Tags : FOIA

Senator puts hold on widely supported FOIA bill

A bill designed to improve the way the federal government handles an increasing load of FOIA requests – a bill that had gained bipartisan support – could be dying after a senator blocked the legislation.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 would "create a pathway for the federal government to modernize the administration of FOIA" and "codify the 'presumption of openness' into law," among other changes detailed in a post by Alexander Howard on PBS’ MediaShift.

Retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia on Thursday placed a hold on the bill. He released a short statement on his decision Friday, saying that ...

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Behind the Story: How NPR and ProPublica exposed problems with the Red Cross’ response to Superstorm Sandy

Justin Elliott of ProPublica

Justin Elliott, Jesse Eisinger and Laura Sullivan turned a vague tip about the American Red Cross’ inefficiency into a powerful report about the organization’s failings after Hurricane Isaac and Superstorm Sandy.

The joint project between ProPublica and NPR revealed that hundreds of millions of dollars pouring in from donors in 2012 fell to organization leaders often more concerned with the appearance that they were helping than with actually providing aid. The team of reporters got the story through public records, internal emails and documents, and accounts from current and former disaster relief specialists.

The team ...

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University of Oklahoma releases parking tickets after student newspaper joins suit

A decision by the student newspaper at the University of Oklahoma to join its staffer’s lawsuit against the school caused officials to reverse course on their original decision to withhold parking ticket citations.

OU Daily staff member Joey Stipek had filed the suit in May 2013 after his open records requests for parking tickets was denied on the grounds that the citations were protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.

Last week, the Daily published an editorial backing Stipek and declaring that the newspaper is joining the lawsuit. OU President David Boren soon after issued ...

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Ferguson no-fly zone aimed at media

The no-fly zone in place during August’s protests in Ferguson, Missouri, was enacted to keep the media from shooting overhead footage from helicopters, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The AP got its hands on audio recordings of conversations between the Federal Aviation Administration and local police officials. In the recordings, local authorities admit that the no-fly zone, billed as a measure to ensure the public’s safety, was in fact aimed at boxing out news media.

Police have claimed the 37 square miles of space was restricted in response to shots fired at a police helicopter ...

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New York newspaper asks judge to force release of license plate data

The Democrat & Chronicle is fighting a county’s denial to provide license plate information about seven newspaper employees and a couple government-owned vehicles, the paper reports.

The Rochester, New York-based paper has reported that Monroe County is indiscriminately amassing license-plate information from high-speed cameras. During the summer, a reporter filed a Freedom of Information Law request to obtain the records about his own license plate and that of six colleagues and two government vehicles.

County officials denied the request because, they said, a release of the data could violate personal privacy or interfere with a law enforcement investigation. The paper ...

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Behind the Story: New Jersey reporter finds inconsistencies in 2008 death investigation

Chris Baxter

Chris Baxter and NJ Advance Media wrestled out a compelling and untold story, let the digital presentation take the lead and came away with a “smashing” investigative success.

Using a system he developed to keep tabs on lawsuits involving state police, Baxter came upon the stifled story of Kenwin Garcia, a Newark man who died in 2008 after an altercation with police along the side of the highway.

Baxter embarked on a deep reporting project that resulted in 7,000 words, an 8-page special print section in The Star-Ledger and a digital presentation as rich as any Baxter ...

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Judge lifts court order against Ala. newspaper

An Alabama judge has lifted a temporary restraining order banning the Montgomery Advertiser from publishing public documents it obtained from a gas company.

The newspaper had obtained, through an open records request to the state’s Public Service Commission, a copy of Alabama Gas Corp.’s Integrity Management Plan, which contained information about the age and condition of gas pipes in communities such as Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma.

Alagasco argued that publishing the location of the pipes raised the risk for terrorism. Judge Robert Vance originally agreed but, in lifting his restraining order, wrote that “while such possibilities might exist ...

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Mississippi town could make text messages readily available

A town in Mississippi could soon become the first in the state to archive and make available the text messages of public officials, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. The pending policy comes in response to a Mississippi Ethic Commission ruling against Tupelo, after the city had denied the Daily Journal text messages between the mayor and another city official.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History laws already require that cities hold on to text messages. As local government records, the texts should be open to the public. But state officials have openly stated that municipalities don’t ...

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Appeals court upholds denial of FOIA request for detainee's photo

A U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a Freedom of Information Act request denial to grant photos and other materials showing Guantanamo Bay prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani to the Center for Constitutional Rights. Al-Qahtani is the alleged would-be 20th hijacker on 9/11 and one of the highest profile U.S. detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The panel ruled that "the federal government sufficiently made its case that the videos and photographs of al-Qahtani should be kept secret under Exemption 1 to FOIA, which provides for the withholding of materials in the interest of ‘national defense or foreign policy,’” according to the ...

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Do police have to release the name of the officer involved in the Ferguson, Mo. shooting?

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Ferguson, Missouri police department’s decision not to release the name of the officer involved in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Mike Brown. To get some legal answers, we turned to professor Sandy Davidson, who teaches communications law at the Missouri School of Journalism. 

Here’s what you need to know:

  • While an incident report is considered an open record under Missouri law, that document must legally include: The date, time, specific location, name of the victim and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the initial report of a crime or ...
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