Posted on December 8, 2012 by Charles N. Davis
The government on Nov. 29 finally released more than 850 pages of once-secret documents from the Watergate political scandal, meaning that only a few more sets of Watergate documents remain sealed…The Washington Post story contain a few nice nuggets:
The files do not appear to provide any significant new revelations in the 40-year-old case that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and criminal prosecutions of many of his top White House and political aides. But the files provide useful context for historians, revealing behind-the-scenes deliberations by the judge then in charge of the case, U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica, along with prosecutors and defense lawyers…
One new transcript of an in-chambers meeting between Sirica and then-Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in July 1973 shows that the judge revealed secret probation reports indicating that Hunt had cited orders from “very high” Nixon administration officials. Several of Hunt’s co-defendants had previously denied any White House involvement in court testimony, and Sirica told Cox and other prosecutors that he felt the new information “seemed to me significant.
Reports from prison psychiatrists and probation officers also show that four of Hunt’s co-defendants justified their role in the Watergate break-in on national security grounds, saying they were under orders to search for evidence that Cuban government funds supported Democratic party campaigns. Dean said Friday that Hunt once told him that excuse was a ruse used to persuade the others to participate in the burglary.
Filed under: 1. Records that matter, secrecy | Tagged: John Sirica, Richard Nixon, Watergate scandal, White House | Leave a comment »
Posted on September 1, 2012 by Charles N. Davis
Proof that transparency, like beer, is good for us and proof that God loves us:
With public excitement about White House beer fermenting such a buzz, we decided we better hop right to it.
Inspired by home brewers from across the country, last year President Obama bought a home brewing kit for the kitchen. After the few first drafts we landed on some great recipes that came from a local brew shop. We received some tips from a couple of home brewers who work in the White House who helped us amend it and make it our own. To be honest, we were surprised that the beer turned out so well since none of us had brewed beer before.
As far as we know the White House Honey Brown Ale is the first alcohol brewed or distilled on the White House grounds. George Washington brewed beer and distilled whiskey at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson made wine but there’s no evidence that any beer has been brewed in the White House. (Although we do know there was some drinking during prohibition…)
Filed under: 1. Records that matter, FOI At Work | Tagged: FOI at work, White House, White House Honey Ale | 3 Comments »
Posted on August 26, 2012 by Charles N. Davis
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.
Filed under: 1. Records that matter | Tagged: White House, White House Honey Ale | Leave a comment »
Posted on August 21, 2012 by Charles N. Davis
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.
Filed under: 1. Records that matter, 2. Doc state of mind | Tagged: Homebrewing, White House | 1 Comment »
Posted on May 30, 2012 by Charles N. Davis
Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that major mainstream media outlets and open government organizations have joined its legal campaign against the Obama Secret Service to force the release of White House visitor logs. On August 17, Obama-appointed federal Judge Beryl Howell ruled against the Obama administration that Secret Service White House visitor logs are agency records that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Obama administration appealed that decision and the lawsuit is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Secret Service (No. 11-5282)).
Among the organizations joining amicus briefs filed in Judicial Watch’s litigation are: Bloomberg, L.P.; CBS Broadcast Inc.; Dow Jones & Company Inc.; Gannett, Co. Inc.; The McClatchy Company; The National Association of Broadcasters; National Freedom of Information Coalition; National Public Radio; The Newspaper Guild; The Radio Television Digital News Association; The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; The Washington Post; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Openthegovernment.org; Electronic Frontier Foundation; and the Project on Government Oversight.
Filed under: 3. Access law | Tagged: Judicial Watch, visitors logs, White House | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 11, 2012 by Charles N. Davis
A new trove of emails acquired by Judicial Watch show that the White House was intimately involved in managing the fallout from the Shirley Sherrod story, in which the USDA employee was forced to resign after Andrew Breitbart posted a fragmented video of one of her speeches to his website, Big Government.
At the time, then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs blamed Sherrod’s firing onAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and said the White House had been informed but not “consulted” about the firing. In fact, the White House was involved almost from the moment the story broke, and USDA officials understood some of the larger context of her statements before they forced her resignation.
The emails, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that the White House both knew about the story from the beginning and signed off on the wording of Vilsack’s statement explaining his acceptance of Sherrod’s resignation the evening it happened.
Some of this timeline was already revealed through an August 2010 Associated Press story, based on interviews with White House and USDA officials, that found “a greater level of White House involvement in the incident than officials initially let on.”
But the emails provide a newly detailed portrait of the panic that beset the USDA and White House as the story gathered steam – panic driven in part by fear of what Fox News would do with it. The emails also show how that panic pushed USDA officials to rush past the partial context that was already embedded in the original video out of worries over how the story would play.
The White House learned there was a problem in the middle of the afternoon of Monday, July 19, 2010. That morning, Breitbart posted a clip of Sherrod giving a speech to an NAACP audience in Georgia in which she recounted a story about not giving a white farmer the “full force of what I could do” back in 1986, writing that it was a “racist tale.”
Filed under: 2. Doc state of mind | Tagged: email, Judicial Watch, SHirley Sherrod, White House | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 27, 2012 by Charles N. Davis
You can point them to stories such as this
Image via Wikipedia
Millions of dollars in White House money has helped pay for New York Police Department programs that put entire American Muslim neighborhoods under surveillance.
The money is part of a little-known grant intended to help law enforcement fight drug crimes. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush and Obama administrations have provided $135 million to the New York and New Jersey region through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, known as HIDTA.
Now, this is no more the White House’s conscious decision than it is simple right-hand-oblivious-to-what-the-left-hand-is-doing-itis, but the effect is the same: administration officials furiously trying to walk back a meme they’d rather never have started.
And why? Well, all because it’s a non-accountable grants program with little to no oversight and a ton of conflicted decision makers. This is the state of federal grants like these. This is not new. It was inevitable.
Filed under: 2. Doc state of mind, 3. Access law, 4. Finding records | Tagged: High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, New York City Police Department, September 11 attacks, White House | Leave a comment »
Posted on August 17, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
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A solid ruling on White House visitor records, at last. A recent Obama appointee to the federal bench, at that…note that Judicial Watch was suing the Obama folks to make legally binding a policy the White House was claiming it was doing voluntarily. If only this had been handed down, say, any time in American history before Obama began divulging White House visitor records….
White House visitor records maintained by the Secret Service are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and must be disclosed if not covered by one of the law’s exemptions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell issued the decision on a lawsuit brought by a conservative legal watchdog group, Judicial Watch. The group’s suit sought White House access records from January to September 2009, when President Barack Obama instituted a new and unprecedented policy of releasing the names of nearly all White House visitors.
In the case, Obama’s Justice Department took the position the government had under the Bush administration: that the White House visitor records were not subject to FOIA because they belonged to the president and not the Secret Service. However, Howell rejected that argument.
“The Secret Service argues that it is unable to dispose of the records freely because they are ultimately White House records and not agency records. This argument is circular,” Howell wrote in her 19-page ruling (posted here). “The claimed restrictions on disposal stem from the defendant’s assumption that the documents are under Presidential control — the exact point that the defendant seeks to prove to establish that the documents are not subject to FOIA.”
The Justice Department also argued that the records could implicate national security issues, but Howell said that was no reason to declare all the data requested by Judicial Watch to be beyond the reach of FOIA.
Given the Obama policy to release this information going forward, the implications of Howell’s ruling could be limited. However, if the decision is upheld, it means that what the White House has touted as a voluntary disclosure policy would not be voluntary any more.
Filed under: 1. Records that matter, 3. Access law | Tagged: Freedom of Information Act, Judicial Watch, visitor records, White House | 2 Comments »
Posted on May 4, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
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I read, then re-read, then re-read that headline, to make sure I didn’t transpose the names like Fox…
Anyway, Obama has made his call: he is not releasing the Bin Laden photos, not voluntarily, anyway. His reasoning is hard to argue with, at first blush.
In explaining his choice not to release the photo, Mr. Obama said that “we don’t need to spike the football.” He said that “given the graphic nature of these photos it would create a national security risk.”
Speculative? Yes. Does the United States government have a less-than-stellar record when it comes to the transparency of certain newsworthy military engagements (see, Lynch, Jessica; also Tillman Pat…)
Anyway, unless he seeks another one-off FOI exemption like he did for the second batch of Abu Ghraib photos, this FOI request might force his hand.
Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20059739-503544.html#ixzz1LPkdbFZG
Filed under: 1. Records that matter, 3. Access law, 4. Finding records, 6. Overcoming denials | Tagged: Barack Obama, National security, Osama bin Laden, Photograph, White House | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 14, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
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The Obama administration talks up the importance of government transparency, but White House visitor logs are anything but. That’s according to a new investigation by iWatch News. The White House website proudly boasts of making available “over 1,000,000 records of everyone who’s come through the doors of the White House” via a searchable database. Yet our analysis shows that the logs routinely omit or cloud key details about the identity of visitors, who they met with, the nature of the visit, and even includes the names of people who never showed up.
Filed under: 2. Doc state of mind, 3. Access law, 4. Finding records | Tagged: Center for Public Integrity, Obama administration, Open government, White House | Leave a comment »