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May 8, 2012

OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet

Picking up after a bit of a break, we have a new Freedom of Information Summary [FRINFORMSUM] today.

Last week, the the Office of Information Services, also called the FOIA ombudsman, was pressured into releasing their own documents under threat of subpoena. Apparently unaware of irony, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) was asked to report its recommendations for improving FOIA to Congress on March 12, but did not comply until April 25.  The release of the recommendations was likely delayed by the Office of Management and Budget.  OGIS’s most important recommendation was the creation of a government-wide FOIA portal –currently in development by OGIS, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Commerce– that will stream-line requests throughout the government, and provide a central location where all documents released under FOIA are posted for the public’s use.

The TSA recently released 87 pages of passenger complaints, from 2008. ProPublicla reporter Michael Grabell filed a FOIA request for these complaints in 2008 but did not receive them until just four days ago. The complaints include one from an elderly woman in a wheelchair who was asked to walk through security despite falling, and one from a man who departed Cancun with a full bottle of Jack Daniel’s but discovered it empty upon his arrival in the United States. The TSA apologized to Mr. Grabell and blamed backlogged requests for the delay. Mr. Grabell has also requested passenger complaints for 2012, but is skeptical of receiving them soon.

The Yemeni parliament passed a right to information law on April 24, as reported by on Friday. The bill was a combined effort by MP Ali Hussein Ashaal and the ministry of information. The law mandates: that all offices install someone to answer requests, a set time to respond to a request (10 days), and a prison sentence for anyone who attempts to delay or interfere with a request. The law is still not perfect; it does not cover foreign companies working in Yemen, as well as requests from non-Yeminis.

A Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.

Today, Greenpeace published previously unreleased photos of oil soaked turtles that were casualties of the BP gulf oil spill. Greenpeace filed over 50 FOIA requests to state and federal agencies after the oil spill in 2010 and these photos are the first batch released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Greenpeace argues that the White House should immediately make publicly available all the images, files, and documentation before they reach a settlement with BP.

One Comment
  1. Emily Willard permalink
    May 9, 2012 12:50 pm

    The photograph of the turtle is so incredibly sickening and heartbreaking. While many have already forgotten the BP Oil Spill, thanks to the FOIA we have horrific photos like this to remind everyone that animals, the environment, and many people did and are still suffering from the consequences of corporate carelessness.

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