Bloomberg has obtained previously secret loan documents from the Federal Reserve Bank and has made those documents available for download (see zip file link below).
- Fed Will Release Bank Loan Data as Top Court Rejects Appeal, By Greg Stohr and Bob Ivry, Bloomberg (Mar 21, 2011).
The order marks the first time a court has forced the Fed to reveal the names of banks that borrowed from its oldest lending program, the 98-year-old discount window. The disclosures, together with details of six bailout programs released by the central bank in December under a congressional mandate, would give taxpayers insight into the Fed's unprecedented $3.5 trillion effort to stem the 2008 financial panic.
- Fed Releases Discount-Window Loan Records During Crisis Under Court Order, By Craig Torres, Bloomberg (Mar 31, 2011).
The Federal Reserve released thousands of pages of secret loan documents under court order, almost three years after Bloomberg LP first requested details of the central bank's unprecedented support to banks during the financial crisis.
- Foreign Banks Tapped Fed’s Secret Lifeline Most at Crisis Peak, By Bradley Keoun and Craig Torres, Bloomberg (Apr 1, 2011).
Bloomberg News is posting the Fed documents here for subscribers to the Bloomberg Professional Service as well as online at www.bloomberg.com.
- zip file [135 MB, unzips to 175 MB and 894 PDF files].
Stories based on the document release are beginning to appear in the press. Here is one from the Sunday New York Times:
- The Bank Run We Knew So Little About, By GRETCHEN MORGENSON, New York Times (April 2, 2011)
Because it's Sunshine Week, there's lots of news about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). First off, the US Department of Justice just announced their new site FOIA.gov as a central repository for FOIA compliance across the Federal government, agency FOIA data since 2008 (detailed reports here), and FOIA spotlight in the news. Interestingly, they haven't put up a link to individual agency FOIA electronic reading rooms, but I've sent in that request and hopefully it'll soon be added to the site.
Do you want to assist in the FOIA process? If so, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a job for you. The EFF has so many liberated/FOIA'd documents in the realms of privacy, due process and civil liberties, that they're seeking help from the public to pore over those liberated government docs as part of their cooperative FOIA review project.
Here's how the Cooperating FOIA list will work: Send us an email to put your name on our list. When we get government documents in response to a FOIA request, we'll post a note to the list with a basic description of the project (for example: "Documents from DHS detailing government use of social media - approximately 100 pages" or "Documents from FBI detailing misuse of National Security Letters - approximately 10,000 pages"). If you're on the list and are interested, you contact us, and we'll tell you how to access pdf versions of the documents and what we're looking for in the information. Then you review the documents and let us know what you find.
Interested in being a Cooperating FOIA Reviewer? Send a note to email@example.com with your name, email address, and some brief information on who you are and what you're interested in, and we'll add you to the list.
Amidst the spirited discussion here and elsewhere about Wikileaks, you might have missed the fact that Donald Rumsfeld set up a web site (rumsfeld.com) with hundreds of "declassified or previously unreleased documents" to accompany his new book. (Rumsfeld compared his "archive" to a sort of legitimate version of Wikileaks.) Rumsfeld didn't have to go through that pesky FOIA process to get or release those documents either. (See: Rumsfeld’s Snowflake, “Subject:Porpoises” and Rumsfeld Memoir Highlights VIP Access to Government Files).
Now, here is more news:
John Cook at Gawker has posted a collection of documents that Donald Rumsfeld neglected to include in his archival Rumsfeld Papers website that accompanied the publication of his recent memoir. Cook and company obtained the documents by sending a FOIA request to the Defense Department for all the records that Rumsfeld had requested and previously obtained from DOD via FOIA. The result was many documents that did not make their way into Rumsfeld’s online collection. The documents (available in their entirety here) portray Rumsfeld “curious to know what the rush is” in bringing enemy combatant and U.S. Citizen John Walker Lindh to a speedy trial, interested in rationalizing why administration policies toward detainees was "perfectly legal, proper, and historically correct," and emphasizing that administration officials continued "referring to our 'plan'."
--FRINFORMSUM: 2/24/2011, Unredacted, by Seth Maddox.
In an interesting court decision, a federal judge ruled last week that some federal agencies had wrongly turned over information in unsearchable PDF files. The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, "is regarded as an expert on electronic discovery issues, having written three books on the subject."
In addition, the judge ruled that the agency must produce requested requested metadata such as the date files were created and modified.
- Federal judge says unsearchable PDFs 'not sufficient disclosure', by Wendell Cochran, Investigative Reporting Workshop, American University School of Communication (Feb. 8, 2011)
Although this is surely not the last word in either this particular case or in case law in general on these issues, it is a significant step. It demonstrates that the courts are beginning to recognize that simple "access" to "information" is not sufficient any more. Information must be provided in formats that enable its use and re-use. In this particular case, plaintiffs had requested spreadsheets and received instead simple images of pages or "screen shots."
This is relevant to the dissemination of all government information. Governments must make their information not just accessible and viewable, but usable and re-usable. Perhaps more case law will help persuade agencies of the need to produce information originally in open, re-usable, and therefore preservable, digital formats.
Hat tip to Kevin Taglang!
A Condensed User Guide for FOIA Requests, by Nicole Johnson, UNREDACTED: The National Security Archive blog (February 3, 2011).
The National Security Archive has committed an entire section of its website, thirteen blog entries, and one 122-page manual, among other resources, to explain how users can effectively engage FOIA. My purpose in writing this blog is to provide you with a single reference for all FOIA inquiries. Ambitious, but possible through the invention of hyperlinks.
Phil Lapsley and Michael Ravnitzky gave an intriguing talk on Freedom of Information Act (United States) or FOIA at the Next HOPE Conference, New York City, July 2010. The talk was entitled "Rummaging in the Government's Attic: Lessons Learned from More Than 1,000 Freedom of Information Act Requests."
Thanks Phil and Michael for the informative talk and for and for your studies of FOIA!
[originally posted on Govdoc-l listserv]
I'm quite partial to honeybees since I was a hobbyist beekeeper (got my first bees from the inimitable Richard Taylor on whom David Foster Wallace wrote his undergraduate honors thesis). And so I was particularly bummed about the news of a leaked EPA document (PDF) in which, despite warnings by EPA Scientists about the pesticide clothianidin being toxic to honeybees, EPA approved its use anyway. "Clothianidin has already been banned by Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia for its toxic effects. So why won't the EPA follow? The answer probably has something to do with the American affinity for corn products. But without honey bees, our entire food supply is in trouble."
For more on honeybee colony collapse disorder, I'd highly recommend seeing the documentary Queen of the Sun
[Update 1: some agencies, like the Department of Defense and State Department, already make their FOIA logs available. The Government Attic has a good list of agencies with logs as well. See this list of agency FOIA reading rooms and Stanford Library's FOIA collection. JRJ]
I missed this when it was first published on Saturday (slow news day right?!). Last week Congressman Darrell Issa, the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to 180 federal agencies, from the Department of Defense to the Social Security Administration, asking for electronic files containing the names of people who requested the documents, the date of their requests and a description of information they sought. For those still pending after more than 45 days, he also asked for any communication between the requestor and the federal agency.
Mr. Issa says he wants to make sure agencies respond in a timely fashion to Freedom of Information Act requests and do not delay them out of political considerations. But, as the NYT notes, the "federal government receives about 600,000 FOIA requests ... a vast majority from corporate executives seeking information on competitors that might do business with the government."
Republican Congressman Proposes Tracking Freedom of Information Act Requests. Eric Liption. NY Times.
Representative Darrell Issa calls it a way to promote transparency: a request for the names of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, business executives, journalists and others who have requested copies of federal government documents in recent years.
Mr. Issa, a California Republican and the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says he wants to make sure agencies respond in a timely fashion to Freedom of Information Act requests and do not delay them out of political considerations.
But his extraordinary request worries some civil libertarians. It “just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking,” said David Cuillier, a University of Arizona journalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. “It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good.”
Mr. Issa sent a letter on Tuesday asking 180 federal agencies, from the Department of Defense to the Social Security Administration, for electronic files containing the names of people who requested the documents, the date of their requests and a description of information they sought. For those still pending after more than 45 days, he also asked for any communication between the requestor and the federal agency. The request covers the final three years of Bush administration and the first two years of President Obama’s.
“Our interest is not in the private citizens who make the requests,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Mr. Issa. “We are looking at government responses to these Freedom of Information requests and the only way to measure that is to tally all that information.”
[Thanks for the tip Crooks and Liars!]
Justice Department Censors Nazi-Hunting History, ("National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 331"), National Security Archive, George Washington University, November 13, 2010.
The Department of Justice censored dozens of pages of a candid history of Nazi-hunting (and Nazi-protecting) by the U.S. government to such a self-defeating extent that former officials leaked the entire document to the New York Times this week, instead of fulfilling the Freedom of Information request and lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive and its counsel David Sobel.
"Now that we can compare the redacted document with the complete text of the original report, it is clear that the Justice Department is withholding information without legal justification," said David Sobel.
...The Archive posted today its original FOIA request, the government's response, our appeal by counsel David Sobel, the legal complaint in the case National Security Archive v. Department of Justice, the interim response from DoJ, the "Vaughn index" of withheld pages and alleged justifications for the withholding, and the 45 pages of partial and highly-redacted response.
In an article entitled "In Supreme Court Work, Early Views of Kagan" Charlie Savage at the NY Times has just released a ton(!) of memos written by SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan during her time as a young law clerk working for Justice Thurgood Marshall at the Supreme Court.
The latest release with more than 46,500 pages re: SCOTUS Nominee, Elena Kagan, are now available on The Clinton Library Web Site.
or Download Seven Large PDF Files (about 205 Megs each) and Access All Pages in All Files
See Also: Previously Released Documents re: Elena Kagan
[Thanks for the heads-up Gary Price at ResourceShelf!]