Better late than never: grand jury material of historical value

Grand jury information is one of the most sought-after types of information that the public cannot see generally under the federal FOIA. Think spies, organized crime, and sports stars accused of cheating through performance-enhancing drugs. So it is welcome to see the Justice Department recently announce a move to open the door on grand juries to the public just a little more. American laws and courts have long recognized that grand jury information merits secrecy, but several recent cases developing a “historical significance” exception have led the Department of Justice to propose codifying the terms under which courts may release such [More]

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]

OGIS announces annual report, new blog

Our friends at the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) are expanding the office’s online presence with a new blog, “The FOIA Ombudsman: Information and Advice”. Although the office and its staff have been busy with Sunshine Week activities, they have also found time to release their first annual office report: “The First Year: Building Bridges Between FOIA Requesters and Federal Agencies”. The report shows the office working to integrate statutory directions, practical expectations, and competing policy priorities as it strives to help both requesters and agencies use FOIA more efficiently and effectively.

Advocates, officials discuss sunshine measures

Here’s a brief summary of testimony by witnesses at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning on the Freedom of Information Act.  Our appreciation to Chairman Patrick Leahy for holding the hearing (and adjusting the schedule to avoid conflicting with “FOI Day” at the Freedom Forum).

This week’s forecast: Sunshine!

Update: SGI coordinator Rick Blum will be testifying before Darrell Issa & the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Thursday, March 17 on FOIA. It’s Sunshine Week!  Yes, for the next seven days, the Sunshine in Government Initiative will join many other groups, journalists, activists, and citizens in celebrating Sunshine Week, from March 13-19, with a variety of events and activities designed to raise awareness of our efforts to improve the availability of government information for the public. Monday, March 14 Freedom of Information Day Celebration (9:30 AM, Collaboration on Government Secrecy) Lobbying reform panel discussion (2:00 PM, [More]

AU’s “Exemption 10” blog is a FOIA exemption we can support

Normally, we are inclined to be wary of new exemptions to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but we feel confident that Exemption 10, the FOIA-based blog of Wendell Cochran at American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, deserves our support as a fellow advocate of transparency. Exemption 10 is designed to report on FOIA, covering everything from litigation to policy to individual experiences, as part of an effort to improve public access to government information and make it easier for people to understand how FOIA works and doesn’t work for journalists and citizens. Cochran, who is the founding senior editor [More]

Let’s be clear – a friendly reminder

Recently, as the 111th Congress concluded its business before the 2010 midterm elections, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced a bill, H.R. 6266, which, among other things, proposes to exempt certain law-enforcement guidelines from disclosure under the federal FOIA.  But it doesn’t even mention FOIA.

Mining to resolve a dispute, OGIS gets the shaft

CNN’s Anderson Cooper talks a lot about transparency.  He focused on transparency troubles while covering the gulf oil spill. Watching the Chilean mine rescue unfold, on October 12th Cooper noted that the Chilean government’s rescue operations have been more transparent than similar responses to mining disasters in the U.S. If the way the Labor Department ignored the FOIA mediator’s office is any gauge, he may have a point.

SGI applauds Congress & White House for quick fix to overbroad FOIA exemption for the SEC

Today President Obama signed into law a bill that sped through the House and Senate to quickly fix an overbroad exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.  The Sunshine in Government Initiative appreciates the quick action and hard work of transparency leaders in Congress to correct this mistake.