Posts tagged 'Freedom of Information'

FOIA lawsuits up 26 percent in Trump's first year

Posted: Jan. 18, 2018 | Tags: FOIA, The FOIA Project, Freedom of Information

Nearly a year since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the number of lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has hit an all time high — up 26 percent from fiscal year 2016. 

FOIA lawsuits may be filed if a federal agency denies a request for information or fails to respond to a request within 20 working days.  

During fiscal year 2017, which began Oct. 1, 2016, 651 cases were filed, according to a report released Wednesday by The FOIA Project. News media and nonprofit organizations played a significant role in the increase of these ...

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How to turn science into great journalism

Posted: April 14, 2016 | Tags: Freedom of Information



Photo by Rich Press

From left: Rick Young, David Hoffman, Deborah Blum, Doug Pasternak and Louise Lief talk to the DC Science Writers.

Many science writers are curious about investigative journalism, but unsure how to proceed. 

At the recent Professional Development Day of the DC Science Writers Association, the largest regional gathering of science writers in the country, a panel of award-winning  journalists and investigators discussed how to identify, pitch and develop science-themed investigations for general audiences. 

The panel, which I organized and moderated, also explored how new digital tools are transforming investigative journalism, and how to identify and build ...

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Sunshine Week events in Washington

Posted: March 19, 2014 | Tags: FOIA, Freedom of Information, journalism

With snow still lining the streets and sidewalks of the greater Washington area, many of the region's residents are probably hoping that Thursday's start of spring brings with it a little long-awaited sunshine. 

The Investigative Reporting Workshop isn't in the business of making climatological promises. But we can say that there's a little more light beaming down on D.C. than usual as part of Sunshine Week — a national intiative sponsored by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press designed to foster a dialogue about freedom of information ...

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Suit seeks to force agencies to give FOIA time estimates

Posted: Feb. 21, 2012 | Tags: FOIA, Freedom of Information, New York Times,, Wikileaks

The folks at have filed suit against the FBI, the CIA, the Defense Department and several other federal agencies to force them to give the organization estimated dates for completing Freedom of Information Act requests.

The suit is based on the 2007 amendments to FOIA that required agencies to provide, among other things, “an estimated date on which the agency will complete action” on FOIA requests. Despite the clear statement in the law, some agencies don’t tell requesters when to expect results.

In a blog post explaining the suit, Jason Leopold reports that the FBI has refused ...

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EPA, Commerce take lead in developing "FOIA Portal"

Posted: Feb. 16, 2012 | Tags: FOIA, Freedom of Information, Office of Government Information Services, OGIS, open government

A buzz is growing in the federal Freedom of Information community about a new $1.3 million “FOIA Portal” under development and slated for launch this fall. Thursday we got a chance to look under the hood a bit, as part of a group organized by the Office of Government of Information Services.

The system’s design and development is being led by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Commerce Department, and so far those are the only two agencies that have committed to implementing it. OGIS, housed in the National Archives, also is a partner in the portal project ...

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Seven cabinet departments late filing FOIA reports

Posted: Feb. 13, 2012 | Tags: FOIA, Freedom of Information, Justice Department

Well, it’s time to see how federal agencies are doing in terms of filing their annual Freedom of Information Act reports. The reports, covering activity for the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, are supposed to be finished by Feb. 1.

Agencies apparently treat that deadline as seriously as they treat other FOIA deadlines, which is to say, not very. By yesterday afternoon, only eight of 15 Cabinet-level agencies had posted their reports online.

The reports show such things as how many requests the agency received, how many it processed, how the backlog changed, how many requests were ...

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Some people apparently didn't get the FOIA memo

Posted: Oct. 6, 2011 | Tags: Electronic Frontier Foundation, Federal Times, FOIA, The FOIA Project, Freedom of Information, Intelligence Oversight Board

Maybe it’s time for the Obama administration to resend its Freedom of Information policy and guidance to federal agencies, based on some of the FOIA-related items that have crossed the desk in recent days. It sure seems like a lot of FOIA folks missed the message.

Category 1: We don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Andrew Medici, a reporter for Federal Times, writes about his experience with FOIA at the Department of Homeland Security. Remember, this is a reporter who works for a publication that covers the federal government, one that’s not exactly known for being ...

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HUD grants FOIA request but now wants the documents back

Posted: June 22, 2011 | Tags: Department of Housing and Urban Development, Freedom of Information, We ARE Marina del Rey

One of President Obama’s first acts after taking office was to issue a remarkably strong affirmation of the Freedom of Information Act.

“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears,” the president said. “All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher ...

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The Supreme Court giveth, the Justice Department taketh away

Posted: May 12, 2011 | Tags: Exemption 2, Exemption 3, Exemption 4, Exemption 6, Exemption 7, FOIA, Freedom of Information, Justice Department, Supreme Court

In March the Supreme Court rather bluntly told federal agencies and lower courts that they had been misinterpreting an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for 30 years. Actually, the court could have said, in so many words, that folks should learn to read before they start saying what a law means.

The case involved a Washington man’s request for information about the blast radius of explosives stored on an island in Puget Sound. The Navy denied the request on grounds that the information could be withheld because of Exemption 2, which was designed, originally, to protect records ...

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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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Supreme Court again rules in favor of openness

Posted: March 21, 2011 | Tags: Bloomberg News, Elena Kaga, Federal Reserve, FOIA, Freedom of Information, John Roberts, Supreme Court

For the third time in a month the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of letting the public have access to important government documents.

In the latest case Monday, the justices refused to hear a banking group’s appeal to keep secret the identities of banks that got trillions of dollars in loans from the Federal Reserve Bank during the financial crisis.

Bloomberg News and Fox News, in separate cases, had sued the Fed for details about the loans in 2008. A court ruled in 2009 that the documents should be released.

The Fed and the Clearing House Association appealed ...

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House hearing focuses on laws that keep information secret

Posted: March 18, 2011 | Tags: Collaboration on Government Secrecy, Daniel Metcalfe, Exemption 3, FOIA, Freedom of Information, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Jennifer LaFleur, ProPublica, Rick Blum, Sunshine in Government Initiative

It was a busy week on the Freedom of Information front in Washington, as the annual observance of Sunshine Week unfolded, with hearings in the House and the Senate, as well as programs at the Newseum and elsewhere. We reported earlier on the Senate hearing.

Witnesses at the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform hearing focused on an aspect of FOIA that has become a more pronounced problem in recent years: A proliferation of laws that carve out special interest FOIA exemptions. Exemption 3 of the original FOIA law passed in 1966 permitted agencies to withhold records "specifically exempted ...

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How's government doing on FOIA? Depends on whom you ask

Posted: March 16, 2011 | Tags: FOIA, Freedom of Information, John Podesta, Judicial Watch, Sarah Cohen, Senate Judiciary Committee, Sunshine Week

Someone once said that the two most important words in the English language are: “It depends.”

And at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on the Freedom of Information Act it was clear that how the government is doing on FOIA depends on who is answering the question. (See hearing testimony here.)

“Agencies have made real progress in applying the presumption of openness, improving the efficiency of their FOIA processes, reducing their backlogs of pending FOIA requests, expanding their use of technology, and making more information available proactively,” Melanie Pustay, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy ...

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FOIA week in review: Supreme Court rejects corporate privacy claim

Posted: March 4, 2011 | Tags: Center for Public Integrity, Charles Grassley, FOIA, Freedom of Information, Medicare, open government, privacy, Ron Wyden, AT&T, Utah

It has been a pretty good week for those interested in Freedom of Information and open government issues.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled in a FOIA case that corporations don’t have “personal privacy” rights. On the surface, that hardly seems shocking.

But there had been concern the court would side with corporations, given last year’s Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to spend their own money on political campaigns, citing First Amendment reasons and, to some extent, equating corporations with individuals.

As it turned out, there was little need to worry in the AT&T privacy case ...

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Introducing Exemption 10: How FOIA works

Posted: March 3, 2011 | Tags: FOIA, Freedom of Information, open government

The Investigative Reporting Workshop is launching “Exemption 10,” a new blog devoted to covering issues relating to freedom of information and open government. Our primary focus will be on FOIA at the federal level.

First, let’s explain the name, “Exemption10.” The Freedom of Information Act, first passed in 1966, contains nine exemptions that give agencies the power to withhold information. But 45 years of experience show that it often seems there is an unwritten 10th exemption, which can be broadly characterized as, “We don’t want to give it to you.”

As the name might imply, we are going ...

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30,000 across from White House demand 'families belong together'

The Trump administration missed the first of two deadlines to reunite children separated from their parents. The action came after public backlash mounted, and a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border within 30 days. More than 30,000 people rallied in Washington on June 30 to demand the Trump administration reunite families immediately.

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Newspaper circulation plummeted again last year, following the trend of decreased distribution since the early 2000s, according to a new Pew Research Center report released Wednesday.

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