FOI at work: Wisconsin coach was writing love notes to Arkansas AD long before hire…

A shrewd use of FOI in Arkansas

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

demonstrates, once again, the power of public records on the sports beat…

Strange as it seems, the nuances of the Freedom of Information Act have loomed improbably large lately over Arkansas football, having played a key role in fanning the flames that lapped at both Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino on their way out of town. Now, in the case of new head coach Bret Bielema, his first Fayetteveille FOIA might as well be a rite of initiation.

Unlike his predecessors, Bielema isn’t being pursued for scandal, but rather for a friendly note he wrote his new boss earlier this year – at least two months before the Razorbacks left the rest of the country gobsmacked last week by poaching the architect of back-to-back-to-back Big Ten championship teams at Wisconsin. According to documents released by the university, Bielema actually made contact with Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long in September, when he sent Long a handwritten note supporting his decision to fire Petrino after a motorcycle accident revealed an inappropriate relationship with an athletic department staffer. Reporters picked up the scent when Long mentioned the note from Bielema last week, and on Monday got their hands on the original…

Enhanced by Zemanta

Bin Laden Burial at Sea Docs Released Thanks to FOIA

Internal emails among U.S. military officers indicate that no sailors watched Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson and traditional Islamic procedures were followed during the ceremony.

The emails, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily blacked out, but are the first public disclosure of government information about the Al Qaeda leader’s death. The emails were released last week by the Defense Department.

Bin Laden was killed May 1, 2011, by a Navy SEAL team that assaulted his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

One email stamped secret and sent on May 2 by a senior Navy officer briefly describes how bin Laden’s body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet and then placed in a weighted bag.

According to another message from the Vinson’s public affairs officer, only a small group of the ship’s leadership was informed of the burial.

“Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed,” the May 2 email from Rear Adm. Charles Gaouette reads. “The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.”

Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid. In a response to separate requests from the AP for information about the mission, the Defense Department said in March that 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 Vinson…

The Pentagon also 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.

The Defense Department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid. One of the stealth helicopters that carried the SEALs to Abbottabad crashed during the mission and its wreckage was left behind. People who lived near bin Laden’s compound took photos of the disabled chopper.

The AP is appealing the Defense Department’s decision. The CIA, which ran the bin Laden raid and has special legal authority to keep information from ever being made public, has not responded to AP’s request for records about the mission.

English: Osama bin Laden interviewed for Daily...

English: Osama bin Laden interviewed for Daily Pakistan in 1997; behind him on the wall is an AK-47 carbine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Overtime Records Always, Always Generate Stories!

Here is yet another:

Patients with serious mental illness are treated at the Capital District Psychiatric Center in Albany. It’s just one of the facilities run by the State Office of Mental Health, also known as “OMH.”

The agency regulates, certifies and oversees 4500 programs across New York, from suicide prevention to counseling. But as NewsChannel 13 learned, the employees that get all that done, rack up a lot of overtime.

Records we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show overtime expenses at OMH spiked nearly eight-million-dollars over the last two years, topping 82 million dollars…and taxpayers foot that bill.

Some of the agency’s employees made more than twice their base salary.

Just consider at what a secure care treatment aide at a Bronx OMH facility pulled down in overtime last year: nearly $116,000. That’s 240% over his base salary of $48,000.

Here in the Capital Region, a mental health therapy aide earned $88,000 in overtime on top of her annual salary of $43,000.

And a psychiatric nurse, earned nearly $80,000 in overtime over her base pay of nearly $56,000…

Enhanced by Zemanta

Watch Heather Brooke’s TED Talk on the Parliament FOI Story…

OK, full disclosure: I am HUGE fan of Heather, having chatted with her often through the years about FOI stuff, so I HAD to pass this along!

If this doesn’t get you pumped up about the power of FOI to change the world, I don’t know what will! And best of all, you can then read an excerpt from her new book, The Revolution Will Be Digitised…

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Boy Scout “Perversion Files” A Study In The Dangers Of Secrecy

A former student, Winston Ross, weighs in on the once-secret files

Just-released “perversion files” of sexual abuse allegations against former leaders of the Boy Scouts of America offer a horrifying and extraordinary look inside 20 years of possible misconduct inside one of the country’s most revered youth institutions.

The files, which include 14,500 pages of abuse reports, were released onlineby Portland, Ore., attorney Kelly Clark, who has represented some of the accusers in lawsuits against the Scouts. The allegations range from indecent exposure to “suspected immoral relations with juveniles.” Most of the 1,200 leaders and volunteers who are named in the files were booted and remained out of the Scouts after their placement in an “Ineligible Volunteer” list, said Clark. Others slipped back in, he said at a press conference on Thursday, just before releasing the files on his website.

Enhanced by Zemanta

FBI To Pay San Fran Journo $470,000

This story makes me so happy for so many reasons. First because I once chatted with Rosenfeld and found him delightful, the epitome of a hard-working scrappy journalist and FOI warrior. Second, because the FBI had its arse handed to it on legal grounds. And finally, because it sends a strong signal to stonewalling politicos everywhere…

 

A federal judge this week ordered the FBI to pay a San Francisco journalist almost half a million dollars for withholding records he requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Seth Rosenfeld, a former reporter at The Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner, won $470,459 in attorneys’ fees for two lawsuits he filed – one in 1990 and another in 2007 – while researching the 1960s protest movement in Berkeley.

The lawsuits were two of five he filed against the FBI and the Justice Department starting in 1985. He requested a variety of records pertaining to the FBI’s covert operations at UC Berkeley and its secret relationship with former President Ronald Reagan.

Rosenfeld used the information he received from the FBI in articles for The Chronicle and the Examiner, as well as in his book “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power,” which was released in August.

Rosenfeld said the FBI had failed to turn over all of the documents he requested, and that it wasn’t until he engaged them in a series of legal battles that the agency released thousands of pages…

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/FBI-must-pay-S-F-journalist-470-000-3965054.php#ixzz29uLznWEu

Enhanced by Zemanta

How Many People Are Trapped in Elevators on Your Campus?

Here is a cool little FOI-driven story

elevator

elevator (Photo credit: Jose R. Borras)

from the student paper at the University of Texas-Arlington:

Brushing shoulder to shoulder, a group of eight Phi Mu Alpha fraternity members crammed into a Fine Arts Building elevator at 8 p.m. in October of last year. Hungry and matted with saturated sweat from marching band practice an hour earlier, the students talked about showering and going out for dinner.

Ding — The elevator passed the third floor. Suddenly, the elevator made an unfamiliar beeping noise, jerked slightly, tossing them, and then stopped.

Music education senior Andres Soto pressed the emergency button to call police and the dispatcher told him the bad news. The dispatcher estimated the men would have to wait about an hour before an elevator technician would arrive and open the doors, Soto said.

Their incident was inconvenient, Soto said. However, it’s not rare. Nearly 800 reports of people trapped in elevators were made between Jan. 1, 2002, and Aug. 26, 2012, according to open records obtained by The Shorthorn in August.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Detroit Free Press Weighs in With a Massive FOI Project

Parole long has been a rich area of investigative reporting. Few outlets have gone to the lengths the Detroit Free Press went to in this GREAT FOI-driven series! Kudos to the reporters and editors who toiled on this important series and to the newspaper’s editorial board, who have been hammering away at the state for its lax oversight of criminals released with little or no supervision…

See the whole project here. It’s a must read for anyone interested in seeing some of the best reporting on the subject ever — and for FOI junkies interested in the knockdown, dragout battles to obtain the information that built the series.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Federal Judge Says USDA Can release Missouri Dog Breeding Info

This FOIA victory is bound to unveil some rich reporting data:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture can release the revenue and sales data of Missouri dog breeders and dealers to the Humane Society, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg held that the agency’s decision to release the data was not arbitrary or capricious.

A group of breeders and dealers had asked the judge to block the agency from releasing information that it claimed was exempt under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Humane Society of the United States had filed multiple FOIA requests in 2009, seeking reports that breeders and dealers file annually with the USDA. Those reports list their gross revenue and/or commissions from the past year’s dog sales, the number of dogs bought and sold that year and, for dealers, the difference between the sale price and purchase price of those dogs.

Missouri breeders and dealers claimed that the Humane Society sought the information “to destroy” their businesses.

They argued that data about their annual sales revenue and volume were protected by two FOIA exemptions: one for privileged or confidential “trade secrets and commercial or financial information” and another for files for which disclosure would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The USDA initially redacted the revenue and sales data before releasing the reports, but later backtracked, concluding that the forms were not protected by either exemption. It explained that much of the information included in the annual reports is publicly available, and that disclosure was unlikely to cause “substantial competitive harm.”

Full story here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Oh Yeah, It’s an Insane Clown Posse FOI Story!

This is bound to do wonders for our analytics…

Insane Clown Posse have officially sued the FBI for information about what prompted the agency to list the group’s “Juggalo” fans as a gang, according to a statement on the group’s website.

The suit, filed earlier this week, claims the FBI improperly withheld records Insane Clown Posse had requested under the Freedom of Information Act. ICP sought records regarding an investigation that landed the Juggalos in the government’s National Gang Threat Assessment report in 2011. Parts of the report describe Juggalos as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang” and said they “exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence.”

Rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope announced in August at the Gathering of the Juggalos that they intended to sue. “We are not a gang!” the group’s statement reads. “We are a family! We come together for our luv of the Insane Clown Posse, Psychopathic Records and our Juggalo pride. Can we take a fuckin’ second to note that Jimmy Buffett’s Parrot Heads, Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, Justin Bieber’s Beliebers, the Grateful Dead’s Deadheads and many more haven’t been labeled as a gang?”

Read more here

Insane Clown Posse

Cover of Insane Clown Posse

.

Enhanced by Zemanta