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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.

Please send comments to NARA re CBP’s draft records schedule seeking to destroy important civil rights records

[UPDATED 9/28/2020 5:30pm PST: I’ve taken down the link to the Google form. Please submit comments via REGULATIONS.GOV. Thanks! JRJ]

[UPDATED 9/29/2020: I deleted the link to the letter since it was a draft. When the final letter is published, I’ll be sure to post. JRJ]

**** DEADLINE for INDIVIDUAL PUBLIC COMMENTS is WEDNESDAY 30 September ****

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has extended the commenting period to 30 September on a proposed records schedule regarding Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) (Control Number DAA-0568-2018-0001), 85 FR 47248 (Proposed CBP Schedule).

CBP seeks NARA’s approval to destroy after four years “records developed to track and monitor complaints that are or will be investigated by DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) regarding alleged violations of civil rights and civil liberties” and associated “Requests for Information.”

CBP further proposed 25-year retention periods for “records pertaining to administrative and criminal investigations on [CBP] employees, contractors, and those in CBP custody,” as well as records and reports pertaining to Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) allegations. A July 9, 2020 NARA appraisal memorandum accompanying the Proposed CBP Schedule recommends approving it in full (Appraisal Memorandum).

FGI has signed on to a DRAFT letter to NARA raising deep concerns (PDF) regarding CBP’s proposed records schedule and requesting that NARA revise the schedule and permanently retain the records at issue. The comments were crafted by groups working on immigration issues, government accountability, civil liberties, refugee and immigration history, and more. The letter is extremely thorough and shows how researchers use NARA’s records and and offers a strong argument for why these in particular from the CBP should be designated as permanent.

If any of our readers would like to submit individual comments, please feel free to submit directly via regulations.gov (Control Number DAA-0568-2018-0001). You can also read others’ comments on regulations.gov.

**** DEADLINE for INDIVIDUAL PUBLIC COMMENTS is WEDNESDAY 30 September ****

Warning: astroturf groups pushing voting disinformation

Every election cycle, there’s disinformation put out to suppress the vote or turn a percentage point or two against a certain candidate. These efforts are usually done by shady political operatives or outfits so that politicians can have plausible deniability.

But this year is different. This presidential election, the disinformation is coming from within the White House overtly and consistently, as President Trump, his political appointees throughout the executive branch, and his allies scream about widespread mail-in ballot fraud (UNTRUE!), “deep-state” sedition (ALSO UNTRUE!) and advocating martial law if Trump loses the 2020 election (SO VERY DANGEROUS!).

I know many librarians who are putting together voter guides for their communities (check out this one from the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT)). This is a non-partisan way that libraries have always participated and helped their communities to register to vote.

Given that, I thought our readers would be interested in this anecdote from a friend and fellow government information librarian. She, like so many others, has put together a libguide on voting. She was contacted by this innocuous-sounding group called National Council for Safety, Protection and Wellness (NCSPW) (I won’t link to them since that’s exactly what they want, but you can google them) about adding their page on voting for seniors to her guide. Evidently, the group had also reached out to several faculty at her university in an effort to pressure her to add the link.

I did a little digging and found that this is a nasty astroturf group (I did a whois lookup and their domain was registered by “Domains by proxy LLC” rather than a real person or organization) pushing misinformation about voting and especially vote-by-mail and registration. Just for fun, I looked at their seniors’ guide for CA elections. The NCSPW site states that CA’s absentee ballot request deadline is Oct 27. THIS IS FALSE! The CA secretary of state site says that registration must be post-marked Oct 19 but that you can provisionally register on election day. This site is clearly meant to confuse would-be voters, and even worse, is targeted at seniors who may not have the ability to evaluate or check the information against trusted sources.

So, just a word to the wise. Check any voter information site you’re thinking of linking to in your libguide. Only link to sites from trusted organizations like your state’s secretary of state’s office or the League of Women Voters. Don’t take ANY site at face value. Use your librarian information literacy skills to help everyone in your community vote this November.

Longtime Climate Science Denier Hired At NOAA

Here’s another example of the Trump administration naming people to political posts in federal agencies in order to damage and destroy public trust in those agencies. This time it’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which, among other responsibilities, runs the National Weather Service and produces all sorts of information and data on climate to “help people understand and prepare for climate variability and change.” The administration just named David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology and long-time climate change denier affiliated with the conservative astroturf Heartland Institute, as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. It’s going to take many years for executive agencies across the federal government to come back from the damage created by this administration.

David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Legates confirmed to NPR that he was recently hired as NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. The position suggests that he reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency that is in charge of the federal government’s sprawling weather and climate prediction work.

Neither Legates nor NOAA representatives responded to questions about Legates’ specific responsibilities or why he was hired. The White House also declined to comment.

Legates has a long history of using his position as an academic scientist to publicly cast doubt on climate science. His appointment to NOAA comes as Americans face profound threats stoked by climate change, from the vast, deadly wildfires in the West to an unusually active hurricane season in the South and East.

Global temperatures have already risen nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Warming is happening the fastest at the Earth’s poles, where sea ice is melting, permafrost is thawing and ocean temperatures are heating up, with devastating effects on animals and humans alike.

EPA Destroys Water Quality Records, Deceives Archivist of the US

Our friends at CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) broke this story on August 7, 2020 about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally destroying records and lying about it. Oddly enough, EPA didn’t destroy records because they were damaging to the agency’s reputation or were evidence of agency misdeeds. The records were originally damaged by a water sprinkler accident. But instead of acting quickly to dry the records, they let them fester for several months and get moldy. And then they didn’t follow protocol set under federal law requiring that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) evaluate and approve requests to destroy contaminated records. No, EPA just went ahead and destroyed the records and then the EPA lied to NARA to cover up their incompetence. This is a case that clearly points to the need for improving training and raising the profile and importance of record-keeping within agencies (2 recommendations put forth by the 2018-2020 FOIA Advisory Committee).

Americans must be able to trust that executive agencies are taking care of OUR records. Sadly, in this instance, EPA failed our trust.

The Environmental Protection Agency illegally destroyed records, deceived the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) about that destruction, and falsely blamed the coronavirus pandemic to escape accountability, according to internal documents uncovered by CREW.

via EPA Destroys Water Quality Records, Deceives Archivist – CREW.

Announcing a Congress.gov Virtual Public Forum on September 10th!

Here’s a great chance to offer feedback and learn more about Congress.gov from the Law Library of Congress. Register now for the Congress.gov Virtual Public Forum scheduled for September 10, 2020, from 10:00 a.m. – noon EDT. They’ll be talking specifically about data modernization at the library, and who better to talk to LoC about data than government information librarians?! Sign up now!

This online event is scheduled for September 10, 2020, from 10:00 a.m. – noon EDT.

During the public forum, Robert will provide a recap of the enhancements made to Congress.gov over the last year. I will cover what we are currently working on and initial priorities for the future. We will also have a panel of our data partners, including from the House, Senate and Government Publishing Office that will discuss the data modernization occurring across Capitol Hill and the importance of data standards. Fred Simonton will provide an overview of a new survey for you to share your feedback for Congress.gov. There will also be a question and answer period to discuss enhancements and prioritization.

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