Navy accidentally sends reporter details on how to avoid his FOIA request

Discussion in 'News and Current Events' started by The Wrong Guy, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    Navy blunders in sending reporter details on how to avoid his FOIA request | RT USA

    A US Navy official mistakenly forwarded an email to a local news reporter this week outlining the Navy’s method of avoiding the very Freedom of Information Act requests that reporter had filed.

    Scott MacFarlane, a news reporter for NBC 4 in Washington, DC, had filed a FOIA request with the Navy in an attempt to compel authorities to turn over documents related to the Navy Yard shooting in September.

    MacFarlane was seeking memos written by higher-ups at Naval Sea Systems Command from September, October, and November 2013--messages sent by the same officials in the hours directly after the shooting occurred, and images of building 197 at the Navy Yard, where the gunman killed 12 people and injured three others.

    The Navy’s FOIA office confirmed that it had received MacFarlane’s request, but instead of sending him the relevant documents, they inadvertently sent an internal email containing instructions on how to avoid the reporter’s request. MacFarlane tweeted a screenshot of the message – which included the name of Robin Patterson, the Navy’s FOIA public liaison – accompanied by the phrase “EPIC FAILURE.”

    I think the appropriate response is ‘cameras are prohibited from the premises, with the exception of ‘official photos’ of specific events and assemblies, or ceremonies, such as retirements,” the email read, in part. “This request is too broad to tie to the specific event. If you discover that there is a ‘photo library,’ I would recommend negotiating with the requester…”

    MacFarlane also asked the Navy to waive fees beyond $15 because his request “is in the public interest….A compelling need exists to warrant expedited processing of this request, because a large number of our viewers are immediately impacted by the content of these records. There records relate directly to performance of government in matters of safety, health, and well-being.”

    FOIA workers advised each other to avoid turning over information by telling MacFarlane his request was too broad and would constitute a “fishing expedition,” and that he should “narrow the scope of his request.”

    Again, another ‘fishing expedition,’” the screenshot shows. “[J]ust because they are media doesn’t mean the memos shed light on specific government activities.”

    Officials also singled out one of MacFarlane’s requests in particular, noting “this one is specific enough that we may be able to deny it. However, I want to talk with the FBI as they may have ‘all the emails during that time, in their possession.’”

    The Navy has consistently denied media personnel access to Building 197 since the September shooting and has relocated workers to an office nearby while repairs are completed there.

    Just hours after MacFarlane’s tweets went viral, the Navy’s Twitter feed published a series of messages addressing the military’s respect for the FOIA process.

    Continued here:
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  2. The Internet Member

    I wonder why the Navy is so shy.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Anonymous Member

    Thanks WG.
    Hive: What to do?
  4. Anonymous Member

    Make popcorn.
    • Like Like x 2
  5. Anonymous Member

    I need harpoons.
  6. Maybe they are both gay and homophobic?
  7. Anonymous Member

    • Like Like x 1
  8. laughingsock Member

    Why in the hell is the RT more honest to Americans than American media?
    • Like Like x 1
  9. RightOn Member

  10. Anonymous Member

  11. No Ruler Member

    Because they are tweaking the USG nose. It's a good business model. They report our problems well, but I rather doubt they are so good about reporting internal Russian problems.
    • Like Like x 2
  12. RT is now the official russian gov media outlet.
    The two former media outlets were dissolved and their assets transfered to RT.
  13. The Wrong Guy Member

    Justice department 'uses aged computer system to frustrate Foia requests'
    • Lawsuit accuses DoJ of ‘failure by design’ through use of decades-old system
    • DoJ refuses to use new $425m software on freedom of information requests
    By Sam Thielman, The Guardian, July 16, 2016


    A new lawsuit alleges that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) intentionally conducts inadequate searches of its records using a decades-old computer system when queried by citizens looking for records that should be available to the public.

    Freedom of Information Act (Foia) researcher Ryan Shapiro alleges “failure by design” in the DoJ’s protocols for responding to public requests. The Foia law states that agencies must “make reasonable efforts to search for the records in electronic form or format”.

    In an effort to demonstrate that the DoJ does not comply with this provision, Shapiro requested records of his own requests and ran up against the same roadblocks that stymied his progress in previous inquiries. A judge ruled in January that the FBI had acted in a manner “fundamentally at odds with the statute”.

    Now, armed with that ruling, Shapiro hopes to change policy across the entire department. Shapiro filed his suit on the 50th anniversary of Foia’s passage this month.

    Foia requests to the FBI are processed by searching the Automated Case Support system (ACS), a software program that celebrates its 21st birthday this year.

    Not only are the records indexed by ACS allegedly inadequate, Shapiro told the Guardian, but the FBI refuses to search the full text of those records as a matter of policy. When few or no records are returned, Shapiro said, the FBI effectively responds “sorry, we tried” without making use of the much more sophisticated search tools at the disposal of internal requestors.

    “The FBI’s assertion is akin to suggesting that a search of a limited and arbitrarily produced card catalogue at a vast library is as likely to locate book pages containing a specified search term as a full text search of database containing digitized versions of all the books in that library,” Shapiro said.

    The DoJ has contended to Shapiro and others that only one of ACS’s three search functions, the Universal Name Index (Uni), is necessary to fulfill the law. The Uni search does not include the text of the files in the ACS, merely search terms entered – or not – by the FBI agent handling the case in question.

    Shapiro told the Guardian that the reason the DoJ gave for refusing to use its $425m Sentinel software to process Foia requests after ACS had failed to recover records was that a Sentinel search “would be needlessly duplicative of the FBI’s default ACS UNI index-based searches and wasteful of Bureau resources”.

    To Shapiro, this is both disingenuous and evidence of the well-documented resistance to this law at the DoJ. A PhD candidate at MIT, Shapiro is at work on a dissertation dealing with the conflict between perceived national security concerns and animal rights.

    The Department of Justice has chafed under Foia requirements for even longer than it has used ACS. In 1981, the then FBI director, William H Webster, told the American Bar Association that the DoJ was “working with Congress to determine what corrective measures will be taken” regarding what it saw as a danger to the security of its investigations from Foia. The department never got its Foia exemption.

    The FBI’s chief technology officer during the second George W Bush administration, Jack Israel, said he was unimpressed with the system in a Q&A cited in Shapiro’s complaint with the now-defunct site FierceGovernmentIT. “ACS – the Automated Case Support system – is based on old technology,” Israel said four years ago. “It’s based on an IBM mainframe with legacy database and programming technology, and I would say one of the main things that strikes you as a user of ACS is that you’re dealing with the old IBM green screens. You’re not dealing with a web-based environment, which everyone is used to from the internet.”

    Not only is the interface archaic, but the way that you search data, the way you input data, all of those are archaic, wrote Shapiro in his complaint. Indeed, in 2012 a DoJ commission headed by Webster himself investigating the 2009 Fort Hood shooting called ACS “the FBI’s most outdated system”, noting that “it is being phased out in favor of an impressive Web-based successor, Sentinel”.

    More recently, the FBI’s own investigation into the September 11 attacks found that “on September 11, 2001, the Bureau’s information technology was inadequate to support its counterterrorism mission”, noting further that “the FBI’s legacy investigative information system, the Automated Case Support (ACS), was not very effective in identifying information or supporting investigations”.

    A DoJ spokesman declined to comment for this article.

    Source, with open comments:
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