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!]
[UPDATE: Scroll down for list of library happenings for Sunshine Week]
Spring has sprung with a vengeance here in SF. And that could only mean one thing: Sunshine Week!! Yes it's time once again to feel the warm FOIA on your cheek, to discuss and raise awareness of the importance of free and open government information, transparency and the Freedom of Information Act. Be on the lookout for editorials in your local newspaper (like this one in the Cleveland Plain Dealer), discuss FOIA with your friends and family (you'll be glad you did :-)) and highlight it in your libraries -- perhaps by having a public showing of the OpenTheGovernment Webcast!
OpenTheGovernment.org is having a Sunshine Week Webcast 12-2PM EST on Friday March 19 entitled "Building Transparency." The Webcast will include a host of great speakers including Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, John Wonderlich, Policy Director at the Sunlight Foundation, Kevin Goldberg, American Society of News Editors (ASNE) counsel, Miriam Nisbet, Director of the new Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), Melanie Sloan, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Melanie Pustay, Director of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Information Policy (OIP), Eric Gundersen, President and co-founder of Development Seed and Sean Moulton, Director of Federal Information Policy at OMB Watch. It should be a great discussion so hope you can tune in.
What libraries and others are doing for Sunshine Week:
- Northern CA Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL), in association with the Special Library Association Sierra Nevada Chapter, is sponsoring 2 Sunshine Week events; one in Sacramento and one in San Francisco. Both have interesting lists of speakers and require registration for a small fee ($20 for Sacramento event and $15 for SF event). In addition, the SF event immediately precedes the NOCALL Spring Institute on information piracy, "Piracy on the Barbary Coast" which NOCALL and SLA members can attend at the NOCALL member rate, and later in the evening, a celebration of NOCALL's 30th anniversary.
- Freedom of Information Day at the New York Public Library. Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 10:30 - noon. Conference Room 18 on the lower level of New York Public Library (188 Madison Ave. @ 34th St.).
This year's guest speaker is Heather Joseph, Executive Director, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, (SPARC), an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to create a more open system of scholarly communications. FOIA day has been held at NYPL annually since 1993.
- California State University San Bernardino Pfau Library has partnered with the San Bernardino League of Women Voters to be a site for the OpenTheGovernment.org webinar on government transparency. This is the second year that Pfau Library has participated. You can see video of last year.
- The web site www.TalkStandards.com will focus on open government during its monthly online forum. The forum will take place on Thursday March 18th from 8-12 Pacific / 11-3 EST / 4-8pm GMT.
TalkStandards is an active online community where ICT developers, researchers, policymakers and other interested parties can share ideas and collaborate on the global standards system. Each month, a timely topic is chosen (last month, it was eHealth, for example).
Gabriela Schneider, the Communications Director of the Sunlight Foundation, writes:
David Brisson marked the completion of his fall internship at Sunlight today by posting a recap of his independent research project. Since it digs into FOIA, I thought you all would appreciate it: http://blog.sunlightfoundation.com/2009/12/18/can-the-internet-save-foia...
DocumentCloud is a new service being developed with startup funding from the James L. Knight Foundation. It sounds like an excellent service. It will be software, a Web site, and a set of open standards that will make original source documents easy to find, share, read and collaborate on, anywhere on the Web."
I cannot help but wonder why libraries are not at the forefront of projects like this.
Started by reporters at the New York Times and ProPublica, this service will give individuals and organizations involved in original reporting mechanisms for sharing the documents they obtain and discover and making those documents available to other for new reporting and new uses.
Over two dozen organizations are working on the development of DocumentCloud, including traditional publications and news organizations such as The Atlantic, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, The Seattle Times, Thomson Reuters, Washington Post, and WNYC Radio, as well as organizations that collect and publish documents, such as The National Security Archive, ACLU National Security Project, OpenCRS, and the Sunlight Foundation,
Users will be able to search for documents by date, topic, person, location, etc. and will be able to do "document dives," collaboratively examining large sets of documents. Think of it as a card catalog for primary source documents. DocumentCloud is not meant to be a general document hosting service, like Scribd, Docstoc or Google Docs. Our goal is to build a service that makes source documents easier to find and share regardless of where they are hosted. It is a complement to these services, and not a competitor. the goal is to make documents even easier to find on search engines. DocumentCloud will have information about documents and relations between them, for example what locations, people, or organizations a group of documents have in common. Conceived of by journalists working at ProPublica and The New York Times, DocumentCloud will be managed as an independent nonprofit.
Their FAQ notes: "Will there be an API? Hell yes."
See also: Coming soon: Data mining made easier, By Alex Byers, Nieman Watchdog (July 11, 2009).
Catching up with some updates released in August:
CRS has updated its Access to Government Information in the United States report. The latest edition is dated August 31, 2009 (via OpenCRS.com).
The Justice Department released its 2009 edition of Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act on August 10. The announcement says the "2009 edition contains a newly updated and revised discussion of all aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, as amended by the OPEN Government Act, including the Act's procedural requirements, its exemptions and exclusions, as well as considerations applicable to FOIA litigation."
Steven Aftergood reports (CIA Updates Digital Archive, Restricts Access, Secrecy News, March 26, 2009) on the release by the Central Intelligence Agency of a new tool that allows users to search on-line to discover the availability of declassified CIA documents. The tool is the CIA FOIA - 25-Year Program Archive Search.
But you cannot download the documents you discover. Steven notes that the CIA will not "put the entire CREST database online so that anyone, anywhere could download these declassified, often heavily censored records. Nor will CIA release an electronic copy of the CREST database so that others may post it."
The CIA justifies withholding the complete text because, "The Agency evidently believes that there are latent secrets concealed in the declassified record that could somehow be extracted by a clever analyst who reviewed them in electronic form."
See also: Pozen, David. The Mosaic Theory, National Security, and the Freedom of Information Act. SSRN eLibrary. 26 Mar 2009.
Steven also says:
In 1995, President Clinton ordered agencies that classify information to “establish a Governmentwide database of information that has been declassified” (Executive Order 12958, section 3.8). That never happened, and in 2003 President Bush deleted the requirement (Executive Order 13292, section 3.7). Restoring such a requirement, and fulfilling it, would be an appealing feature of a new executive order on classification.
This is great news, especially given it's coming during Sunshine Week! This looks like a repudiation of the Ashcroft memo which had reversed FOIA regulations that had been based on guidelines which had established a “presumption” in favor disclosure. The Ashcroft memo reversed those regulations and told agencies to "carefully consider the fundamental values behind the exemptions – national security, privacy, government’s interests, etc – and to lean in their favor whenever possible." (quoted from Coalition of Journalists for Open Government).
Official: US to Release Data Unless Harm Foreseen. NY Times, March 19, 2009
The guidelines were expected to be released later Thursday, amid Sunshine Week, an annual national observation by journalism groups and other organizations to promote open government and freedom of information.
The new standard essentially returns to one issued by Attorney General Janet Reno during the Clinton administration. It would replace a more restrictive policy imposed by the Bush administration under which the Justice Department would defend any sound legal argument for withholding records.
Justice is responsible for government-wide guidance on how to implement the records law because it defends agencies in court if they are sued by people who disagree with a decision to withhold records. Under the Holder standard, Justice lawyers would not defend a decision to withhold records unless their release could be shown to produce foreseeable harm.
The new standards were also expected to encourage agencies to release more documents where the law leaves the decision to their discretion -- an amplification of Obama's order that they adopt a ''presumption for disclosure.''
The standards could also affect the outcome of a dozen or more pending lawsuits, including ones to obtain the legal rationales behind Bush administration anti-terrorism tactics like wiretapping Americans without a warrant and harsh interrogation of terrorism detainees.
EFF Launches Search Tool for Uncovered Government Documents, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), March 16th, 2009.
In celebration of Sunshine Week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today launched a sophisticated search tool that allows the public to closely examine thousands of pages of documents the organization has pried loose from secretive government agencies. The documents relate to a wide range of cutting-edge technology issues and government policies that affect civil liberties and personal privacy.
Search EFF's FOIA Documents.
ACLU Blog of Rights Post [Familiar Story: CIA Destroys More Tapes] (March 2, 2009):
"Back in December 2007, we learned that the CIA had destroyed two videotapes depicting the "harsh interrogation" of two detainees in U.S. custody. This morning, we learned ... the CIA has actually destroyed 92 tapes. Those tapes are directly responsive to the ACLU’s October 2003 Freedom of Information Act request asking the government to release all documents and information pertaining to the treatment of detainees held in U.S. custody overseas."
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a remarkable tool. On Wednesday, January 21st, President Obama published a memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on the broad topic of FOIA at the White House Briefing Room:
"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..."
As noted here before, the Federal Reserve has been reluctant to release documents about bailout money.
Now according to POGO, "Governmentattic.org has posted several documents from the Federal Reserve in response to a FOIA request about the Fed's lending activities related to the credit crisis" but "the Fed was withholding over 2,000 pages of information under the (b)(4) and (b)(5) FOIA exemptions, which protect against the disclosure of "trade secrets" and "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters.""
The Fed Knows Best, Project on Government Oversight, Feb 23, 2009.