FOIA stories: 600 and counting

The SGI “FOIA Files” database has surpassed 600 entries, a testament to the persistence of journalists and the hard work of agency personnel who process Freedom of Information Act requests.  This database is a collection of news and other stories that relied on a FOIA request to inform the public. In the last year, FOIA has enabled the public to understand more about the politics and policies that shape people’s lives: The recent financial crisis and its ongoing impact on the economy: #592: “How Hank Paulson’s inaction helped Goldman Sachs” (10/10/10) #615: “Morgan Stanley Speculating to Brink of Collapse Got [More]

Our impact? Dispersants, spillcam & barrel counts

Back on May 19, we anticipated the public would demand more information from government agencies about the oil spill, so agencies should head off those FOIA requests and post material proactively. We went on to discuss three problems: The lack of information about the dispersant used, video of the spill site itself (the “spillcam”), and spill monitoring information.  To monitor the spill, the public focused on the size and locations of the plumes in the water and the rate that oil is gushing from the break in the well. The next day, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), longtime champion of open [More]

FOIA helps fill in backstory to oil spill

While there are many angles and arguments to consider in evaluating and covering the recent oil spill and ensuing attempts at mitigation and clean-up, FOIA has been a vital tool in enabling journalists to connect government information with public analysis, enhancing our ability to understand both what has happened and what is happening. As the nation reacts to what may become the nation’s worst oil spill in history, we are pleased to see agencies releasing information in response to FOIA requests, as some of our new “FOIA Files” stories note. For example, see: #503: “Documents Show Early Worries About Safety [More]

Anticipating FOIA requests & the oil spill: an update

Here’s an update on our earlier post urging agencies to affirmatively post online documents, videos, images and other information about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico before a FOIA request comes in. It was a quick post, and it would have been a better piece if we had described what agencies have done to post information online. BP operates a joint information center where many agencies, including the Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), post information.  The joint website also includes BP and Transocean, which runs the Deepwater Horizon rig where the accident [More]

We can anticipate FOIA requests for oil spill documents. Why can’t agencies?

The oil spill in the gulf is lubricating the engines of lawsuits.  The Chicago Tribune reports that BP has hired a law firm to defend itself against what appears to be years if not decades of litigation. And one could reasonably assume that with the national disaster will also come document requests. Each agency with a hand in the gulf oil spill should set up a special public file online to deposit studies, correspondence and other information related to the government’s handling of this particular drilling operation.   In fact, back in 1996 Congress required agencies to do precisely that if [More]