Archives for February, 2013

Agencies lag in filing FOIA reports

Posted: Feb. 27, 2013 | Tags: FOIA

In baseball, if you bat .333, you're an All-Star. But we’re pretty sure that doesn’t apply to most other endeavors.

Take, for example, the requirement that federal agencies file annual reports detailing how they handled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The reports, for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, were due by Feb. 1. They're supposed to be available on a central Web page hosted by the Justice Department, which oversees all FOIA procedures for the federal government.

Yet here we are, on Feb. 27, nearly a month after the deadline, and only five cabinet ...

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Gun permits stoke debates over privacy, open government

Posted: Feb. 26, 2013 | Tags: open government

Shortly after the tragic massacre of school children in Newtown, Conn., in December, the Westchester, N.Y., Journal News got access to a list of all gun permit owners in Westchester and Rockland counties and made it available on its website.

The publication of the list, which was a public record, provoked an outcry from permit holders who said their privacy had been violated.

Within a few weeks, the New York legislature and governor agreed to a bill making the records off limits to the public for four months. The bill also includes a provision giving permit holders the power ...

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Recent Posts

No, government is not too open

March 13-19 was Sunshine Week — a nationwide celebration of access to public information. Across the country, the week was marked by panel discussions, workshops and other events about using and understanding the latest developments in freedom-of-information resources. One of those was an event at the University of Missouri in which Charles Lewis, the Workshop's executive editor, argued that government has not become too transparent.

iFOIA's new site features tracking

Since 1996 the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has offered a free letter-generating service to provide users with the correct language and structure for FOIA requests. Over the past year the committee looked for ways to expand this tool to better serve reporters. In recognition of the fact that a single investigation can require hundreds of FOIA requests, they sought to make it easier for journalists to track and organize records requests.

“Reporters are always trying to remember where they’ve submitted requests, how much time has passed since they made the request and who they need to follow up with,” said Emily Grannis of the new ifOIA website.

Privacy vs. the public's right to know

Scholars and watchdog groups say the federal government — and the Supreme Court — have slowly expanded privacy rights beyond the guidelines established in FOIA. Supreme Court decisions in five FOIA cases shed light on how the government came to value privacy interests over the public’s right to know.


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