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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.

Blog posts scrubbed from U.S. Department of Labor Blog. Why?!

Here’s an oddity. On the Department of Labor’s blog, there was a post on september 6, 2016 titled “What is the ‘Real’ Unemployment Rate?” that described the “huge array of measures, which together provide a comprehensive picture of the state of job opportunities” in the US. As you’ll see if you click on that link, the post is now “404 page not found.” You’ll not find the post in the blog’s archive for September 2016 either. However, the post was archived by the Internet Archive on October 17, 2016, the last time that IA crawled the blog. So sometime between October, 2016 and today (February 16, 2017) that post was scrubbed from the Department of Labor’s blog.

What’s more strange is that the archived site showed 26 posts in September, 2016, but the live site’s blog’s archive for September 2016 shows only 10 posts. Unfortunately, IA didn’t crawl the monthly archive urls, so there’s no way to know what those missing 10 posts were about. There are also discrepancies for other months (eg, the archived site shows 30 posts in August 2016, while the live site shows 17 posts!).

There’s nothing that I can discern in this one found post that could be considered controversial. It’s not a CRS Report that found no correlation between the top tax rates and economic growth, thereby destroying a key tenet of conservative economic theory that was subsequently suppressed in 2012. It was written by Dr. Heidi Stierholz, the department’s chief economist.

So what gives? Why is the Department of Labor disappearing selective blog posts? We’ll let you know if we find out.

CIA IG office “mistakenly” deletes Senate report on CIA torture

This is why US government information needs to be preserved off of .gov servers by FDLP libraries and other non-governmental organizations. It’s not enough that each agency has an Inspector General. Each agency should have one or more libraries collecting, preserving and giving access to its information *regardless* of political embarrassment or any other excuse for government information being deleted and lost.

The CIA inspector general’s office — the spy agency’s internal watchdog — has acknowledged it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a mammoth Senate torture report at the same time lawyers for the Justice Department were assuring a federal judge that copies of the document were being preserved, Yahoo News has learned.Although other copies of the report exist, the erasure of the controversial document by the CIA office charged with policing agency conduct has alarmed the U.S. senator who oversaw the torture investigation and reignited a behind-the-scenes battle over whether the full unabridged report should ever be released, according to multiple intelligence community sources familiar with the incident.The deletion of the document has been portrayed by agency officials to Senate investigators as an “inadvertent” foul-up by the inspector general. In what one intelligence community source described as a series of errors straight “out of the Keystone Cops,” CIA inspector general officials deleted an uploaded computer file with the report and then accidentally destroyed a disk that also contained the document, filled with thousands of secret files about the CIA’s use of “enhanced” interrogation methods.

via Senate report on CIA torture is one step closer to disappearing.

Docs of the week: Ferguson Grand Jury, 100 years of INS annual reports, and the historic Moynihan Report

Hands Up Don't Shoot Ferguson protests
by Flickr user LightBrigading used w permission. Creative Commons BY-NC-2.0 license
Here at Stanford libraries, my colleague Kris Kasianovitz and I are busy putting context to the *massive* haystack that is the Internet — and we could use some help (want to be a lostdocs collector?!)! Below are just a few of the documents we’ve collected in the last week, stored in our Stanford Digital Repository and made accessible through our library catalog.

1)The Negro family, the case for national action AKA the Moynihan Report. This document came to me from a recent New Yorker article “Don’t Be Like That: Does black culture need to be reformed?” by Kelefa Sanneh. The article, a book review of a new anthology called “The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth,” contextualized the sociology and cultural history of being black in America, describing in detail the ground-breaking work of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, trained as a sociologist and well known later as the liberal Senator from NY. As Sanneh notes, the Moynihan Report — which was originally printed in a run of 100 with 99 of them locked in a vault — was leaked to the press causing the Johnson administration to release the entire document. Moynihan’s overarching theme was “the deterioration of the Negro family” and he called for a national program to “strengthen the Negro family.”

2) Annual Report of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This one started out as a research consultation. A student wanted to analyze this report over the 100+ years that it’s been published. She found that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had digitized their historic run, but for some reason had taken the link down from their site and not restored it for over 2 weeks. I contacted INS and got the digitized documents restored, then downloaded them, deposited them in SDR and had the purl added to our bibliographic record. The added benefit to collecting this digital annual report is that it makes it easier for future users to access this important annual report chock full of important statistics — our paper collection is shelved in several different areas of the US documents collection as INS has shifted around over the years (causing its call# to change over time) among different agencies from Treasury (call# T21.1:) to Labor (call# L3.1: and L6.1:) to Justice (call# J21.1:) to Homeland Security (call# HS4.200).

3) Documents from the Ferguson Grand Jury. Ferguson has been in the news over the last year because of the fatal shooting of African American youth Michael brown by police officer Darren Wilson and the ensuing protests it sparked. This important historic series of 105 Missouri state documents from the Grand Jury were released via Freedom of Information requests from CNN. Some of our government information colleagues around the country wondered online how to collect and preserve these documents for posterity and future researchers. Luckily, SUL is one library able to collect and preserve historically important born-digital government documents.

The overwhelming majority of state, local, US and international government documents these days are born-digital. Here at Stanford libraries, we continue to look for ways to maintain and expand both our historic and born-digital documents collections. Self-deposit will no doubt be one strategy among several (including Web archiving, LOCKSS and future initiatives) as we look to serve the information needs of citizens, faculty, students and researchers.

Want to be a fugitive hunter?

(Editor’s note: I originally posted this to the GODORT ALA Connect site. I’m not sure if that is publicly available so I’m reposting here on FGI. We’ll be discussing this and other issues of digital collection development next wednesday February 11, 2015 at 9am PST/12 Noon EST on IRC (irc.freenode.net) channel #FDLP.)

How would you like to help find fugitive government documents? Fugitives are Federal documents that fall within scope of the FDLP but for whatever reason have not made it to GPO for cataloging into the CGP and distributed to FDLP libraries. In the born-digital era, where federal agencies and Congressional Committees can publish on their own Websites, the problem of fugitives is growing exponentially. If you’d like to help with the small project using Zotero bibliographic citation software to collect fugitives (described below), please contact me at jrjacobs AT stanford DOT edu.

1) Install the bibliographic management software called Zotero (either the firefox plugin or stand-alone client). Join the zotero group “everyday electronic materials.” This is a collaborative group citation library. Anyone can join the group, they just need to have installed zotero and have a zotero.org acct (which is free). btw, if you’ve never used zotero, I’ve got a handy outline for a class I teach on it at http://bit.ly/zotero-workshop. The outline will walk you through the install steps and give some pointers for using zotero.

2) Track on the new publications of your favorite government entity. For each new publication, check the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) to see if the publication has been cataloged by GPO.

3) For any document that HASN’T been cataloged, save the fugitive to the zotero group “everyday electronic materials.” This is a collaborative group citation library. Anyone can join the group, they just need to have installed zotero (either the firefox plugin or stand-alone client) and have a zotero.org acct (which is free).

4) we’ve got a script running which checks the zotero group feed once per day. When the script finds new items, it automatically posts each item to the lostdocs blog under the category “fugitives.” GPO LSCM staff are tracking on the zotero group and will put any new fugitives through their cataloging workflow.

The lostdocs form on fdlp.gov is still the official way to submit to GPO, but I’ve contacted them and they’re interested in tracking this workflow rather than (or in addition to) their current cumbersome lostdocs form.

I think this new workflow will be much easier for folks as zotero does much of the metadata work and it’s in the user’s browser meaning they don’t need to remember to go to fdlp.gov to get to the lostdocs form. My goal with using zotero is to greatly expand the number of librarians doing fugitive hunting, perhaps even getting people to track on specific agencies (or local/regional offices of specific agencies). In other words, I want fugitive hunting to be part of every docs librarian’s regular workflow, not simply random and serendipitous.

Air Force scrubs Drone airstrike statistics from their site

According to the Air Force Times, the Air Force has reversed their policy of sharing monthly statistics on the number of airstrikes launched from drones (aka remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)). In the interest of access and transparency, we’ve posted the original statistics from December ’12, January ’13, and February ’13.

As scrutiny and debate over the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) by the American military increased last month, the Air Force reversed a policy of sharing the number of airstrikes launched from RPAs in Afghanistan and quietly scrubbed those statistics from previous releases kept on their website.

Last October, Air Force Central Command started tallying weapons releases from RPAs, broken down into monthly updates. At the time, AFCENT spokeswoman Capt. Kim Bender said the numbers would be put out every month as part of a service effort to “provide more detailed information on RPA ops in Afghanistan.”

The Air Force maintained that policy for the statistics reports for November, December and January. But the February numbers, released March 7, contained empty space where the box of RPA statistics had previously been.

Additionally, monthly reports hosted on the Air Force website have had the RPA data removed — and recently.

Those files still contained the RPA data as of Feb. 16, according to archived web pages accessed via Archive.org. Metadata included in the new, RPA-less versions of the reports show the files were all created Feb. 22.