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Thread: FBI trying to change freedom on information laws?

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    Question FBI trying to change freedom on information laws?

    I just seen this in our local news channel thought it may be of interest to all.

    FBI Tries To Limit Info Searches

    Lawsuit Was Filed By Salt Lake City Lawyer

    Jan 21, 2005 11:43 am US/Central
    WASHINGTON (AP) The FBI is fighting in court to limit how hard it has to search for government documents requested by the public under the Freedom of Information Act, one of the main laws for ensuring openness in government.

    If the bureau prevails, people could have a diminished chance of getting documents from the nation's most famous law enforcement agency, open records experts said.

    In court, the FBI is defending a recent automated search that missed some documents that had been released years ago in a separate FOIA case.

    Representing the FBI, the Justice Department asked a federal judge this month to dismiss this lawsuit and said its request should not be undermined "by an unsuccessful search for a document as long as the search was adequate." FBI officials declined to further address the ongoing litigation.

    Justice Department guidelines say the law requires a search "reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents."

    Legal and academic critics say the search in this case didn't meet that standard. They said they suspect the transfer of records from paper to electronic files has become an excuse for doing cursory searches that the government knows won't retrieve all relevant documents.

    "We all thought that digitization of government documents and electronic FOIA would mean greater public access, but time and again we've seen government agencies use it as an excuse for obfuscation," said Jane Kirtley, a University of Minnesota journalism professor who has waged many FOIA battles. "They say, 'We don't have the software set up to find what you're looking for.'"

    The lawsuit in question was filed by Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue, who is pursuing a theory his brother Kenneth was murdered in a federal prison isolation cell in Oklahoma City on Aug. 21, 1995. Kenneth's bloody and bruised corpse raised questions of foul play among many officials, but local and federal investigations ruled his death a suicide.

    Last summer, Trentadue requested:


    A Jan. 4, 1996, teletype from FBI Director Louis Freeh's office to the Oklahoma City and Omaha, Neb., offices that discussed the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombers (the FBI's OKBOMB case) and a Midwest gang of bank robbers (the FBI's BOMBROB case). He enclosed a newspaper story with excerpts from the teletype.


    The FBI's record of an interview Trentadue says he gave an agent and two Justice Department officials Aug. 12, 1996, discussing his dead brother and the bank robbery gang, including one member who resembled Kenneth.


    All documents about any connection between the Southern Poverty Law Center and eight named individuals from the OKBOMB and BOMBROB investigations or a white supremacist compound in Elohim City, Okla.
    The FBI told Trentadue Nov. 18 it found no documents matching his requests.

    Trentadue responded Nov. 30 by filing with the court a copy of the January 1996 teletype, which he had found in the meantime had been released under FOIA in 1997. Trentadue also submitted a copy of an August 1996 teletype from Freeh's office that said two of the bank robbers were present when Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh called the Elohim City compound. That too was released years earlier under FOIA.

    Trentadue asked the court to order another FBI search.

    But this month, the Justice Department told the court that, despite not uncovering those documents, "the FOIA search in this case was reasonable."

    David M. Hardy, chief of the FBI's record/information dissemination section, told the court the FBI had searched the general indices to its central records system and two shared computer drives in the Oklahoma City office.

    Hardy, however, acknowledged the indices are not complete. "The FBI does not index every name in its files," Hardy told the court. The investigating agent and supervisors have discretion to index other names if they are "considered pertinent, relevant or essential for future retrieval."

    It's not clear that any other federal agency has an index like the FBI's, and many federal agencies do paper rather than computerized FOIA searches.

    Given the details Trentadue provided, Rebecca Daugherty, director of the FOI Service Center at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the government's response "doesn't sound reasonable."

    "To ignore the map given by the requester is something the FBI should not be doing," Daugherty said. "If a requester can accurately describe a case so the agency can easily find the file, then it's reasonable to search that case file."

    Citing the litigation, FBI Assistant Director Cassandra Chandler declined to say how much detail requesters must supply to extend a search beyond FBI indices to case files.

    She also declined to say how the "OKBOMB" search could fail to produce the January teletype, in which the first listed subject was "OKBOMB." Trentadue also supplied the correct date, sender, two accurate recipients and direct quotes.

    Despite refusing in court this month to redo the search even after Trentadue supplied copies of two teletypes, the FBI changed its response once The Associated Press inquired about the case.

    FBI spokesman Mike Kortan said that after Trentadue supplied the two documents the FBI was able to find them and would provide him copies.


    (© 2005 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )
    It is very interesting.

    Linda Rowe

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    Very interesting! Thanks for posting.

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    Very thought provoking

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    Interesting....Thanks for the info.

    Don

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    Smile

    Thanks for the posting, interesting reading

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    Hmmmmm....On the surface the FBI seems to be playing the 'lazy' card, but they are really trying to fight for a loophole so they can just say, "oh, we didn't find anything' when someone decides that info should remain private.

    Once again, the govt is forgetting who they are supposed to be working for...US!!!

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    very very interesting ......thanks for the info

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    Sounds like they're trying to go back to the "good old days" when they didn't have to tell you anything they didn't want to. I remember when this law was put in place and for good reason!

    Bob

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    Very Interesting thanks for posting.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Linda J Rowe
    I just seen this in our local news channel thought it may be of interest to all.
    Greetings Linda, thanks for Posting this article, seems like everyone is trying to abolish everything that has the word freedon in front of it.

    This is one to keep an eye on.

    Have a great day.

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    I agree with you Matthew. The govt. as well as most citizens forget how the govt. is suppose to be.

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    Anyone see the news item this last week that said most kids think the 1st Amendment goes too far??!!! 200 years of protecting a freedom that people are ready to hand over without a fuss.

    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert A Smith
    Anyone see the news item this last week that said most kids think the 1st Amendment goes too far??!!! 200 years of protecting a freedom that people are ready to hand over without a fuss.

    Bob
    I didn't catch that news item. It's a shame that today's kids are thinking that way. Many people feel the same way about our 2nd Amendment rights. I for one strongly support RKBA and was elated when Ohio passed the CCW law. Our forefathers wrote the constitution to protect the people. Too bad some citizens are forgetting that. Seems like 1A was already violated during the 2004 election campaign. Some obscure ruling about political ads during an election year. I can't remember specifically, I just thought it was infringing on the 1A. Once again, I will step down off the soap box.

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    Very well said Scott, I agree with you 100%

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    Quote Originally Posted by E Scott Smith
    I didn't catch that news item. It's a shame that today's kids are thinking that way. Many people feel the same way about our 2nd Amendment rights. I for one strongly support RKBA and was elated when Ohio passed the CCW law. Our forefathers wrote the constitution to protect the people. Too bad some citizens are forgetting that. Seems like 1A was already violated during the 2004 election campaign. Some obscure ruling about political ads during an election year. I can't remember specifically, I just thought it was infringing on the 1A. Once again, I will step down off the soap box.
    Scott,

    Yes there was a lot of 0000 going on in OH during the last election. What a mess!

    Bob

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    What kind of information can we request/obtain from the current Freedom of Information Act?

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    FOIA information

    http://foia.fbi.gov/

    That's the government's official "take" on it, anyway!

    If you run a search for "FOIA info" on google or another search engine you come up with over a million links. I haven't investigated them, but some are probably more helpful than others. Good luck!

    /jan

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    Thanks, interesting information.

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    Well... isn't that special?

    On a more serious tone, I can tell you that the FBI most likely doesn't want to spend the money on man hours in order to have every name indexed. Also, it very easy to deny access and bury paper documents; make sure the indices do not cross-index on certain cases or certain names or don't have the document digitized at all. Just deny its existance.

    DSW

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    This is definitely a blow to our industry! If all federal agencies adhere to this same logic, it will be difficult to obtain anything that the search engine isn't specifically ordered within the FOIA request.

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    In the county where I live , the court house states that divorces are not of public knowledge. My question is can the counties thereself decide what is public knowledge and what isn't ? Do divorces fall under the FOIA act ?

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    Re: Artical

    This is my first Forum Posting. I hope I did everything correctly!

    It seems to me the conclusion I drew from the article is more about the past limitations of cross indexing and what the Justice Department considers a "reasonable" search. This makes me wonder if the software used by the FBI back then had the capability to index as we would wish that it could, and in whose hands the determination of what would be indexed rested. If the software was not capeable of a comprehensive indexing of all non-dictionary terms, I would conclude that the computer search was "reasonable", as did the judges, but would not think the answer was reasonable if I were an investigator.

    The answer is in this quote:

    "Hardy, however, acknowledged the indices are not complete. "The FBI does not index every name in its files," Hardy told the court. The investigating agent and supervisors have discretion to index other names if they are "considered pertinent, relevant or essential for future retrieval."

    Who could have guessed that someone incedental enough not to have been indexed in a well known case would have had a search run on him many years in the future? This would take mind-reading. Thus, in a way, I think it is more a problem of underestimating the potential of future technology, than obfuscation. I can also see why the Judges said the search was "reasonable."

    I think possibly that the Freedom of Information Act may bring more information to more people, but does not really bring better information to more people. I believe the wall of inadequate computer documentation will come up often especially in cases of the past century (yes, the 1900's).

    This posting serves me as a reminder to think twice before accepting a final answer especially when it comes to older cases, and I thank you for bringing it up.

    Catherine Larkin
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    Thanks for sharing, very interesting and valuable information.
    Patrice-Maria Love

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    Thanks for the thought provoking read, just more sloppy government tacticks. Boggles the mind!

    Terry S Peirce

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    Well, this is quite interesting, I must say. I'm in Australia and so far I haven't had any problems accessing documents under freedom of information. That is, if you don't mind waiting awhile for it. As for you guys, is it getting harder because of terrorism or some other reason?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashley Mayne
    Well, this is quite interesting, I must say. I'm in Australia and so far I haven't had any problems accessing documents under freedom of information. That is, if you don't mind waiting awhile for it. As for you guys, is it getting harder because of terrorism or some other reason?
    Hey Ash. It's not just terrorism the FBI is worried about. There's a lot of Identify theft going on too. The information the FBI wants to restrict is the Social Security number. (Our national social insurance program.).

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    Your social security is quite accessible, isn't it?
    We have a TFN or Tax File Number allocated to us when we start work. It is completely off limits to everyone. Very private.
    Not such a bad thing if your SSn is restricted. No?

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    Yes, identity theft is an ever-growing problem here in the U.S. I think we should have our very own thread on the issue. I try to never give out my SSN, especially over the phone. Perhaps someday it will be better but I don't think the law enforcement community is equipped to handle identity theft investigations. Perhaps I'm wrong, but being the victim of ID theft myself, I never heard anything from them after the initial interview. Just a thought...

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    Forgive me for venturing from the topic. I like Catherine Larkin's post where she states "I think possibly that the Freedom of Information Act may bring more information to more people, but does not really bring better information to more people. I believe the wall of inadequate computer documentation will come up often especially in cases of the past century (yes, the 1900's)."

    Not having the ability to obtain quality information (correct information) can be very detrimental to our cause. That does not sit well with me.

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    Very interesting reading in the posts all of you have submited concerning this topic and, I couldn't agree more when it's said that the government is trying to limit what we can have access to and what we can't have access to. It seems that ever since 911 the federal government has been jumping at everything to not only limit what the average citizen can have access to but to also start looking more closely into what the average citizen is doing. I don't know how many of you have taken the time to read the complete Patriot Act but, I would strongly recommend this to be read by everyone. If it doesn't scare you then there is something wrong. You will be surprised at how much the government is wanting to change the freedoms we have now. Just my 2 cents worth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Ginsberg
    Hey Ash. It's not just terrorism the FBI is worried about. There's a lot of Identify theft going on too. The information the FBI wants to restrict is the Social Security number. (Our national social insurance program.).
    Yes this is true johnny but I do think that companies should be more careful about how they hire people.Did you hear in the news that a company had workers that were fired for this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Goodwyn
    Yes this is true johnny but I do think that companies should be more careful about how they hire people.Did you hear in the news that a company had workers that were fired for this.
    Yes, I heard something about that.

    I'd like to add that individual states are having that struggle for driver license information as well. Minnesota's Attorney General is calling for restriction in giving out driver license information, and our current Governor is in favor of making a modification to our equivalent of the FOIA to do that.

    (Reference KARE11.com)
    (Not sure about the APA format on that. )

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Ginsberg
    Yes, I heard something about that.

    I'd like to add that individual states are having that struggle for driver license information as well. Minnesota's Attorney General is calling for restriction in giving out driver license information, and our current Governor is in favor of making a modification to our equivalent of the FOIA to do that.

    (Reference KARE11.com)
    (Not sure about the APA format on that. )
    I live in VA and I don't know if my Governor is doing this.The Governor that we have now leaves in January and a new Governor is comeing in.This new Governor is bring in people from both sides to fill the varies offices.

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    again it sounds like a double standard...it's okay for them but not okay for the private citizen..!

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