Obama Justice Department Tries To Seize Control Of Public Records Arbitration

April 24, 2012

Media_httpdmnanygovgf_fawuq(Other) Obama INJustice Department Tries To Seize Control Of Public Records Arbitration.(JW).In a dangerous power grab that will jeopardize government transparency, the Obama Justice Department wants to redefine federal public record law so that it becomes the sole arbiter in disputes between agencies and individuals who submit requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The unprecedented move would give the Department of Justice (DOJ), an extension of the executive branch, scary authority to determine if and how public records are disseminated throughout government. It would also strip those duties from the agency— Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)—that was created by Congress as a neutral party to mediate FOIA disputes and assure compliance among all federal agencies.
This is not the sort of story you’ll see in the mainstream media since, not surprisingly, the Obama Administration is keeping it under the radar. However, Judicial Watch has obtained an inside congressional document outlining the DOJ’s unscrupulous plot to become FOIA ombudsman. It comes from one of the most influential and powerful chambers in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder, the California congressman who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee (Darrell Issa) says the proposed modification will have a negative impact on government transparency. The letter also requests documents involving efforts to modify OGIS’s statutorily established FOIA dispute resolution authority by shifting the duties to the DOJ. Holder has until this week to comply with the committee’s request.
The House investigative committee also reminds Holder that the DOJ’s proposal to become the referee for public records disputes clearly contradicts Congress’s intent and is an apparent contravention of FOIA law. “DOJ has important but limited statutory responsibilities concerning the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” the letter says.
“These responsibilities include making information about agency FOIA programs publicly available; issuing recommendations and guidelines to agency FOIA offices, and encouraging agency FOIA compliance. DOJ’s responsibilities under FOIA, however, do not include offering dispute resolution services between agencies and FOIA requesters.”
Congress created the OGIS more than four years ago as a crucial neutral party that offers a range of mediation services to resolve public records disputes and to assure government-wide compliance. The agency, which is headquartered at the U.S. National Archives, has had tremendous success, directly helping resolve more than 1,200 FOIA disputes from virtually every state. No wonder Issa asks Holder to “reconsider the proposed modification and comply with current law.”Hmmmm……….“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.” ~ Bruce Coville.Read the full story here.

Transparent Government. Only for Terrorists at Guatanomo. Welcome to another Obama promise denied.


Pentagon claims it has no records of Osama bin Laden’s death?

April 2, 2012

look… I’ve never been a huge fan of conspiracy theories. my natural inclination is skepticism… but this is very odd. The Obama administration might be projecting what they think was the normal behavior of a administration based on what they “think” the Bush administration did, but it is obvious that Obama is less transparent then the GOP ever were.

(MFS OTHER) Chutzpah ! Pentagon claims “has no records of Osama bin Laden’s death”.(CPO).Obama touts the Navy SEALS’ raid and killing of Osama bin Laden in his hideaway compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, as one of, if not the greatest, achievements of his administration. Reportedly, the administration even disclosed details of the raid to Hollywood for an upcoming movie, •Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

The movie is scheduled to be released — SURPRISE! — on October 12, 2012, within a month of the presidential election.
Joseph Straw •reports •for the N.Y. Daily News, Aug. 11, 2011, that the CIA defended its collaboration with the maker of Zero Dark Thirty. CIA spokesman Preston Golson said that such collaboration with filmmakers has precedent and is part of the CIA’s “public outreach.” Despite the CIA’s insistence, Congressman Peter King (R-Long Island), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has demanded that the Pentagon and CIA inspectors general investigate whether the agencies breached policy in this case, in particular whether the filmmakers saw classified material or got access to personnel working under cover.
Given that, it is curious, to say the least, that, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the Associated Press, •the Pentagon says it has no records — not one photo, not one video, not even an e-mail — of bin Laden’s death?
Richard Lardner •reports •for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 15, 2012:
Government officials have openly discussed details of the mission [to kill Osama bin Laden] in speeches, interviews and television appearances, but the administration won’t disclose records that would confirm their narrative of that fateful night. •The Associated Press asked for files about the raid in more than 20 separate [FOIA] requests, mostly submitted the day after bin Laden’s death.
The Pentagon told the AP this month it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of bin Laden’s body on the Navy aircraft carrier where the al-Qaida leader’s body was taken.
The Pentagon said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, •or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed.
It said it searched files at the Pentagon, U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., and the Navy command in San Diego that controls the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier used in the mission.
The Defense Department told the AP in late February it could not find any emails about the bin Laden mission or his “Geronimo” code name that were sent or received in the year before the raid by William McRaven, the three-star admiral at the Joint Special Operations Command who organized and oversaw the mission. •It also could not find any emails from other senior officers who would have been involved in the mission’s planning.

Note: WantToKnow team member Prof. David Ray Griffin, in his book •Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive?, lays out the extensive evidence that bin laden died in December 2001, and that since that time Pentagon psyops had been keeping him “alive” with fake videos and audiotapes to maintain a crucial pretext for the ever-expanding “war on terror.” •Could it be that the Pentagon will produce no records of its purported “death raid” because in fact it will reveal major manipulations involving bin Laden’s death?
On August 6, 2011, •three months after the supposed killing of bin Laden, 22 members of the exact sameNavy SEALS Team 6who had conducted the Abbotabad raidall died in a helicopter crashin Afghanistan.Dead men don’t tell tales.Read the full story •here.

The most ‘transparent’ president in history plans to authorize the Department of Justice to lie to the American people

October 26, 2011
(Bare Naked Islam) Both Democrats and Republicans are incensed about the Liar-in-Chief’s dangerous new proposal that would authorize a change in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules to allow the DOJ to state that a requested document does not exist when in-fact it does. Not a surprise, just more taqiyya from the terrorist in the White House.

DHS accused of hiding fingerprinting data

May 18, 2011
Under the program, called Secure Communities, officials check the digital fingerprints of people booked by local law enforcement against DHS databases and then deport the most dangerous aliens, such as convicted murderers. Critics of the program say it enlists states in carrying out federal laws and targets too many innocent people, deporting those whose charges are minor or were ultimately dismissed. DHS officials say their decisions to detain or remove an immigrant are based on the severity of the offense and the individual’s criminal history.
During the past year, DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement released thousands of electronic files in response to a FOIA request for emails, statistical information and policies related to “opting-out” of Secure Communities. At issue is whether DHS has been deceiving the public on the mandatory nature of the program, and whether compliance with the court ruling is technically workable.
Now the agency is trying to block a ruling that requires ICE to hand over the electronic files’ labeling data, formatting information and trail of recipients. Plaintiffs in the case — the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law – argue that the move to strip such “metadata” is part of an effort to hide records disclosing uncertainty over whether the federal government has the power to force jurisdictions to share fingerprints with federal immigration officers.
Homeland Security officials this week said the department’s policy is that the exchanging of fingerprints is mandatory — local law enforcement officials, as part of the regular booking process, enter fingerprints into a FBI database that, by law, are automatically submitted to federal immigration authorities and checked against DHS databases. Localities, however, have the option of not being informed about the outcome of the checks, they explained.
The plaintiffs argue emails and metadata detailing their senders, recipients and carbon-copy addressees will show that DHS officials have had doubts about the legality of the fingerprint transmissions.
DHS officials this week acknowledged that previous public statements on opting-out of Secure Communities were unclear and possibly created confusion, but repeated that the program is mandatory.
In February, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the government, going forward, to include certain metadata when it releases the rest of the potentially 1 million requested records. The elements must include, among other fields, the original name of the file when it was saved, as well as the date and time it was last modified. Emails must be accompanied by labels showing each message’s addressee, sender, time stamp and people blind-copied on the message.
The civil liberties groups say it is particularly important to have access to the names of officials blind-carbon-copied on emails. Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the plaintiff Center for Constitutional Rights, pointed to one document that contained guidelines on how to make the program mandatory. “We were provided several copies of different draft forms of a memo,” she said. “There’s no way for us to determine the trajectory of the policy memoranda. We have no idea what’s first and what’s last.”
Immigration enforcement is at a critical juncture. President Obama in a major speech last week highlighted his administration’s crackdown on illegal aliens to convince Republicans the nation is ready for comprehensive immigration reform. Secure Communities was responsible for removing nearly a third of all criminal aliens deported so far this year, officials have noted.
“They don’t want to release information that is going to cause embarrassment right now,” Patel said. “What we have is just a bunch of PDF dumps.”
Some of the already-released records have caused trouble for the program, she noted. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., called for the DHS inspector general and the assistant director at the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility to probe Secure Communities after examining the emails. “Having conducted with my legal staff an initial review of the documents that have been made public, I believe that some of these false and misleading statements may have been made intentionally, while others were made recklessly, knowing that the statements were ambiguous and likely to create confusion,” Lofgren wrote in an April 28 letter to the two officials.
Federal officials this week declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. But in recent court documents, ICE officials said they do not have the technical capability to comply with the metadata requirements.
The agency struggled just to meet a three-week deadline for producing the full documents, according to the filings. To retrieve the relevant records, the agency endured “an enormous expenditure of manpower and financial resources,” with costs totaling more than $270,000 and with officials forced to circumvent security protocols to get the search software to work properly, Catrina Pavlik-Keenan, director of the ICE FOIA office, wrote in a Feb. 20 declaration. The federal government is in the midst of appealing the judge’s ruling on metadata.
Part of the problem is that the FOIA office’s technology cannot generate the voluminous court-ordered documents in a timely manner. Hence officers have had to borrow an application from the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor that is designed for civil litigation document retrieval. That application does not have enough storage space to process the more than 1 million records potentially covered by the plaintiffs’ request, Pavlik-Keenan said. “If ICE FOIA were required to purchase sufficient storage capacity to accommodate all FOIA requests, such a procurement would cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars,” she wrote.
In addition, ICE has no experience releasing metadata in response to a FOIA request. Officials said it is impossible for the agency to fully comply with the court’s order without releasing employees’ personal information, confidential law enforcement information and other sensitive information that is exempt from FOIA.
ICE officials estimated it would have taken from 150 to 175 hours to manually redact metadata fields, such as “To” or “Cc,” in the most recent batch of 500 documents. Staff then would have to apply the same technique for the remainder of the possibly 1 million records — consuming up to 350,000 hours.
The borrowed application doesn’t allow personnel to review or redact the data, Ryan Law, deputy director of the FOIA Office, explained in a separate March 23 filing.
“In order to produce the requested metadata fields, ICE would be required to (1) export the metadata for each responsive document into metadata files, (2) convert the native metadata files into PDF image files or import those native files into the [tool], (3) conduct a line-by-line review of each metadata file, (4) redact information contained within those files that is otherwise exempt from mandatory disclosure under the FOIA, and (5) produce several thousand pages of records containing the nonexempt metadata in PDF image format,” he wrote.
Still, that approach would not generate a usable file containing all the fields specified by the judge.
Separately, DHS officials said in a statement this week that the uncertainty surrounding the obligatory nature of Secure Communities stems from past mischaracterizations of the ability to opt-out of receiving the results of the fingerprint-sharing as the ability to “opt-out” of the entire program.
“Under this administration,” the DHS statement said, “ICE has prioritized the removal of aliens who pose a danger to national security or public safety, with a particular focus on convicted criminals, as well as the removal of recent border violators, illegal reentrants, and fugitives because these priorities best protect public safety in the United States.”
 via nextgov.com

NYTIMES OBSCURES TRUTH: a FOIA request for a PUBLIC University Professor’s Email is standard

April 1, 2011

A conservative research group in Michigan has issued a far-reaching public records request to the labor studies departments at three public universities in the state, seeking any e-mails involving the Wisconsin labor turmoil.
William Cronon, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  The group, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, declined to explain why it was making the Freedom of Information Act request for material from professors at the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State University. But several professors who received the records request, which was first reported by Talking Points Memo on Tuesday, said it appeared to be an attempt to intimidate or embarrass professors who are sympathetic to organized labor.
This records request, which was filed Friday, comes several days after the Republican Party of Wisconsin made a records request to a prominent University of Wisconsin history professor, William Cronon, who had severely criticized the state’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, over his push for legislation to weaken public-sector unions.
The Mackinac Center, which describes itself as a nonpartisan research and educational institution and receives money from numerous conservative foundations, asked the three universities’ labor studies faculty members for any e-mails mentioning “Scott Walker,” “Madison,” “Wisconsin” or “Rachel Maddow,” the liberal talk show host on MSNBC.
Greg Scholtz, the director of academic freedom for the American Association of University Professors, said: “We think all this will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. We’ve never seen FOIA requests used like this before.”
Roland Zullo, a labor studies professor at the University of Michigan, said he found the center’s request “puzzling.” “It seems an odd request for an institution that claims to be nonpartisan,” he said.
Michael D. Jahr, the Mackinac Center’s vice president for communications, declined to discuss the records request. Ken Braun, managing editor of the center’s political newsletter, declined to give the reason for it. He said the newsletter, Michigan Capital Confidential, had made the request and often makes such public records requests.

Teacher With Long History of Depression Kills Herself

“As a general policy, we don’t discuss our FOIAs until we write about them,” Mr. Braun said. He said the records request could have been much broader but was limited to a handful of topics at just the labor studies departments, instead of also including history and political science departments.
Mr. Braun said the center’s request was in no way coordinated with the Wisconsin Republican Party’s FOIA request to Professor Cronon.
After one recent records request, the center reported that taxpayers were paying the salary of an elementary school teacher even though she was released from her teaching duties to work 100 percent on union issues.
Marick Masters, the director of labor studies at Wayne State, said he had nothing to hide. “This looks like an attempt to embarrass us,” he said. “I haven’t engaged in any partisan activities here. I think they’re probably interested in seeing the extent to which labor studies centers in the state have helped orchestrate the protests in Madison.”
Professor Cronon, who describes himself as a political independent, said he was angry about what he called an attempt at harassment. He said that he had never engaged in any nonscholarly political work on university computers or time, which is prohibited, but that he was still concerned about the release of any e-mails. The Republican Party requested e-mails mentioning several politically related words, including Mr. Walker and several legislators.
“There is an academic freedom issue here,” Mr. Cronon said.
Mark Jefferson, the executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, declined to explain why the records request was made. He criticized Professor Cronon for questioning the party’s motives. “I find this troubling,” he said. “Like anyone else filing a public records request, I don’t have to give a reason.”

Narayan Mahon for The New York Times