Archives for April, 2011

19 months and counting: The saga of an Energy Department FOIA request

Posted: April 21, 2011 | Tags: Energy Department, FOIA, Freedom of Information, Office of Government Information Services, OGIS, USEC

When we launched Exemption 10, we announced plans to publish FOIA case studies from journalists and others outside the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Today, we have the first of those, written by Sam Tranum, a Washington-based reporter for Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, who is in a long-running battle with the Energy Department to get documents relating to a $2 billion federal loan guarantee request. Tranum covers uranium markets, nuclear energy and proliferation issues. Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, one of several subscription-only newsletters published by the Energy Intelligence Group, covers the nuclear business, energy politics and proliferation issues from offices in Washington and London ...

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FOIA case study: Treasury wants $12,000 to provide company-redacted stimulus grant applications

Posted: April 14, 2011 | Tags: FOIA, Freedom of Information, stimulus, Treasury Department

I know a lot about the stimulus bill’s Section 1603 grant program, certainly a lot more than the average person. But 19 months after I started reporting on it, I still don’t know much at all. And not for the lack of effort.

I know the program is a program for investors, awarding a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of an investment in a green energy project, and that credit may actually be taken in cash. I know that the law doesn’t require much of the applicants, only that they prove they ...

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Government needs standards for information it puts online

Posted: April 7, 2011 | Tags: FOIA, Freedom of Information, Rep. Steve Israel, Sunlight Foundation

The future of efforts to make the federal government more transparent and access to federal information easier is a bit muddy at the moment, to say the least.

Funding for such sites as and would be wiped out or sharply curtailed under some of the budget proposals being considered in Congress.

But access to information online would be greatly expanded under legislation introduced this week by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

Israel and Tester introduced the legislation last year, but it went nowhere. Its key requirement is that all publicly ...

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Whose information is it? The politics of FOIA

Posted: April 1, 2011 | Tags: Shira A. Sheindlin, TRAC, wikicountability

It seems that the notions of open government and better administration of the Freedom of Information Act have attracted some new adherents in recent weeks.

For example, Crossroads GPS, the political action group put together by Karl Rove and which played a large part in last fall’s Republican gains in Congress, has launched a new website to track FOIA requests.

A Michigan libertarian group used the state’s FOI law to ask for emails from university professors in Michigan relating to the move in Wisconsin to reduce collective bargaining rights for public employees. And the Wisconsin Republican Party also ...

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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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