Ray Bradbury’s FOI File:

Was there any writer the FBI didn’t track back in the day? The FOI file reveals the extent of the creepy tracking of the sic-fi genius:

The FBI gave Ray Bradbury a mixed review.

Photo of Ray Bradbury.

Photo of Ray Bradbury. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to documents declassified recently through the Freedom of Information Act, the bureau investigated the “Fahrenheit 451″ author in the 1950s and 1960s because of suspected communist sympathies.

One informant warned agents that Bradbury, who died June 5 at age 91, wrote stories that were “definitely slanted” against capitalism. The informant added that science fiction itself could so terrify readers that they would succumb to “incompetence bordering on hysteria” and would be helpless during a third world war.

The bureau noted Bradbury’s opposition to Sen. Joe McCarthy and other anti-Communists and his support for civil rights. But it concluded that Bradbury had never been in the Communist Partyand that interviewing him was unnecessary because he did not have “informant potential.”

 

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NFOIC Joins Washington State Lawsuit Over Guv’s Claims of Executive Privilege

Good for the good ‘ol NFOIC….

The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) has joined media associations and good government groups in asking the Washington state Supreme Court to limit Gov. Chris Gregoire’s authority to withhold documents from public scrutiny.

The case grew out of a lawsuit filed in April 2011 by the Olympia, Wash.-based Freedom Foundation, an NFOIC member organization in Washington state, over the governor’s claims of “executive privilege” as a basis for shielding records from disclosure.

At issue in the case are Gov. Gregoire’s claims of executive privilege to conceal records regarding a controversial, $2 billion proposed tunnel along the Seattle downtown waterfront to replace the elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct, in addition to other documents.

Other organizations supporting the Freedom Foundation’s position in amicus briefs filed in the lawsuit are Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Institute for Justice and the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG), also an NFOIC member organization.

The Freedom Foundation and its supporters say the governor should only be able to shield records from disclosure under the provisions of the state Public Records Act (PRA), which includes a “deliberative process” exemption. Gregoire’s attorneys say she is neither seeking to invalidate the PRA nor claim general immunity from it. They contend, however, that the constitutional separation-of-powers doctrine gives her additional authority to withhold documents in some instances.

FOI News You Can Use: White House Petition to Release Beer Recipe!

Maybe we should just do all federal FOIA this way….

Beer enthusiasts may soon be able to craft their own version of the White House honey ale. That is, for a few thousand online signatures.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney recently announced on Twitter that the administration will unveil the beer’s recipe once a petition for this request receives 25,000 signatures by September 17.

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FOI AT Work: Outing the Water Hogs In Austin…

What a GREAT FOI-driven story idea, especially given how hot and dry most of the country is these days. An FOI request for the top water hogs, coupled with voter records…

Water Drop

Water Drop (Photo credit: Isolino)

Here’s the lede:

A few years back, Lance Armstrong was caught. He apologized, admitted the error of his ways, and promised to do better in the future. His offense? Using too much water.

Armstrong had used 330,000 gallons of water in July 2008. He hadn’t even been home at his three acre, 14,475 square foot estate. “I’m a little shocked,” he told The New York Times at the time. “There’s no justification for that much water. I need to fix this.”

Well, it’s been several summers since then, this last one being notable for being the hottest and driest on record. And the city is in stage two watering restrictions because of the historic drought.  But it would appear Armstrong has not learned how to conserve. According to data from Austin Water Utility, he used around 1.3 million gallons of water in the last year, putting him among the top ten residential users of water in town.

Armstrong isn’t alone in using excessive amounts of water. In fact, he’s not even the worst offender. That would be Roger Girling, who owns a home health care company. He used 1.9 million gallons of water in the last year. Also on the list of the top twenty-five residential water users in Austin? Venture capitalist Paul Zito, car dealers Doug Maund and Steven Late, and Congressman Michael McCaul, who went through 1.4 million gallons of water in the last year.

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FERPA interpretations differ from school to school…

A Mizzou J-Schooler, Allison Prang, did a fine job on the subject of FERPA inconsistencies, in a piece for the Kansas City Star.

Her lede:

If you’re a student at a Kansas college or university, you don’t need to worry about your school giving your contact information to companies that want to sell you their products or services.

It’s illegal.

But if you’re a student at a college or university in Missouri, you just might need to be concerned.

Companies and outside organizations frequently request broad lists of directory information from schools

In Missouri there are no prohibitions against using it for marketing aimed at students. Companies and organizations that ask for the information include test preparation, graduation announcement and textbook businesses.

In Kansas, though directory information is still considered a public record, the state Open Records Acts bars people from using it for solicitations.

The police in Champaign really loath jaywalking…at least by some people, in some neighborhoods.

Wow — what an inspired use of FOI by the website Vivelo Hoy, a really interesting online news site…anyway, they took a look at five years’ worth of arrest records, and found that 90 percent of those arrested for jaywalking

English: No jaywalking restriction sign: An ar...

English: No jaywalking restriction sign: An arrow supplementary plate is mounted to indicate the direction of an appropriate crossing for pedestrians. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

were black — and most of those arrests occurred on streets without sidewalks. What?!?!

Here’s the nut graf:

We found major disparities in the number of arrests of black people in both communities.

In 2010, black people made up 16 percent of the population in both Champaign and Urbana, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

But in both communities at least 40 percent of the arrest charges were against black people in each of the years from 2007 to 2011.

Within the category of arrest types, there were even greater disparities.

One of the largest was in regards to “improper walking on roadway,” or jaywalking.

In Champaign from 2007 to 2011, 658, or 88 percent, of the 744 jaywalking arrests were of black people.

In Urbana, the percentage of black arrestees  for the same crime was even higher during those same years.

 

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FOI AT Work in the Sports Department: Social Media Monitoring

Nice use of FOIA by USA Today:

Student athletes at the University of Kentucky and most at the University of Louisvillesurrender their online privacy to their coaches under a social media monitoring system used by both schools, as well as others across the country.

As a condition of participating in sports, the schools require athletes to agree to monitoring software being placed on their social media accounts. This software emails alerts to coaches whenever athletes use a word that could embarrass the student, the university or tarnish their images on services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace.

The University of Louisville flags 406 words or slang expressions that have to do with drugs, sex, or alcohol. The University of Kentucky flags a similar number, of which 370 are sports agents’ names.

The words range from the seemingly innocuous “pony” — a euphemism for crack cocaine — and “panties,” to all manner of alcoholic drinks and sexual expressions usually heard on the street.

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Now HERE is an FOI Request We Can All Cheer!

A hoppy, heady FOI request!

A group of home-brewing enthusiasts and transparency advocates want the government to hand over the recipe for the home brewed beers created at the White House.

As reported by Government Executive, a Reddit user has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the recipe, arguing that “disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations of activities of the government.”

The FOIA request added: “If you could send me a copy autographed by the president, you’d be the coolest FOIA officer in the whole federal government.”

Another group of internet users has created a ‘We the People” petition, requesting the recipe. That petition needs more than 24,000 more signatures to generate a response.

News of the White House home brews leaked, so to speak, when it was served at two White House parties last year. More recently, Obama brought a number of White House ales on trail to hand out  to voters as gifts.

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A Fine Example of Why the Public Needs Access to Dashboard Cam Video…

A state FOI law working just as it should:

Police video recorded the night a young man was fatally shot in a northeast Arkansas patrol car while his hands were cuffed behind his back hasn’t resolved questions about whether he shot himself in the head as officers said.

Jonesboro police released footage to The Associated Press and other news organizations under a Freedom of Information Act request this week. They released more footage Friday amid questions about why the first batch of video appeared to end before the officers found Chavis Carter, 21, slumped over and bleeding in the back of a patrol car on July 28 as described in a police report. Police have said officers had frisked Carter twice without finding a gun.

Police said the second batch of video occurred after Carter was discovered, but that footage wasn’t immediately available in its entirety.

“There’s still nothing in there about what actually happened with Chavis,” Benjamin Irwin, a Memphis-based lawyer representing Carter’s family, said Friday before the second batch of video had been released.

Voter impersonation less likely than a lightning strike…

A GREAT example of FOI-driven reporting from a consortium of journalism students. This is EXACTLY the kind of stuff we need to be doing!

A new nationwide analysis of more than 2,000 cases of alleged election fraud over the past dozen years shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which has prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tougher voter ID laws, was virtually nonexistent.

The analysis of 2,068 reported fraud cases by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. With 146 million registered voters in the United States, those represent about one for every 15 million prospective voters.

The News21 report is based on a national public-records search in which reporters sent thousands of requests to elections officers in all 50 states, asking for every case of alleged fraudulent activity – including registration fraud; absentee-ballot fraud; vote buying; false election counts; campaign fraud; the casting of ballots by ineligible voters, such as felons and non-citizens; double voting; and voter impersonation.

The analysis found that there is more alleged fraud in absentee ballots and voter registration than in any of the other categories. The analysis shows 491 cases of alleged absentee ballot fraud and 400 cases involving registration fraud. Requiring voters to show identification at the polls – the crux of most of the new legislation – would not have prevented those cases.

Here’s a great behind-the-scenes how-we-did-it

Louisiana State Museum, Baton Rouge, Louisiana...

Louisiana State Museum, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 1940 ballot box labeled “Spoiled” from election fraud investigation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

from Leonard Downie Jr., who coordinated the effort.

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