OK, so Davis is quoted in the story…

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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to use a case involving AT&T Inc. to consider whether a corporation can challenge the release of government documents as an infringement of the company’s privacy rights.

The justices today said they will hear the Obama administration’s appeal of a ruling that said corporations can invoke a provision in a federal document-disclosure law that protects against invasions of “personal privacy.”

The government says the U.S. appeals court ruling upset the decades-old understanding of the Freedom of Information Act, under which hundreds of thousands of requests are filed every year.

The ruling “likely also will result in the withholding of agency records to which the public should have access, including records documenting corporate malfeasance,” the administration argued in a brief filed by then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

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A Nice Use of FOIA in Sports Reporting

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Looks like the University of Tennessee tried to get out in front of a budding scandal:

Documents obtained by ESPN.com via a Freedom of Information Act request show that the University of Tennessee self-reported several NCAA violations involving its men’s basketball team, including nearly 100 impermissible phone calls to various recruits.

The violations, which cover a period of two years, were discovered after the university submitted phone records to the NCAA basketball focus group at the group’s request and involved 10 different recruits.

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Newish Pa. FOI law no panacea…

A Pennsylvania state appeals court ruled Thursday that incident reports filed by state police officers are not public records, citing an exemption in the state’s Right to Know Law that protects from public disclosure “a record of an agency relating to or resulting in a criminal investigation.”

The court’s 6-1 ruling reversed an earlier decision by the state Office of Open Records that such documents should be made public.

In February of 2009, the Potter Leader-Enterprise of Coudersport, Pa., submitted an open records request seeking an incident report involving an altercation at a private residence. The state police initially denied the request.

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Um, wow….that’s a steep price for some e-mail!

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has apologized for asking a journalism organization for $36,000 to see e-mails of the commission’s former chairman.

The current chairman of the commission sent a letter Wednesday to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting explaining that a subsequent review of the state’s computer system showed that the actual cost of retrieving the e-mails was $160 — 16 hours work at $10 per hour.

Jack Cashman, chairman of the PUC, said he would waive even that amount and provided the requested e-mails to the center at no cost “because of the history of this issue.”

On April 21, the center released a report, which was published in a dozen Maine daily and weekly newspapers, about former PUC chairman Kurt Adams leaving his state job to take a top position with the private wind energy firm, First Wind. The requested e-mails were part of the research into a possible second story.

Sounds Like A (RAW) Deal!

$196 for every $1: that’s how much your government spent keeping secrets versus declassifying information….

2010 Secrecy Report Card Is Out…

The 2010 Secrecy Report Card released today by OpenTheGovernment.org — a coalition of more than 70 groups advocating for open government— chronicles a continued decrease in most indicators of secrecy since the end of the Bush Administration and growing backlogs in the declassification system as old secrets move through the system. The report covers the first 9 months of President Obama’s Administration, which he pledged would be the most open, transparent and accountable in history.
According to Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, “Encouraging trends are evident in these early months of the Obama Administration, in both FOIA and in general secrecy. In general, after hitting high water marks during the Bush Administration, statistics indicate the creation of new national security secrets is slowly ebbing.” In FY 2009, for example, the number of original classification decisions, the “sole sources of newly classified information,” decreased almost 10% to 183,224—down from 203,541 in 2008.
The statistics also indicate, however, that the declassification system continues to fall further behind. The report highlights examples of looming secrecy problems the Obama Administration should address, which include:

  • In FY 2009, the government spent $196 maintaining the secrets already on the books for every one dollar spent declassifying documents. Only one-half cent of every dollar spent on security classifications costs overall was spent on declassification, and 8% fewer pages were declassified than in 2008. Overall, expenditures to maintain secrecy increased 2%.
  • In FY 2009, agencies received 7,843 new initial requests for Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR), which led to 69% of pages reviewed being declassified in full; 24% in part. More than 6,000 initial requests, though, were carried over into 2010.

Dr McDermott noted, “This report does not measure the impact of the President’s Open Government Initiative, which is largely focused on making information easily available to the public and increasing participation and collaboration. We continue to push to ensure the government openness and accountability promised in all areas of the Executive Branch.  We look forward to working with the Administration toward meeting this goal, and will continue to work to make sure the public has the information it needs to hold the Administration accountable.”

The only indicators covered by the report that may reflect the Administration’s open government initiative concern the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In FY 2009, the federal government processed 55,000 more FOIA requests than it received in 2009 and reduced backlogged pending requests by almost 56,000.

The issues discussed in the Report include: classified Information and classified costs, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), signing statements, use of state secrets, and more.

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OpenTheGovernment.org is a coalition, transcending party lines, of more than 70 consumer and good government groups, librarians, environmentalists, labor, journalists, and others focused on pushing back governmental secrecy and promoting openness.

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