In Mother Jones, Will Potter profiles Ryan Shapiro, a punk rocker-turned-PhD student who wanted to study how the FBI monitors animal-rights activists. Through trial and error, and a lot of digging, he devised a perfectly legal, highly effective strategy to unearth sensitive documents from the bureau's 'byzantine' filing system. So now the FBI is petitioning the United States District Court in Washington, DC, to prevent the release of 350,000 pages of documents he's after. If the court buys the FBI's argument here, it could make it harder for scholars and journalists to keep tabs on federal agencies.
Meet the Punk Rocker Who Can Liberate Your FBI File. By Will Potter. Mother Jones. Wed Nov. 13, 2013
According to the Justice Department, this tattooed activist-turned-academic is the FBI's "most prolific" Freedom of Information Act requester—filing, during one period in 2011, upward of two documents requests a day. In the course of his doctoral work, which examines how the FBI monitors and investigates protesters, Shapiro has developed a novel, legal, and highly effective approach to mining the agency's records. Which is why the government is petitioning the United States District Court in Washington, DC, to prevent the release of 350,000 pages of documents he's after.
The Guardian wrote yesterday, "Conservative party deletes archive of speeches from internet." The Conservative Party has attempted to delete from their website -- as well as from the Internet Archive! -- all their speeches and press releases online from the past 10 years, including one in which David Cameron promises to use the Internet to make politicians 'more accountable'.
This is troubling news, but something as old as politicians -- see for example ALA's long-running serial "Less access to less information by and about the US government" which ran from 1981 - 1998. But it should also come as yet another warning to librarians and archivists of the dire need to harvest and preserve government information and store content off of .gov servers.
The party has removed the archive from its public website, erasing records of speeches and press releases from 2000 until May 2010. The effect will be to remove any speeches and articles during the Tories' modernisation period, including its commitment to spend the same as a Labour government.
The Labour MP Sheila Gilmore accused the party of a cynical stunt, adding: "It will take more than David Cameron pressing delete to make people forget about his broken promises and failure to stand up for anyone beyond a privileged few."
In a remarkable step the party has also blocked access to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, a US-based library that captures webpages for future generations, using a software robot that directs search engines not to access the pages.
Great news from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts:
A project providing free online access to federal court opinions has expanded to include 64 courts. The federal Judiciary and the Government Printing Office partner through the GPO’s Federal Digital System, FDsys, to provide public access to more than 750,000 opinions, many dating back to 2004.
The Judicial Conference approved national implementation of the project in September 2012, expanding participation from the original 29 courts. FDsys currently contains opinions from 8 appellate courts, 20 district courts, and 35 bankruptcy courts.
Federal court opinions are one of the most heavily used collections on FDsys, with millions of retrievals each month. Opinions are pulled nightly from the courts’ Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) systems and sent to the GPO, where they are posted on the FDsys website. Collections on FDsys are divided into appellate, district or bankruptcy court opinions and are text-searchable across courts. FDsys also allows embedded animation and audio – an innovation previously only available with opinions posted on a court’s own website or on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER).
According to the American Assn of Law Libraries (AALL) "blawg:"
During last week’s Open Government Partnership (OGP) meeting in London, the Obama administration released a preview of its U.S. Open Government National Action Plan 2.0 (NAP). While the second NAP will not be finalized until December 2013, six new commitments to further advance the goals of transparency and accountability in the federal government were announced:
- Expand Open Data
- Modernize the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
- Increase Fiscal Transparency
- Increase Corporate Transparency
- Advance Citizen Engagement and Empowerment
- More Effectively Manage Public Resources
This is great news for open government (though it's still troubling how the administration is walking a very thin, troubling line in re to the NSA and their attacks on whistleblowers). I hope the administration and policy makers on open government will take some cues from our 2010 Letter to Deputy CTO Noveck: "Open Government Publications".
The audiobook "Getting to Know the President" was recently released by the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI). It's available on GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys) in MP3 format, broken into several chapters. It's also available in PDF on the CIA site.
CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI) has released its first audio book, Getting to Know the President (Second Edition). The audio book takes listeners inside the history of CIA briefings to presidential candidates and presidents-elect from 1952-2004, all through the eyes of former CIA Inspector General and Director for Intelligence John Helgerson. This second edition of Getting to Know the President updates Helgerson’s 1996 book with reflections on the transition to President George W. Bush in 2000 and the briefings provided to his Democratic challengers in 2004.
The book offers a look into the interactions of political figures and intelligence professionals across 10 presidential transitions. Helgerson relies on internal documents, public memoirs and interviews with four former presidents, several former Directors of Central Intelligence and Directors of National Intelligence. The result is a highly engaging account, providing both anecdote and analysis.
It's hard to believe we're rapidly approaching FGI's 9 year anniversary(!). We'd like to ring in our 10th year with an invitation to the community to become citizen documents bloggers. We don't want to have news and information critical to the govt information community fall through the cracks -- fugitive news?! -- and so we need your help. Are you a news hound? Maybe you'd like to cover the "doc in the news" beat like the one we just posted. Passionate about fugitive documents? Freshen up the blog with periodic posts about interesting fugitives -- perhaps ones you've found on the lostdocs blog. Policy wonk? You could set up Govtrack.us alerts and write about legislation of interest to libraries and the docs community.
The possibilities are limitless, but we need your help to make them a reality. Contact us at freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com if you're intrigued.
I ran across a story in the Guardian on Friday that sent me on a document hunt. Congressman Alan Grayson wrote a piece in which he referenced the Pike Committee investigation of the CIA:
"Congressional oversight of the NSA is a joke. I should know, I'm in Congress." Alan Grayson. The Guardian, Friday 25 October 2013.
In the 1970s, Congressman Otis Pike of New York chaired a special congressional committee to investigate abuses by the American so-called "intelligence community" – the spies. After the investigation, Pike commented:
'It took this investigation to convince me that I had always been told lies, to make me realize that I was tired of being told lies. I'm tired of the spies telling lies, too.'
Pike's investigation initiated one of the first congressional oversight debates for the vast and hidden collective of espionage agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA). Before the Pike Commission, Congress was kept in the dark about them – a tactic designed to thwart congressional deterrence of the sometimes illegal and often shocking activities carried out by the "intelligence community". Today, we are seeing a repeat of this professional voyeurism by our nation's spies, on an unprecedented and pervasive scale.
I love the Freedom of Information Act (United States) (FOIA)! It's a vital tool to researchers, journalists and the public -- so much so that there are now several sites that try to help manage the sometimes long and arduous FOIA process (see MuckRock and FOIA Machine). So I'm constantly on the lookout for sites that post FOIA'd documents that I can add to my FOIA web harvesting archive.
One such site that has long had a place in my govt documents heart is the Government Attic. This is a truly amazing site in which to "rummage." The site has posted thousands of documents(!) from their many FOIA requests including:
- FOIA logs (FOIAs about FOIAs are really handy!)
- documents across a wide swath of government activity like Inspector Generals of various agencies
- internal agency Websites
- agencies' self-identified interesting documents
- FBI high visibility memos
- DoD resale activities border review (reviews which videos and magazines could be sold on military bases)
- a compilation of FBI documents concerning the security of telephone services, 1952-1995 (this one was so interesting that I have stored a local copy and had it cataloged for our library!).
They also have a Links page which includes information about FOIA, guides on how to submit FOIA requests, etc.
What's love got to do with it? further thoughts on libraries and collections
Rick Anderson, in his Ithaka S+R "Issue Brief" paper, Can’t Buy Us Love: The Declining Importance of Library Books and the Rising Importance of Special Collections, proposes a radically different vision of the future of libraries in which libraries cede the organization, preservation, and curation of large areas of the information landscape to individuals and the private sector.
“If permanence of legal thought is important to legal scholarship then it must be preserved consciously.”
--Howard A. Denemark, "The Death of Law Reviews has Been Predicted: What Might be Lost When the Last Law Review Shuts Down?" 27 SETON HALL L. REV. 1, 12 (1996).
According to a new study by Jonathan Zittrain and Kendra Albert at the Harvard Law School (Zittrain also has affiliations with Harvard's Kennedy School, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society) "49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work. And more than 70% of the links in such journals as the Harvard Law Review (in that case measured from 1999 to 2012), currently don’t work. As time passes, the number of non-working links increases." The study builds off of other great link rot studies such those done annually since 2010 by the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group and the more resent one by Raizel Liebler and June Liebert in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology.