The National Archives and Records Administration’s recent announcement that there will be no Barack Obama Presidential Library was met with understandable outrage from historians and transparency advocates, who saw it as a blow to a functioning democracy. However, as the National Security Archive’s Nate Jones was quick to point out, this discussion needs to be understood in the larger context of NARA’s current failings in the presidential library system, where FOIA requests can take years, even decades.
Last month, a federal court ruled that the Central Intelligence Agency can selectively disclose classified information while shielding its release from FOIA in order to protect “intelligence sources and methods.” That ruling ignores the Agency’s history of arbitrarily applying that label to everything from beer brands to cafeteria names and using it to hide behavior that was embarrassing, illegal, or both.
As someone who has been threatened with jail, lawsuits, and the occasional death threat over requests I’ve filed or helped file, I understand how frustrating public records can be. But with Sunshine Week 2018 wrapped up, I think it’s worth taking note of everything that’s gone well.
As we kick off what will hopefully be a very transparent Sunshine Week 2018, we want to take a moment to reflect on one of the more absurd finds in the Central Intelligence Agency’s declassified archive so far, and how the work the #OpenGov community can find itself part of the public record.
MuckRock files requests to over 9000 agencies in all 50 states, and the overwhelming number of our interactions with those agencies is positive, sometimes downright pleasant. Then there’s agencies like the Lexington Police Department in Kentucky.