This week's FOIA roundup: Big month for email releases and even vanity plate accountability

This week’s FOIA roundup: Big month for email releases and even vanity plate accountability

The week in transparency and accountability battles, threats, and wins

Written by
Edited by Sarah Alvarez

Every week, MuckRock brings to you this roundup of transparency and accountability battles, threats and wins. Have you recently read a news story about why government transparency — or a lack of it — matters? Let us know, and we could include it in our next round-up!

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Ukraine records star turn in Senate impeachment proceedings-info is still secret tho!

Senate proceedings in the impeachment trial of President Trump are offering some airtime to the Freedom of Information Act. The Office of Management and Budget has had to release (heavily redacted) emails to the Center for Public Integrity about how they handled the decision to withhold aid to Ukraine. Most of what was in those documents, still secret.

Share your support for a full release of these documents by signing on with us and the Center for Public Integrity.

FOIA finds

The Campaign for Accountability released a collection of documents that show the Trump Administration used $5.1 million over three years in Title X funds to support the Ombria Group, a chain of “crisis pregnancy centers” that work to persuade women not to terminate pregnancies.

After Chicago’s WBEZ requested and then released a 2012 email revealing a lobbyist with close ties to Illinois state House Speaker Mike Madigan advocated shielding a corrections officer from accountability because he stuck up for former Governor Pat Quinn, saying he “kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items.” In the weeks since the email was released Agriculture John Sullivan has been fired and current Governor J.B. Pritzker wants an investigation.

Ongoing battles

Assia Boundaoui, the director of documentary The Feeling of Being Watched, is suing the FBI for records on “Operation Vulgar Betrayal,” a surveillance program focused on Muslim-American communities.

Arlington Now says it had to cancel a public records request after it was charged $1000. It had asked for emails about an Arlington County policy that shuts off traffic cameras after an accident because of privacy concerns.

The Arizona Department of Education is asking The Arizona Capitol Times to destroy improperly-redacted records containing the names of individuals involved in a scholarship program.

Developing Stories

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington wants emails about Mike Pompeo’s decision to remove NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly from the list of reporters scheduled to join him on a flight to Eastern Europe. Not as important but just as interesting is that the State Department is slow-walking a request for the “unlabeled map” Pompeo says he produced to quiz Kelly on the location of Ukraine.

The Chicago Police Department announced its plans for a massive reorganization and the establishment of a new counter-terrorism bureau.

Baltimore City Councilors are pushing for more residents to adopt Ring home surveillance cameras in new legislation that offers a $150 rebate to people who get the camera and join the police department’s CitiWatch program.

Just for fun

Noah Veltman has released on Github a cleaned-up dataset of California vanity plate applications. It’s been long week folks, have some fun.

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