Sunshine Week is coming up, and there’s a lot to be excited about this year. In this week’s FOIA roundup, some resources to get ready, plus a chance to say hi if you’re at NICAR or in the Boston area.
Say hi at NICAR
For journalism data nerds, there’s few better events than then the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting’s annual conference. Look for Michael Morisy to chat FOIA, get some free stickers, and get a first look at a new tool we’re launching next week. Shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebrate transparency in Boston and around the country during Sunshine Week
In more event news, Sunshine Week is coming up with a flurry of related activities. Find an event near you at the official Sunshine Week calendar, and join the MuckRock crew at a very special transparency-themed TK Lounge on March 14 (the event will also pay homage to the Boston Phoenix).
If you’re looking for resources to host or promote Sunshine Week spirit, we’ve got you covered:
- We have state-by-state records data on response times, completion rates and details on each state’s records law, all free.
- We have a guide on how to host your own FOIA karaoke event, including sample PowerPoints to use.
- And we even have a set of FOIA-themed cocktail recipes, also available as stylish coasters in the MuckRock store.
And be sure to bone up on your FOIA knowledge to impress your friends and confound your enemies by reading our nine days of FOIA exemptions guide.
Careful when you drop your computer off
The Electronic Frontier Foundation managed a big win in a recent FOIA lawsuit against the FBI. The non-profit received documents that show a long and close relationship between Best Buy’s Geek Squad and the FBI, stretching back a decade. The relationship included Geek Squad employees becoming confidential informants and earning bounties for reporting material.
But the EFF didn’t get everything they asked for:
Although these documents provide new details about the FBI’s connection to Geek Squad and its Kentucky repair facility, the FBI has withheld a number of other documents in response to our FOIA suit. Worse, the FBI has refused to confirm or deny to EFF whether it has similar relationships with other computer repair facilities or businesses, despite our FOIA specifically requesting those records. The FBI has also failed to produce documents that would show whether the agency has any internal procedures or training materials that govern when agents seek to cultivate informants at computer repair facilities.
One upon a time in FOIA
We love a good public records hack, but using FOIA to try to get a copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is not one we recommend, even if the Department of Justice does take possession of the album. The question does seem to keep popping up:
cosign. pic.twitter.com/6LwbNUqgI9— NSA Nate (@NSANate) March 6, 2018
That said, FOIA can still provide your hours of Wu-Tang insight. MuckRock users Rich Jones, for example, got a copy of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s FBI files, which are fascinating reading material. Just don’t expect the FBI to hand over any tracks you can listen to - they even struggle to process VHS tapes:
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A new FOIA.gov!
Finally, a big congratulations to the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy and 18F on the launch of the rebooted FOIA.gov. The new site looks great and is a treasure trove of tips, data, and other fantastic resources.
Image by Derek Kouyoumjian