The FCC this week agreed to pay a journalist $43,000 to settle a lawsuit over the agency’s decision to withhold records about fake comments posted to its website. The FCC on Wednesday settled the lawsuit with freelance reporter Jason Prechtel, who sued two years ago after the FCC did not fulfill his documents request.
Freedom of information requests are an important tool for any reporter, not just for investigative teams. Requesting public documents is one of the best ways to keep government agencies accountable.
This morning, Gizmodo filed a lawsuit against the FBI seeking access to any files it holds on Roger Ailes. Gizmodo sought access to the records under the Freedom of Information Act on May 18, the day Ailes was found dead in his Palm Beach home due to a traumatic brain injury aggravated by his hemophilia. As one the most influential and controversial political figures of his era, we believe these files are likely to exist. The FBI failed to provide or formally deny access to the records within the time period allowed under the federal statute.
In early April, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling directed multiple agencies under his committee’s jurisdiction to start classifying all communications with the committee as official “congressional records” not subject to FOIA. Now a conservative group is resisting this effort to kneecap FOIA.
The trade group files a Freedom of Information request for documents the commission used in formulating its proposed revision of the ownership rules.
The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to expand the public’s access to government records, after a year of delay. The Senate’s move means both chambers have now passed similar proposals to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Differences will still need to be resolved before the measure makes it to President Obama’s desk — potentially forcing the administration’s hand on a bill it has previously lobbied against.
The House on Monday passed legislation that would create the most sweeping reforms to federal open records laws in nearly a decade. Approved by voice vote, the measure would limit exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that now allow federal agencies to hold back information.
The FBI’s new eFOIA platform comes with new terms: hand over a government-issued ID or forget about having your request filled.
Some journalists have expressed concerns in recent days over a federal government pilot program that would release documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act to the public via online portals. “It would absolutely hurt journalists’ ability to report on documents they obtained through a FOIA request if the government agency is going to immediately make records available to the public,” noted Vice News investigative reporter Jason Leopold.
The White House is removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, making official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office. The White House said the cleanup of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings that hold that the office is not subject to the transparency law. The office handles, among other things, White House record-keeping duties like the archiving of emails.
An update to the Freedom of Information Act squeezed through the Senate on Monday in a surprise move that sets up legislative action in the House. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) withdrew opposition to an FOIA update Monday, just hours before the measure would have died for the year. The bill would make permanent an executive order from President Obama that federal agencies adopt a “presumption of openness” toward record requests.
WPTV’s Lynn Walsh: “I feel it is important for us as journalists to hold freedom of information and public information laws to the laws and statutes that they are. So, with that in mind, here are a few things to think about when trying to obtain information.”