How FOIA can offer the public a peek into the government's secret meetings

How FOIA can offer the public a peek into the government’s secret meetings

Plus, more proof that duct tape really can ███ anything

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Edited by Michael Morisy and JPat Brown

This week’s public records lesson: If you’re involved in the government, you can’t get away with low-profile meetings regarding important subjects.

Buzzfeed and Pacific Standard Magazine report on questionable meetings by the state of Missouri to acquire lethal injection drugs and industry groups influencing government officials regarding a bird species in peril. Plus, a tool often used in the movies for keeping people quiet can also serve as a method of redaction!

Send over your favorite FOIA stories via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook, and maybe we’ll include them in the next roundup.

Secretive drug deals … by the state?

Envelopes full of cash, off-the-record meetings and code names - sounds like a clandestine spy operation, but it’s actually how the state of Missouri acquires the drugs used for death penalty executions.

As Buzzfeed reports, the state has fought to keep the identity of the pharmacy that supplies these drugs under wraps, even going so far as to refer to the pharmacy with code names in official documents and only allowing a few state employees to know the real name. The state has even fought six lawsuits relating to the matter.

It was anonymous sources - not public records, thanks to the state’s efforts - that revealed the identity as St. Louis-based pharmacy Foundation Care.

What was revealed through public records, consisting of over 900 pages of court records and other documents, was Foundation Care’s troubled history of drug contamination, allegedly violating state and federal regulations, and other unsafe practices that put patients - and the death row inmates receiving these execution drugs - at risk.

Read the full story here, and our interview with reporter Chris McDaniel here.

Industry influence over government officials, as outlined by their schedules

Schedules of several Department of the Interior executives, obtained via public record requests, show the inside influence of industry groups, lawyers and activists who oppose environmental protections, Jimmy Tobias reports for Pacific Standard Magazine.

The schedules Tobias obtained show the executives - consisting of Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason, Deputy Assistant Secretary Katharine MacGregor, DOI Deputy Chief of Staff Downey Magallanes and others - meeting with industry lobbyists over conservation groups on the other side of the debate.

Image via Pacific Standard

This latest fight stems over efforts to protect the greater sage grouse, a “chicken-like bird” as Tobias describes it. The greater sage grouse is an indicator species, meaning that their status indicates how well similar species and the environment they live in are holding up - with their population in decline, it shows that their sagebrush habitat is declining as well.

The timing, as evidenced by these executives’ schedules, is impeccable as Obama-era environmental protections continue to be rolled back in favor of industry groups.

Well that’s one way to redact sensitive information

Last week, attorney Chris Horner tweeted out excerpts of FOIA documents he received from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015.

Hey, if it works, it works, right?

Seen a great FOIA-based news story? Let us know and maybe we can include it in our next round up! Send it over via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Image via Pitchfork YouTube