The publisher of a small weekly newspaper in Georgia was indicted last week for filing an open records request with a local court, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. The story Mark Thomason was going after with his request is almost as strange as the fact that he was charged with a felony and jailed overnight after filing it.
Last year, International Business Times reporter David Sirota filed a Freedom of Information Act request for emails between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the United States Trade Representative, a federal agency concerned with negotiating international trade policy, in which the two offices discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a widely-criticized pact among the United States and eleven other countries, including Australia, Canada, and Mexico. Last week, the State Department notified Sirota about the progress of his request: The agency would not provide the emails until the end of November—three weeks after the 2016 presidential election.
Mark your calendars: In July, the National Archives intends to publicly release over 1,000 pages of records from the George W. Bush administration pertaining to Skull and Bones, the Yale secret society that counts both the former president and his former president father as members. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll learn whether Dubya’s grandfather Prescott Bush—also a Bonesman—really dug up and stole the skull of Geronimo from the Apache warrior’s grave, as Skull and Bones legend holds he did one night in 1918.
In theory, citizens of all 50 states are legally empowered to request and obtain records from their governments. When they work as intended, public records laws are a vital tool for reporters and ordinary people to learn about the government and hold it accountable. But a lot of the time, they don’t work as intended at all.
Perhaps you remember a time, two years ago, when the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office released its new mission logo, an enormous tentacled monster covering the earth with its sucker-lined legs. Perhaps it reminded you of a comic-book villain from your youth. Perhaps you were only vaguely familiar of the NRO before then, and have since come to think of them only as “the scary octopus guys.” Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by security researcher Runa Sandvik, highlighted at MuckRock today, we know a bit more about how the scary octopus logo came to be.
A video allegedly depicting a black teenager being shot and killed by a Chicago police officer last year will be released, The Guardian reports, after a Cook County judge ruled Thursday that it was not exempt from requests made under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, as city officials had previously claimed.
Yesterday, the New York Times published an article detailing a U.S. Army scheme to “kill” an upcoming Times investigation into concussions sustained during mandatory boxing classes at military academies. Things didn’t quite pan out the way Army brass intended in that particular case, but the same strategy has successfully been used to manipulate the media in the past.
Earlier this year, Gawker Media sued the State Department over its response to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed in 2013, in which we sought emails exchanged between reporters at 33 news outlets and Philippe Reines, the former deputy assistant secretary of state and aggressive defender of Hillary Clinton. Over two years ago, the department claimed that “no records responsive to your request were located”—a baffling assertion, given Reines’ well-documented correspondence with journalists. Late last week, however, the State Department came up with a very different answer: It had located an estimated 17,000 emails responsive to Gawker’s request.
Days after McKinney, Texas, police officer Eric Casebolt was filmed pointing his service weapon at a group of unarmed black teenagers at a pool party this month, Gawker submitted a Public Information Act request to the city of McKinney asking to see Casebolt’s records and any emails about his conduct sent or received by McKinney Police Department employees. Today, we received a letter from the city’s attorneys claiming that fulfilling our request would cost $79,229.09.
Waging jihad from a concrete compound with only three of your wives gets lonely. Thank God for “fairly extensive” video collections of porn, which Osama bin Laden allegedly had, and which may or may not now be in U.S. intelligence hands. But you’ll never know, because Uncle Sam’s sticky fingers aren’t sharing.
Remember when the City University of New York appointed Times blogger and Princeton professor Paul Krugman to teach at its income inequality institute? During CUNY’s hiring process, Krugman apparently sent along a few selfies for the institute’s website. They were released today in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.
In 2001, the Pentagon produced a strange training video, for internal use and at a cost of more than $70,000, designed to teach civilian and military employees how the Freedom of Information Act works. It was comically dumb, featuring a noir private detective in a hack Humphrey Bogart accent navigating a World War II-era spy scenario, occasionally looking to the camera and delivering FOIA-based tips. When researchers tried to obtain a copy under the FOIA itself, the Pentagon took 18 months to release it, and redacted portions. Here it is.
Mayor Bloomberg wasted $160,000 of taxpayer money to (unsuccessfully) suppress the publication of internal emails, first requested by former Gawker intern Sergio Hernandez, about the ill-fated appointment of former New York City School Chancellor Cathie Black, who resigned 3 months after taking the job in 2011. Nice work, Mike.