Freedom of Information


OpenGovOpen government? Jennifer LaFleur writes on ProPublica:

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist — even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal — part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice — would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”

Open-government groups object. “We don’t believe the statute allows the government to lie to FOIA requesters,” said Mike German, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the provision.


WikiLeaks DonateChristopher Hope reports in the Telegraph:

The whistleblowing website set up by Julian Assange said that it is temporarily suspending publication of leaks to fight a “blockade” by credit card companies.

The refusal to accept donations has cost the website “tens of millions of dollars” in lost funding, the website said.

Mr Assange was due to make the announcement at a press conference in London, and appeal for donations to help flight the blockade.

WikiLeaks said “in order to fight for its survival” it has decided temporarily to stop publishing secret state documents, while it battles the financial blockade through the courts.

In a statement, WikiLeaks said: “In order to ensure our future survival, WikiLeaks is now forced to temporarily suspend its publishing operations and aggressively fundraise in order to fight back against this blockade and its proponents.”





Call for solidarity from the UK! Poverty pimps and well known corporate slime Atos Origin have taken their harassment of disabled people one step further by using flaky legal threats to censor…


David Sirota writes at Salon.com: With the Obama administration considering federal civil-rights investigations into police brutality, some local police departments have reacted not by cleaning up their act, but instead by intensifying…


Nixon Departing OfficeWhile this may not be breaking news it’s an interesting read for anyone with an interest in politics and American history. Let’s hope it actually sees the light of day. The U.S. government still has a chance to appeal and keep Nixon’s testimony sealed … if the government is able to do that, how can it claim to stand for transparency in government? Via the BBC:

The secret grand jury testimony given by former US President Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal is set to be released after more than 36 years, following an order by a federal judge.

Judge Royce Lamberth granted a request by historian Stanley Kutler to release the transcript, citing of its historical significance.

But it will not be unsealed until the government has had a chance to appeal.

The political scandal prompted Nixon to resign in 1974. Nixon, who died 17 years ago, was the only US president to resign. He left office amid the fallout after a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington.


NevermindUpdate: Even though several news outlets are reporting this, the album cover is still on Nirvana’s Facebook Page. I’m not sure if this smells like censorship or publicity stunt right now …

Looks like they haven’t managed to get completely get rid of it. Hard to believe this story is real. Lauren Schutte reports in the Hollywood Reporter via MSNBC:

Twenty years later, Nirvana is still managing to cause controversy.

The band, whose Nevermind album made waves when it was released in 1991 because of its cover art which featured a naked baby boy floating in a pool, has run into censorship yet again, this time on its Facebook page.

After product shots of the album (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall) were uploaded to Nirvana’s Facebook page, the social networking company removed the photo citing a violation of its Terms of Use.

“Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence or other violations of the Terms of Use,” the notice read.





IsraelHamed Aleaziz writes in Mother Jones:

Since Google launched its Google Earth feature in 2005, the company has become a worldwide leader in providing high-resolution satellite imagery. In 2010, Google Earth allowed the world to see the extent of the destruction in post-earthquake Haiti. This year, Google released similar images after Japan’s deadly tsunami and earthquake. With just one click, Google can bring the world—and a better understanding of far-away events—to your computer.

There is one entire country, however, that Google Earth won’t show you: Israel.

That’s because, in 1997, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, one section of which is titled, “Prohibition on collection and release of detailed satellite imagery relating to Israel.” The amendment, known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment, calls for a federal agency, the NOAA’s Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs, to regulate the dissemination of zoomed-in images of Israel.




Truth Is Out ThereVia Reuters:

Australia’s military has lost its X-Files, detailing sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, across the country, a newspaper report said on Tuesday.

After a two-month search in response to a newspaper Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which forces government officials to release documents of public interest, Australia’s Department of Defence had been unable to locate the files, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

“The files could not be located and Headquarters Air Command formally advised that this file is deemed lost,” the department’s FOI assistant director, Natalie Carpenter, told the paper. Defence officials could not be contacted by Reuters.

The only file Defence had been able to locate was a folder called: “Report on UFOs/Strange Occurrences and Phenomena in Woomera,” a military weapons testing range in the center of Australia’s vast outback, Carpenter said.



Had to imagine there would be drastic action taken. Sam Biddle writes on Gizmodo:

The faces at the Pentagon are still mighty red since WikiLeaks. And they don’t want a repeat. A new directive from the Department of Defense aims at squelching leaks — by deputizing a massive number of employees as involuntary snitches.

The document, titled “Counterintelligence Awareness and Reporting (CIAR),” directs DoD employees, military and civilian alike, to “Report, in accordance…the contacts, activities, indicators, and behaviors” of their coworkers. And given the WikiLeaks story, this means keeping tabs on your neighbor’s computer. Suspicious (and must-report) behavior includes:

“Unauthorized possession or operation of cameras, recording devices, computers, and communication devices where classified information is handled or stored.”

“Discussions of classified information over a non-secure communication device.”

“Unauthorized copying, printing, faxing, e-mailing, or transmitting classified material.”




Meredith Attwell BakerEdward Wyatt writes in the NY Times Media Decoder:

Four months after the Federal Communications Commission approved a hotly contested merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, one of the commissioners who voted for the deal said on Wednesday that she would soon join Comcast’s Washington lobbying office.

Meredith Attwell Baker, a former Commerce Department official who worked on telecommunications issues in George W. Bush’s administration, announced that she would leave the F.C.C. when her term expires at the end of June. At Comcast, she will serve as senior vice president for government affairs for NBC Universal, which Comcast acquired in January.

The announcement drew immediate criticism from some groups that had opposed the Comcast-NBC merger. They said the move was indicative of an ethically questionable revolving door between regulatory agencies and the companies they oversee.