trial level, alleging that the university was not sufficiently representing his privacy and academic freedom rights in a controversy surrounding climate change research.

Journalism group criticizes EPA's lack of openness

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | March 19, 2014
March 19, 2014

The Society of Environmental Journalists has released a statement criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to respond to public records requests, including still-lingering questions about a Jan. 9 chemical spill.

"As we celebrate 'Sunshine Week,' it’s worth noting that nowadays EPA in many cases simply fails to answer questions posed by journalists on behalf of the public – even some that are routine and non-controversial," wrote Beth Parke and Joseph Davis. Parke is SEJ's executive director and Davis is the director of SEJ's Watchdog Project.

"When the agency does respond, a favorite tactic is to wait until just before or even after a reporter’s deadline and then mail a short written statement that does not answer the questions," they wrote.

House passes FOIA reform bill

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | February 26, 2014
February 26, 2014

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, paving the way for more streamlined Freedom of Information Act request processing and a stronger role for the independent agency charged with reviewing government compliance.

H. B. 1211 creates a presumption of openness, allowing a document to be withheld only if an agency “reasonably foresees that disclosure would cause specific identifiable harm to an interest protected by an exemption, or if disclosure is prohibited by law.” Current FOIA law simply instructs agencies to release non-exempt information, rather than starting from the presumption that all information should be released and only then applying narrow exemptions.

Washington Supreme Court agrees governor can withhold some records with executive communications privilege

Latara Appleby | Freedom of Information | News | October 18, 2013
October 18, 2013

The Washington state Supreme Court ruled yesterday in an 8-1 decision that a governor can withhold certain documents involved with policymaking under the state's public records law.

Government forced to release names of Guantanamo Bay prisoners

Amy Zhang | Freedom of Information | News | June 20, 2013
June 20, 2013

In response to a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The Miami Herald, the Department of Defense was required to for the first time disclose the identify of 46 Guantanamo Bay prisoners detained indefinitely without trial because they are allegedly too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted.

Connecticut passes law restricting access to Newtown shooting, other police records

Amy Zhang | Freedom of Information | News | June 7, 2013
June 7, 2013

Reporters covering homicides in Connecticut won't have access to investigation photographs and 911 recordings describing victim conditions under a new law prompted by families of Newtown shooting victims and signed by the governor this week.

Judge denies media's request to film and photograph Monday's hearing of Colorado shooting suspect

Raymond Baldino | Secret Courts | News | July 27, 2012
July 27, 2012

A Colorado judge denied the media's request to film and photograph Monday's hearing of the man accused of killing 12 and wounding 58 people at an Aurora movie theater last week.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester has ordered that no cameras or audio recording be allowed at James Holmes' July 30 hearing where charges are expected to be filed against him. The order is part of a broader trend of restrictions issued by Sylvester limiting press coverage in the Colorado shooting.