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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Watch out for fake government websites

Brian Krebs reports: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning that individuals sympathetic to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) are mass-defacing Websites using known vulnerabilities in WordPress. The FBI also issued an alert advising that criminals are hosting fraudulent government Web sites in a bid to collect personal and financial information from unwitting Web searchers.”

FBI petitioning Courts to stop its “most prolific” FOIA requester

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.

Invoking a legal strategy that had its heyday during the Bush administration, the FBI claims that Shapiro’s multitudinous requests, taken together, constitute a “mosaic” of information whose release could “significantly and irreparably damage national security” and would have “significant deleterious effects” on the bureau’s “ongoing efforts to investigate and combat domestic terrorism.”

So-called mosaic theory has been used in the past to stop the release of specific documents, but it has never been applied so broadly. “It’s designed to be retrospective,” explains Kel McClanahan, a DC-based lawyer who specializes in national security and FOIA law. “You can’t say, ‘What information, if combined with future information, could paint a mosaic?’ because that would include all information!”

Fearing that a ruling in the FBI’s favor could make it harder for journalists and academics to keep tabs on government agencies, open-government groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Security Archive, and the National Lawyers Guild (as well as the nonprofit news outlet Truthout and the crusading DC attorney Mark Zaid) have filed friend-of-the-court briefs on Shapiro’s behalf. “Under the FBI’s theory, the greater the public demand for documents, the greater need for secrecy and delay,” says Baher Azmy, CCR’s legal director.

[HT BoingBoing!]

FBI Launches New Electronic Reading Room

The Vault is a new “electronic reading room” at fbi.gov. It contains more than 2,000 documents that have been scanned from paper into digital copies including more than 25 new files that have been released to the public but never added to the FBI website, dozens of records previously posted but removed as requests diminished, and files from the FBI’s previous electronic reading room.

Check out:

Hat tip to Sabrina I. Pacifici: FBI Launches New Electronic Reading Room, (April 03, 2011).

FBI order to Wikipedia “silly” and “troubling”

This is pretty ridiculous. The FBI recently sent a letter to Wikipedia (PDF) demanding that Wikipedia take down the FBI seal shown on the wikipedia article on the [w:Federal Bureau of Investigation]. Does the FBI have nothing better to do than hassle Wikipedia (who’s written a thorough and informative description of the FBI)?! As one Redditor named TheCid mused: “Somehow, I think a shit-for-brains lawyer at the FBI thinks Wikipedia and Wikileaks are the same organization, and decided to try to get at the latter via the former.”

The problem, those at Wikipedia say, is that the law cited in the F.B.I.’s letter is largely about keeping people from flashing fake badges or profiting from the use of the seal, and not about posting images on noncommercial Web sites. Many sites, including the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, display the seal.

Other organizations might simply back down. But Wikipedia sent back a politely feisty response, stating that the bureau’s lawyers had misquoted the law. “While we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not the aspirational version” that the F.B.I. had provided.

F.B.I., Challenging Use of Seal, Gets Back a Primer on the Law
Published: August 2, 2010

[Thanks GovTwit!]

Good News from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

FBI’s Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report reveals that crime rates declined in 2008. The report revelas that from January-June 2008, violent crimes decreased by 3.5 percent and property crimes by 2.5 percent. FBI’s press release states that a full report for 2008 will be released in fall. The main points are:

“Violent crimes in all population groups declined: murder by 4.4 percent, aggravated assault by 4.1 percent, forcible rape by 3.3 percent, and robbery by 2.2 percent.

On a regional basis, law enforcement in all four parts of the country reported a drop in violent crimes: 6.0 percent in the Midwest, 5.0 percent in the West, 2.9 percent in the Northeast, and 1.5 percent in the South.

Overall, property crimes fell in the Midwest (4.7 percent), the West (6.1 percent), and the South (0.4 percent).

Among population groupings, each category of property crime was down: motor vehicle thefts by 12.6 percent, larceny-theft by 1.2 percent, and burglaries by 0.8 percent.

Arsons dropped in all four regions of the country and among all population groups (with the exception of cities with populations of 250,000-499,999, where it actually increased 2.0 percent).”

– Main points quoted from the FBI’s Press Release