Border Wall bill contains FOIA exemption for building wall, maintaining border

The revised draft of the Border Security for America Act of 2017 (H.R. 3548), to be considered by the House Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee as soon as today,  would shield from public scrutiny and accountability ongoing law enforcement activities along the border. The Freedom of Information Act is one of dozens of laws that would not apply to border activities, including construction and maintenance of the border wall and ongoing efforts to stop illegal border crossings. As Kevin Goldberg writes for the American Society of News Editors (an NMOG member), the impact would be broad: The public and press would [More]

Forum on Press Freedom: What we said

On July 24, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress held a forum on press freedom to examine recent threats and attacks against the media. Much of the discussion focused on the changing landscape in the media and attacks and threats from President Trump. Congress could take several steps to strengthen freedom of the press, we argued, including enacting a shield bill to protect journalists’ sources, a law to protect free speech against abusive libel lawsuits, and more. Click here for more on the forum, including comments from veteran journalist Marvin Kalb, First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, and others.

Pentagon, FOIA Ombudsman, Benefits > Costs. It’s your FIRST Principles for July 17, 2017

This is your FIRST Principles Update July 17, 2017 DEFENSE WANTS STATUTORY EXEMPTION FOR TACTICS, TECHNIQUES, PROCEDURES AND RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. The Pentagon wants to keep secret the tactics, techniques and procedures that the military teaches soldiers so adversaries are not tipped off to the military’s thinking. Understandable, sure, but we’re working to ensure we can cover the military as an organization, a workplace, and a buyer of goods and services using taxpayer dollars. Go here for more. STATE of the FIRST A. The Newseum Institute assembled a second quarterly Report Card assessing the state of the five freedoms of [More]

Pentagon (again) seeks help from Congress to keep tactics secret

Pentagon hopes Congress will protect tactics, techniques and procedures from disclosure. Military also seeks to protect rules of engagement. Public interest in disclosure could outweigh confidentality, but military gets to decide in Pentagon’s proposal. Defense Department is hoping the third time’s the charm as it once again asks for the authority to withhold from the public certain military tactics, techniques and procedures , the disclosure of which would give an adversary an advantage. The proposal (Sec. 1003 of DoD’s draft legislation), which the Defense Department would like included in the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2018, is narrower than [More]

Cosmetics manufacturing bill (H.R. 575) hides adverse events

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tx.) has introduced legislation that appears to allow cosmetics manufacturers to keep product complaints reported to the federal government secret. The legislation (H.R. 575), appears to allow the executive branch wide latitude to determine through regulation what agencies must require manufacturers to disclose publicly. “(g) List.—The Secretary shall compile and maintain an up-to-date and publicly available electronic list of cosmetics and ingredients for which statements are submitted under this section. A statement submitted pursuant to this section shall not be subject to disclosure under section 552 of title 5, United States Code. The Secretary may make publicly [More]

CFTC Reauthorization (H.R. 238) includes a FOIA exemption

Legislation approved on January 12 by the full House of Representatives to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (H.R. 238) contains an exemption to disclosure under federal FOIA for information CFTC may “asertain” regarding complicated trading structures known as commodity pools and client accounts. As introduced, the legislation required that the information be treated as investigative material. CFTC could publish aggregated information the disclosure of which would not identify “any person or firm, or such person’s proprietary information.” On its face, the exemption appears to cover a broad amount of information, including: “(A) the commodity trading advisor, commodity pool operator or the trading strategies of [More]

FOIA@50: Hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee (July 12, 2016)

A panel of witnesses told the Senate Judiciary Committee that technology and better records management were keys to improving the Freedom of Information Act. SGI Director Rick Blum pointed to several stories relying in part on FOIA that helped change government action or otherwise make an impact in communities. The hearing was a chance to celebrate enactment of the Freedom of Information Act Improvement, signed into law on June 30, 2016. Also testifying from the media perspective was Professor Dave Cullier on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists. Blum told the Committee that the government should better manage its records. Amazon [More]

PRESS RELEASE: Media coalition celebrates President Obama signing of FOIA reforms into law as FOIA turns 50 on July 4

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 30, 2016 [Link to PDF version]   Media coalition celebrates President Obama signing of FOIA reforms into law as FOIA turns 50 on July 4  President Barack Obama’s signature on the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 marks a high point in the half century history of the federal Freedom of Information Act. “We are pleased to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the original Freedom of Information Act with a stronger FOIA,” said Rick Blum, director of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of media associations that has strongly supported efforts [More]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Media Coalition Applauds House Approval of FOIA Reforms

PRESS RELEASE                                                               Media coalition applauds House approval of FOIA reforms: House unanimous vote sends FOIA reforms to President’s desk ahead of FOIA’s 50th anniversary on July 4 The media associations in the Sunshine in Government Initiative applaud today’s House vote to approve the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (S. 337). After years of work on this bipartisan, bicameral set of reforms to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), members [More]

MEDIA ADVISORY: House to vote today on FOIA reforms

FOIA Improvement Bill Scheduled for House Vote Today House vote today could send FOIA reforms to president’s desk before FOIA’s 50th anniversary on July 4 [Media Advisory [pdf]] The U.S. House is scheduled to vote today on S. 337 (pdf), the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. If approved, bipartisan reforms to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) would go to the President’s desk for signature just days before transparency advocates celebrate the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the original FOIA into law on July 4, 1966. The FOIA reforms the House will vote on are a high-water [More]