FOIA

ecowatch.com
EPA Must 'Correct Top Claim in Major Fracking Study'
“By dismissing fracking’s impacts on drinking water resources as not 'widespread, systemic,' the EPA seriously misrepresented the findings of its underlying study."
By EcoWatch

Excerpt:

Led by Food & Water Watch, more than 200 public interest and environmental groups sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today, urging the agency to heed the recommendation of its own independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) and clarify the seemingly unsupported top-line finding of the June 2015 draft fracking report.

The EPA’s June 2015 draft of the study featured a dismissive and unsupported topline finding—that fracking has not led to “widespread, systemic” problems nationally, as if that should be the bar. The groups back the SAB’s recommendation that the EPA either drop the controversial language or provide a “quantitative analysis” to support it.

The letter, signed by hundreds of national, statewide and local environmental and public interest groups, representing millions of members, was sent directly to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. It is being sent on the heels of an EnergyWire FOIA report indicating that the Obama White House was engaged in the “messaging” for the rollout of the controversial EPA study, stating that “White House aides kept tabs on what the ‘topline messages’ would be.”

“By dismissing fracking’s impacts on drinking water resources as not 'widespread, systemic,’ the EPA seriously misrepresented the findings of its underlying study. This has done the public a disservice. We feel the agency now owes it to the public—and particularly to those already impacted by 'hydraulic fracturing activities'—to address these criticisms.”

Freedom of Information Act request filed for President’s beer recipe

After President Obama publicly debuted the White House’s home-brewed honey ale — aptly named White House Honey Ale — at a campaign stop last month, reporters and home-brewers alike have begged for details on the recipe. After a campaign on the White House’s “We The People” petition website failed, a Reddit user decided to take a more direct approach. Pictured above is an excerpt from a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, asking that the White House release the recipe to a home-brewer with non-commercial ambitions. Do you think it’ll work? (Photo via Reddit user imatexasda) source

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Report: Patrol Agents Get Gift Cards, Bonuses For Rounding Up Immigrants

U.S. Border Patrol agents who arrest immigrants in New York State get rewards like $100 Home Depot gift cards, extra vacations and cash bonuses, a new report found.

Some agents got as much as $2,500 a year each.

New York City immigrant advocacy group Families for Freedom and the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic sued under the Freedom of Information Act and discovered supervisors in the agency’s Buffalo sector, which extends across 29 counties in New York and Pennsylvania, gave out close to $1 million in cash awards to agents from 2003 to 2011.

The whole notion of the incentive program is disturbing. But the cash part is crazy,” Abraham Paulos of Families for Freedom said Thursday.

We have every reason to believe that this is going on everywhere else.

The report was released days after a bi-partisan group of senators called for increased border enforcement, including drones, as part of an immigration reform package.

The agency’s cash rewards budget in Buffalo has soared in recent years, from a few thousand dollars in 2003 to $200,000 in 2011. Supervisors had a budget of $3,000 in 2011 just for gift cards, which they gave out as part of a program called “On-the-Spot Award,” the report found.

The groups also found agents from a single Border Patrol station in Rochester wrongfully arrested nearly 300 people between 2006 and 2011 who were actually here legally - some had green cards, some were U.S. citizens, others were just tourists.

Most of the wrongful arrests happened when agents stopped Greyhound buses or Amtrak trains - often travelling in the middle of the night to or from New York City - and asked everyone on board to show identification. The agency’s jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws extends 100 miles from the border.

CIA Rejects Freedom of Information Act Request for Climate Data

Via Secrecy News:

When the Central Intelligence Agency established a Center on Climate Change and National Security in 2009, it drew fierce opposition from congressional Republicans who disputed the need for an intelligence initiative on this topic. But now there is a different, and possibly better, reason to doubt the value of the Center: It has adopted an extreme view of classification policy which holds that everything the Center does is a national security secret.

Last week, the CIA categorically denied (pdf) a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of any Center studies or reports concerning the impacts of global warming.

“We completed a thorough search for records responsive to your request and located material that we determined is currently and properly classified and must be denied in its entirety…,” wrote CIA’s Susan Viscuso to requester Jeffrey Richelson, an intelligence historian affiliated with the National Security Archive.

With some effort, one can imagine records related to climate change that would be properly classified. Such records might, for example, include information that was derived from classified collection methods or sources that could be compromised by their disclosure. Or perhaps such records might present analysis reflecting imminent threats to national security that would be exacerbated rather than corrected by publicizing them.

But that’s not what CIA said. Rather, it said that all of the Center’s work is classified and there is not even a single study, or a single passage in a single study, that could be released without damage to national security. That’s a familiar song, and it became tiresome long ago.

Image: Global Temperature Trends via NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory.

Internal Documents Reveal The Government Was Monitoring Occupy Wall Street As A Terrorist Threat Before It Started And May Have Planned To Assassinate Leaders of The Movement

According to internal documents newly released by the FBI, the agency spearheaded a nationwide law enforcement effort to investigate and monitor the Occupy Wall Street movement. In certain documents, divisions of the FBI refer to the Occupy Wall Street protests as a “criminal activity” or even “domestic terrorism.”

The internal papers were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice fund via a Freedom of Information Act Request. The fund, a legal nonprofit that focuses on civil rights, says it believes the 112 pages of documents, available for public viewing on its website, are only “the tip of the iceberg.”

The following was taken from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF):

The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country. 

This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).  “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.  These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.

The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.

  • As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.
  • Documents released show coordination between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and corporate America. They include a report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), described by the federal government as “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” discussing the OWS protests at the West Coast ports to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report shows the nature of secret collaboration between American intelligence agencies and their corporate clients - the document contains a “handling notice” that the information is “meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…” (The DSAC document was also obtained by the Northern California ACLU which has sought local FBI surveillance files.)
  • The Federal Reserve in Richmond appears to have had personnel surveilling OWS planning. They were in contact with the FBI in Richmond to “pass on information regarding the movement known as occupy Wall Street. There were repeated communications “to pass on updates of the events and decisions made during the small rallies and the following information received from the Capital Police Intelligence Unit through JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force).”

The PCJF filed Freedom of Information Act demands with multiple federal law enforcement agencies in the fall of 2011 as the Occupy crackdown began. The FBI initially attempted to limit its search to only one limited record keeping index. Recognizing this as a common tactic used by the FBI to conduct an inadequate search, the PCJF pressed forward demanding searches be performed of the FBI headquarters as well as FBI field offices nationwide.  

The PCJF will continue to push for public disclosure of the government’s spy files and will release documents as they are obtained.

From Page 61 of the documents:

Secret/NoForn

1. (U/LES) An identified <redacted> as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [redacted] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. <redacted> planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.

From Page 68-69 of the documents:

On 13 October 2011, writer sent via email an excerpt from the daily <redacted> regarding the FBI Houston’s <redacted> to all IAs, SSRAs and SAA <redacted> This <redacted> identified the exploitation of the Occupy Movement by <redacted> interested in developing a long-term plan to kill local Occupy leaders via sniper fire.

Click here to see the FBI documents obtained by the PCJF.

UNREDACTED: The Declassified Record on the Tlatelolco Massacre that Preceded the ’68 Olympic Games

The US has joined the international community in expressing security concerns for the upcoming Sochi Olympics, even sending law enforcement to help secure the games. Threats of violence at the international event are not new, as evidenced by the kidnapping of the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and the bombing of the Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. However, the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City stand out from other tragedies because the ruling Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) used the international attention of the Olympic games to justify intimidating student opposition groups, and — as declassified evidence proves likely– framing them for attacking police officers to initiate the crackdown.

Investigative work by Archivist Kate Doyle and others has helped preserve the declassified record on the events of ’68, and the documents highlighted in today’s post, originally published in Doyle’s 2003 Electronic Briefing Book, provide both a fascinating glimpse at US security concerns in Mexico City surrounding the ’68 Games and US-Mexican relations. Read More Here.

Read Full Report on the Tlatelolco Massacre at The National Security Archive

Prominent Artist Reveals The FBI Has 7,000 Pages Of Info Related To Her

Prominent Artist Reveals The FBI Has 7,000 Pages Of Info Related To Her

Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer who just revealed on Twitter that the FBI has a file with 7,526 pages in it related to her. She filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the documents but their release was delayed for no apparent reason.

The FBI now says it has 7526 pages related to me, and will start releasing them to my lawyers at a rate of 750 a month #FOIA

— Molly…

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thecable.foreignpolicy.com
“After Multiple Denials, CIA Admits to Snooping on Noam Chomsky”

For years, the Central Intelligence Agency denied it had a secret file on MIT professor and famed dissident Noam Chomsky. But a new government disclosure obtained by The Cable reveals for the first time that the agency did in fact gather records on the anti-war iconoclast during his heyday in the 1970s.

The disclosure also reveals that Chomsky’s entire CIA file was scrubbed from Langley’s archives, raising questions as to when the file was destroyed and under what authority.

The breakthrough in the search for Chomsky’s CIA file comes in the form of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For years, FOIA requests to the CIA garnered the same denial: “We did not locate any records responsive to your request.” The denials were never entirely credible, given Chomsky’s brazen anti-war activism in the 60s and 70s – and the CIA’s well-documented track record of domestic espionage in the Vietnam era. But the CIA kept denying, and many took the agency at its word.

Now, a public records request by FOIA attorney Kel McClanahan reveals a memo between the CIA and the FBI that confirms the existence of a CIA file on Chomsky.

Dated June 8, 1970, the memo discusses Chomsky’s anti-war activities and asks the FBI for more information about an upcoming trip by anti-war activists to North Vietnam. The memo’s author, a CIA official, says the trip has the “ENDORSEMENT OF NOAM CHOMSKY” and requests “ANY INFORMATION” about the people associated with the trip.

After receiving the document, The Cable sent it to Athan Theoharis, a professor emeritus at Marquette University and an expert on FBI-CIA cooperation and information-gathering.

“The June 1970 CIA communication confirms that the CIA created a file on Chomsky,” said Theoharis. “That file, at a minimum, contained a copy of their communication to the FBI and the report on Chomsky that the FBI prepared in response to this request.”

The evidence also substantiates the fact that Chomsky’s file was tampered with, says Theoharis. “The CIA’s response to the FOIA requests that it has no file on Chomsky confirms that its Chomsky file was destroyed at an unknown time,” he said.

RELEASE REB’S TAPE

Okay so the argument as to why the Basement Tapes aren’t being released is that they might inspire a copycat killer. 

Why then, did they release Rampart Range, Hitmen for Hire, and Radioactive Clothing, showing Eric and Dylan looking pretty badass, wielding guns and carrying out “justice”? 

Personally, I feel that if they released those three, they should at least release “Reb’s Tape.” I mean, fuck, he’s supposedly crying. Why would that inspire a copycat killer and not Eric and Dylan shooting up trees and bullies? Hm? 

greenisthenewred.com
FBI Says Activists Who Investigate Factory Farms Can Be Prosecuted as Terrorists

The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force has kept files on activists who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms and recommended prosecuting them as terrorists, according to a new document uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act.

This new information comes as the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as unconstitutional because its vague wording has had a chilling effect on political activism. This document adds to the evidence demonstrating that the AETA goes far beyond property destruction, as its supporters claim.

The 2003 FBI file details the work of several animal rights activists who used undercover investigation to document repeated animal welfare violations. The FBI special agent who authored the report said they “illegally entered buildings owned by [redacted] Farm… and videotaped conditions of animals.

The animal activists caused “economic loss” to businesses, the FBI says. And they also openly rescued several animals from the abusive conditions. This was not done covertly in the style of underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front — it was an act of non-violent civil disobedience and, as the FBI agent notes, the activists distributed press releases and conducted media interviews taking responsibility for their actions.

Based on these acts — trespassing in order to photograph and videotape abuses on factory farms — the agent concludes there “is a reasonable indication” that the activists “have violated the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, 18 USC Section 43 (a).

The file was uncovered through a FOIA request by Ryan Shapiro, who is one of the activists mentioned. The file is available for download here. [Please note that this document has additional redactions in order to protect the identities of the other activists, at their request.] Shapiro is now a doctoral candidate at MIT.

It is deeply sobering to see one’s name in an FBI file proposing terrorism charges,” he said in an email. “It is even more sobering to realize the supposedly terroristic activities in question are merely exposing the horrific cruelty of factory farms, educating the public about what goes on behind those closed doors, and openly rescuing a few animals from one of those farms as an act of civil disobedience.

When I testified before Congress against the AETA in 2006, one of the primary concerns I raised is that the law could be used to wrap up a wide range of activity that threatens corporate profits. Supporters of the AETA have repeatedly denied this, and said the law will only be used against people who do things like burn buildings.

So how do we explain that such a sweeping prosecution was being considered in 2003, under the law’s somewhat-narrower precursor?

One possibility is that FBI agents lack training, education, and oversight. They are spying on political activists without understanding or respecting the law.

Another explanation is that this document is no mistake, nor is it an isolated case. It is a reflection of a coordinated campaign to target animal rights activists who, as the FBI agent notes, cause “economic loss” to corporations.

At the state, federal, and international levels, corporations have orchestrated an attempt to silence political activists, and a key target has been undercover investigators. For example:

The FBI makes clear that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is not about protecting public safety; it is about protecting corporate profits. Corporations and the politicians who represent them have repeatedly lied to the American public about the scope of this legislation, and claimed that the law only targets underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front. The truth is that this terrorism law has been slowly, methodically expanded to include the tactics of national organizations like the Humane Society of the United States.

This document illustrates how the backlash against effective activism has progressed within the animal rights movement. However, if this type of legislation is not overturned, it will set a precedent for corporations to use this model against Occupy Wall Street and anyone else who threaten business as usual.

news.vice.com
It's Very Easy to Get Onto the Terrorist Database, and Impossible to Get Off It

Regan has noticed that low-level activists in environmental protest are now being listed under an “Eco Warrior” gang designation.

Kyle Odness, a 24-year-old environmental activist from Oklahoma, was arrested last June during a demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline. All charges were dropped against him, but this January Odness noticed strange things happening.

“I was on a camping trip in Texas. On our way out, we had to drive through a border patrol checkpoint. They ran our IDs, then came back and asked if any of us was a known gang member,” Odness told VICE News. “A friend of mine had already been told twice that she was flagged as part of a gang called Eco Warriors, so I asked if it was Eco Warriors and he said ‘something like that.’”

A month later it happened again, this time in Florida. “The sheriff’s office ran our ID’s and told me, ‘so you’re a gang member?’ I asked again if it said Eco Warriors, and he said ‘yeah, it’s some gang I’ve never heard of.’”

VICE News contacted the FBI about the so-called Eco Warrior gang, but was told that the bureau would not release information about specific gangs.

Ryan Shapiro, an MIT researcher described by the DOJ as the “most prolific” Freedom of Information Act requester, told VICE News that among the 40,000 pages he’s managed to get from the FBI, he’s never seen “Eco Warriors” listed as a gang.

“There are a number of official monikers used as subject headers like eco-extremism, animal rights, and animal extremism,” Shapiro said, “It’s not a gang designation, it’s basically a sub-header of domestic terrorism.”

github.com
The counties that have all the heavy weaponry.

County-level data showing military equipment given to state and local law enforcement agencies through the Defense Department’s 1033 program. The data was received from the Defense Department in May 2014 as an Excel file, and includes transfers since 2006.

Want to know if your county has a crap-ton of military surplus gear? Check out this FOIA-extracted database on Github.

Hello, Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week is on us. Here are a few good resources on open government and transparency.

  • SunshineWeek.org lists events, has toolkits and shows how the Freedom of Information Act Works.
  • The Sunlight Foundation provides information on transparency issues, and provides API’s for developers to hack government data.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Transparency Project has  backgrounders on all things FOIA.
  • FOIA.gov let’s you query data and file your requests.

Reading US Attorney General Eric Holder’s now five-year-old memo to federal agencies on becoming more open to FOIA requests is eye-opening. The ostensible goal was to make agencies more open and transparent. 

Seems the message has been lost. Via the AP

The Obama administration has a way to go to fulfill its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.

More often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests.

The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that halfway through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records. In category after category - except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees - the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

Image: Phil Lapsley, discussing turning the Freedom of Information Act into a hacking tool, via the EFF.

State Department confirms Hillary Clinton lied about turning over all “work related emails”

If the Justice Department were actually enforcing the law, Hillary Clinton would be under Federal indictment right now for violating the Federal Records Act as well as the Freedom of Information Act. 

from AP:

The Obama administration has discovered a chain of emails that Hillary Rodham Clinton failed to turn over when she provided what she said was the full record of work-related correspondence as secretary of state, officials told The Associated Press Friday, adding to the growing questions related to the Democratic presidential front-runner’s unusual usage of a private email account and server while in government.

The messages were exchanged with retired Gen. David Petraeus when he headed the military’s U.S. Central Command, responsible for running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They began before Clinton entered office and continued into her first days at the State Department. They largely pertained to personnel matters and don’t appear to deal with highly classified material, officials said, but their existence challenges Clinton’s claim that she has handed over the entirety of her work emails from the account.

Republicans have raised questions about thousands of emails that she has deleted on grounds that they were private in nature, as well as other messages that have surfaced independently of Clinton and the State Department. Speaking of her emails on CBS’ “Face the Nation” this week, Clinton said, “We provided all of them.” But the FBI and several congressional committees are investigating.

The State Department’s record of Clinton emails begins on March 18, 2009 — almost two months after she entered office. Before then, Clinton has said she used an old AT&T Blackberry email account, the contents of which she no longer can access.

The Petraeus emails, first discovered by the Defense Department and then passed to the State Department’s inspector general, challenge that claim. They start on Jan. 10, 2009, with Clinton using the older email account. But by Jan. 28 — a week after her swearing in — she switched to using the private email address on a homebrew server that she would rely on for the rest of her tenure. There are less than 10 emails back and forth in total, officials said, and the chain ends on Feb. 1.

The officials weren’t authorized to speak on the matter and demanded anonymity. But State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the agency received the emails in the “last several days” and that they “were not previously in the possession of the department.”

read the rest

Oh, by the way, according to the law, this legally disqualifies Hillary Clinton from serving as President:

18 U.S. Code § 2071

(a)Whoever willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both

(b)Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. As used in this subsection, the term “office” does not include the office held by any person as a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the United States.