NEW FOIA Reforms: A Chance to Shine Some Light on Scientology's IRS Tax Exemption

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
A small ray of hope appears that the House will take up the Senate's FOIA Improvement Act in the next session...

How a popular government-transparency bill suddenly died in Congress
By Josh Hicks, Wapo Federal Eye 12/16/2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs...-transparency-bill-suddenly-died-in-congress/
Boehner’s office said Monday that the Senate, which plans to remain in session through Wednesday, could quickly take up the House-passed bill if its members really want to address government transparency.

“Without that, we look forward to working to resolve this issue early in the new Congress,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
 

Lone Star

Crusader
A small ray of hope appears that the House will take up the Senate's FOIA Improvement Act in the next session...

How a popular government-transparency bill suddenly died in Congress
By Josh Hicks, Wapo Federal Eye 12/16/2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs...-transparency-bill-suddenly-died-in-congress/

A small ray that will soon be a flicker, and then snuffed out completely. I don't think Boehner wants any part of this bill, and he can control the flow of legislation. This is something he and Obama agree with: Government Secrecy at all costs. I'm sure McConnell agrees too and he'll be running the Senate. Boehner and McConnell know that a Republican will probably succeed Obama, so they don't want FOIA to be updated and strengthened. They are savvy and think long term. Plus, I'm sure they want the Bush administration's secrets to remain just that.

These guys are snakes. My apologies to actual snakes.
 

Type4_PTS

Diamond Invictus SP
Not cool... Lone Star-deux called it first.

Obama’s Justice Department secretly helped kill FOIA transparency bill
By Trevor Timm, via Freedom of the Press Foundation reprinted on Boing Boing, 12/18/2014
http://boingboing.net/2014/12/17/obamas-justice-department-s.html

This ^^^ is an excellent article by Trevor Timm of Freedom of the Press Foundation, and would be a good one to share on social media.

If the media was doing it's job here they'd be grilling Obama, Holder, and Boehner about the real reason this bill was killed.
 
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Type4_PTS

Diamond Invictus SP
Fear of impeachment? Conviction? Or just good ol' embarrassment and loss of credibility?

Or all of the above.

For whatever reason, they've got a fear of government transparency and accountability which they claim to support.

Obama said:

A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.

<snip>

Read Full Memo regarding FOIA: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Freedom_of_Information_Act/


Maybe we can use one of those White House petitions to put some more pressure on him to lobby for this bill he claims to support and which has overwhelming bipartisan support.
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Maybe we can use one of those White House petitions to put some more pressure on him to lobby for this bill he claims to support and which has overwhelming bipartisan support.

FWIW I had floated the petition idea in the immediate aftermath of "Boehner killed it" proclamation to one of the most vocal opengov advocates in the Twitter campaign. Personally, I really like the idea of one of the advocacy groups that promoted/supported the bill putting one up and getting their membership to spread it. But it got no traction after I floated it.
 

Lone Star

Crusader
Sheesh... this is a real eye opener. The sordid history of FOIA reforms never making it out of congress runs far deeper than I realized.

What We Can Learn from the Death of a Unanimously-Supported FOIA Bill, and Janus-Faced Support for Open Government
By Nate Jones, National Security Archive 12/18/2014
http://nsarchive.wordpress.com/2014...-and-janus-faced-support-for-open-government/

To me this is yet another powerful symbol of the death of our Constitutional Republic based on Democratic principles. As the country and the world slides back into a major recession which will quickly become a depression like we've never seen before, or even read about in history, the climate will be a perfect storm for an even more fascist style government.

All of the major police departments, and even many smaller ones are just about fully militarized now with equipment, guns, and armor given to them freely by the DoD. The California Highway Patrol openly calls itself a paramilitary force when recruiting.

With governments at all levels being more secretive than ever, and openly hostile to anyone who tries to find out what they're doing, including journalists, the stage is set for a massive clamp down when the shit really hits the fan.
 

Type4_PTS

Diamond Invictus SP
Sheesh... this is a real eye opener. The sordid history of FOIA reforms never making it out of congress runs far deeper than I realized.

What We Can Learn from the Death of a Unanimously-Supported FOIA Bill, and Janus-Faced Support for Open Government
By Nate Jones, National Security Archive 12/18/2014
http://nsarchive.wordpress.com/2014...-and-janus-faced-support-for-open-government/


From this article you linked to, it says:

(red added by me)

Much has correctly been written about the silence by the mainstream media on the bill. Following Alex Howard’s lead, the New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan and Kelly O’brien at the Columbia Journalism Review have written scathing and necessary pieces condemning mainstream media’s ignorance of this bill. As Sullivan asked, “If the press won’t represent itself — and the people — by showing some interest in the free flow of government information, who will?”

That the press is mostly silent on this issue is a seriously bad indicator.

If they are silent on this then I wonder what else they're silent about. :ohmy:
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
We have two, new initiatives brewing on the hill for FOIA reform. This time, parallel bills that are supposedly identical to last year's Senate bill have been drafted and simultaneously launched for both branches of congress.

Lawmakers try again on FOIA reform

http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2015/02/lawmakers-try-again-on-foia-reform-202005.html
Less than two months after a bill to reform the Freedom of Information Act died in the House, four lawmakers announced Monday that they're taking another shot at improving the often frustrating process through which journalists, activists and other citizens can request federal government records.

The bills, introduced in the House by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and in the Senate by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), are similar to measures that passed the House last February and the Senate in December but failed to win final approval before the House recessed for the year.

The legislation would place a presumption of openness in the FOIA statute and require agencies to justify withholding of information by showing a specific harm that is foreseeable from disclosure.

The bills would also put a 25-year sunset on agencies' ability to withhold records reflecting internal deliberations or other privileged communications. Openness advocates complain that the "deliberative process privilege" is often interpreted so broadly that it obscures virtually all of the inner workings of government that FOIA.

What Senator Leahy, he who sponsored the last bill, had to say about the new Senate bill:
http://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/cornyn-and-leahy-introduce-foia-legislation

Unfortunately, Reps Issa and Cummings have not put forth a similar statement for the House version of this bill. And I haven't had a chance yet to read both bills and compare it to what was up for vote last year. So I can neither confirm or deny that they are "nearly identical" as Sen. Leahy has claimed. But FWIW, here they are:

Senate bill: http://www.leahy.senate.gov/download/alb15124
House bill: http://images.politico.com/global/2015/02/02/house_foia_oversight_and_implementation_act_of_2015.pdf

Current status here is the process has essentially started over, from scratch. Both bills need to be assigned to the appropriate panel for review. revision and/or voting, and then brought to floor for a full vote. The Senate has moved on the first step and Leahy's bill is on the agenda for tomorrow. Once we get passed the panel debate and refinement stage, then the time will come for another round of harpooning your senators and reps to support the new reform effort.
 
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AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Some more info on the new initiatives.

FOIA Reform Bills Revived in Both Chambers of Congress
http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2015/02/foia-reform-bills-revived-both-chambers-congress/104550/

Analysis of and Prospects for New House and Senate FOIA Bills
https://nsarchive.wordpress.com/201...nd-prospects-for-house-and-senate-foia-bills/

S. 337: FOIA Improvement Act of 2015
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/s337
Introduced and referred to Committee on Feb 2, 2015
Scheduled for the following committee meetings: Feb 5, 2015 10:30 a.m. — Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Current committee members: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/about/members (new nominations might not be finalized yet)

H.R. 653: To amend ...Freedom of Information Act
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653
Introduced and referred to Committee on Feb 2, 2015
Committee assignment: House Oversight and Government Reform
Current committee members: http://oversight.house.gov/subcommittee/full-committee/ (new nominations might not be finalized yet)

At this stage of things, the House committee is probably the biggest area of concern due to this being their first vetting of most (but not all) of the significant changes introduced by last year's Senate bill. There is also some big changes in the people assigned to this committee that includes a brand new chairman and at least 10 newly or recently elected noobs. So the ideal target for early harpooning would be for peeps who have an elected official on the above link for current Oversight committee members, with the major points to make being covered the second link in this post.
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Meanwhile, in today's Senate Judiciary Committee meeting...

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tumblr_inline_n4kr6wmzdv1sed4bl.gif
 

Type4_PTS

Diamond Invictus SP
From the Daily Signal:

How to Free the Government’s Grip on Freedom of Information
Sharyl Attkisson /@SharylAttkisson/February 05, 2015

There is something on which Democrats and Republicans agree: the Freedom of Information Act is broken.

The law, known as FOIA, is intended to facilitate the timely release of public information. Instead, federal officials routinely use it to delay and obstruct the release of information.

A bipartisan effort to reform the law died at the end of last year. This year, both the House and Senate have moved quickly to re-introduce versions of their bills.

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the FOIA Improvement Act of 2015. The legislation is an improvement but won’t fix all the problems that currently exist. (Update: The committee unanimously approved the legislation.)

Based on my own experience, there are five specific actions that Congress could take to improve government transparency. (You can read about them in detail below.)

  1. Review of FOIA documents by White House “equities” should be barred.
  2. The “presumption in favor of disclosure” by itself will have no meaningful effect.
  3. Federal agencies should be forced to take proactive steps that will result in reducing their FOIA workload and response times.
  4. Officials who intentionally evade FOIA should be penalized.
  5. The Department of Justice should be forbidden from using tax dollars to defend itself and other federal agencies in FOIA lawsuits, except when funding is approved by Congress on a case-by-case basis.
<snip>

Full Story: http://dailysignal.com/2015/02/05/free-governments-grip-freedom-information/
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
H.R. 653: To amend ...Freedom of Information Act
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653
Introduced and referred to Committee on Feb 2, 2015
Committee assignment: House Oversight and Government Reform
Current committee members: http://oversight.house.gov/subcommittee/full-committee/ <-- UPDATED/FINALIZED

At this stage of things, the House committee is probably the biggest area of concern due to this being their first vetting of most (but not all) of the significant changes introduced by last year's Senate bill. There is also some big changes in the people assigned to this committee that includes a brand new chairman and at least 10 newly or recently elected noobs. So the ideal target for early harpooning would be for peeps who have an elected official on the above link for current Oversight committee members, with the major points to make being covered the second link in this post.

BUMP FOR PROGRESS on the FOIA Reform Bill front - the first House Committee hearing of their version of the 2015 proposed legislation happens on Friday, Feb. 27th:

http://oversight.house.gov/hearing/ensuring-government-transparency-foia-reform/

Anybody who has a congress critter listed on the full committee page I've bolded in the quote on this post - please consider sending them an email urging them to support this bill and help bring it to the House Floor for a full vote.
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
More news: 2 new co-sponsors jumped on the House FOIA bill once it was added to the committee meeting schedule - Rep. Eleanor Norton [D-DC0] and Rep. Gerald Connolly [D-VA11].

These are in addition to the bill's original sponsor Rep, Darrell Issa [R-CA49] and his initial co-sponsors Rep. Elijah Cummings [D-MD7] and Rep. Mike Quigley [D-IL5]

Needs MOAR GOP supporters.

EDIT: for Twitter users, the committee chairman and other GOP committee members can be targeted at @jasoninthehouse and @GOPoversight
 
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AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Friday February 26, 2015 hearing on Ensuring Government Transparency Through FOIA Reform is scheduled to begin at 9am and will be broadcast live over the internet. If I have this figured out rightly, that streaming broadcast will show up online here:

http://oversight.house.gov/hearing/ensuring-government-transparency-foia-reform/

Live stream is live and will be archived on the above link. But to follow along in real time, it works better to tune in here and click the "skip to live" button at the bottom of the player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdUMfG_ORB8#t=110
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Recap of the crucial points:

The speaker named Mr. Blum covers the important issues. He's a well known open government advocate from @SunshineInGov

Most of the questions asked by congress critters were dumb and uninformed, except for Elijah Cummings (black dude who is a co-sponsor of the bill). The chairman (Meadows) was painfully clueless most of the time.

The woman speaker (Nisbet) drug a bunch of high-level administrative issues into the discussion that weren't even targeted in the legislation for readdress. This was a major disappointment because her input seems likely to derail things if she submits additional recommendations.

The congressional record is open for five more days for other congress critters to submit written remarks or questions.
 
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