"Salmonella rates high at state plants; Tests at turkey processors
in Minnesota have found levels close to failing federal standards,"
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), April 14, 2006, at 1A, by David
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Minneapolis Star Tribune
reviewed safety testing results for 22 plants where the Jennie-O Turkey
Store produces ground turkey. At the largest Jennie-O plant, in Willmar,
MN, federal inspectors found that half of the ground turkey contained
salmonella bacteria-more than twice the national average for all samples.
This level, dangerously close to the permissible federal maximum of
55 percent, has led food safety advocates to challenge federal oversight
of ground turkey processing. Although no illnesses have been reported
from the Jennie-O plants, more than 40,000 Americans are infected
each year and as many as 500 die from salmonella infection.
"Illegal crops growing at Prime Hook, lawsuit says; Genetically
modified strains at refuge are harmful, three nature groups contend,"
The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware), April 6, 2006, at
1B, by Molly Murray.
The non-profit organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
obtained documents under the Freedom of Information act which revealed
that as many as 100,000 acres of federal refuge lands have been cultivated
with genetically-modified crops. Using this information, the non-profit,
along with the Center for Food Safety and the Delaware Chapter of
the Audubon Society, filed a lawsuit alleging that farming practices
at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Sussex County, DE violate
federal law and threaten the well-being of wildlife in the refuge.
"FBI Keeps Watch on Activists; Antiwar, other groups are monitored
to curb violence, not because of ideology, agency says," Los
Angeles Times, March 27, 2006, at A1, by Nicholas Riccardi.
The American Civil Liberties Union obtained hundreds of pages of
documents under the Freedom of Information Act, exposing FBI efforts
to gather information about antiwar and environmental protestors and
other activists in Colorado and elsewhere. The ACLU pursued the documents
after FBI agents visited several activists who protested at political
conventions; however, the internal FBI memos show a broad net encompassing
a wide range of different types of activist groups. In one case, the
FBI had opened an inquiry into a lumber industry protest held by an
environmental group in 2002 because the group was planning a training
camp on "nonviolent methods of forest defense . . . security
culture, street theater and banner making." Since the documents
were released, members of the activist community in Denver have reported
a chill in protest participation, as some fear the consequences of
FBI surveillance of their activities.
"Planted Articles May Be Violation; A 2003 Pentagon directive appears
to bar a military program that pays Iraqi media to print favorable stories,"
Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2006, at A3, by Mark Mazzetti.
According to a newly declassified document, obtained by the National
Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, a secret U.S.
military campaign to fund publication of favorable articles in Iraqi
media may violate Pentagon policy. A preliminary investigation into
the program in December 2005 concluded that it did not violate U.S.
law or Department of Defense regulations. However, the newly-released
document, a secret directive on information operations policy dated
October 30, 2003 and signed by Secretary Rumsfeld, states that "Psy-op
is restricted by both DoD [Department of Defense] policy and executive
order from targeting American audiences, our military personnel and
news agencies or outlets."
"Study: Many Incorrectly Identified As Immigration Law Violators,"
The New York Sun, December 9, 2005, at 2, by Daniela Gerson.
The Migration Policy Institute at New York University Law School
conducted a study of federal immigration law enforcement based on
data disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, following a lawsuit
filed by the Institute against the Department of Homeland Security.
The study found that thousands of people have been wrongly identified
as immigration violators, and concluded that 42% of the people identified
as violators were later determined to be "false-positives,"
meaning that DHS was subsequently unable to confirm that they had
broken immigration laws. The study suggests that the problem of improper
immigration arrests may stem from a recent policy change at the Department
of Justice that shifts substantial responsibility for immigration
enforcement to local law enforcement authorities.
"Vietnam War Intelligence 'Deliberately Skewed,' Secret Study Says,"
The New York Times, December 2, 2005, December 2, 2005, at
A11, by Scott Shane.
In 2001, a historian at the National Security Agency concluded that
NSA intelligence officers "deliberately skewed" the evidence
given to policy makers and the public, falsely suggesting that North
Vietnamese ships had attacked Americans destroyers in the Gulf of
Tonkin in 1964. On the basis of these erroneous intelligence reports,
President Johnson ordered air strikes on North Vietnam and Congress
broadly authorized military action supporting the South Vietnamese.
The key documents were released by the NSA after press coverage publicizing
the agency's reluctance to declassify the information and several
Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the National Security
Archive and others put significant pressure on the Agency to give
the public access to the information. The documents were released
along with hundreds of others from secret files about the Gulf of
Tonkin incident and the beginning of formal involvement by the United
States in Vietnam.
"Investigation raises questions about birth-control patch,"
Ventura County Star (California), July 17, 2005, at 1, by Martha
At least a dozen women died during 2004 from blood clots apparently
caused by use of a new birth control patch, Ortho Evra, according
to federal drug safety reports released to the Associated Press under
the Freedom of Information Act. Dozens more women, most in their late
teens and early 20s, suffered strokes and other clot-related problems
after using the patch. Several of the victims' families have filed
lawsuits since the documents were released, alleging that both the
Food and Drug Administration and the company that makes the patch,
Ortho McNeil, knew of possible problems with the patch before it came
on the market. Despite claims by the FDA and Ortho McNeil that the
patch was as safe as using birth control pills, the reports appear
to indicate that the risk of dying or suffering a blood clot was about
three times higher than with birth control pills.
"Many who got Sept. 11 loans didn't need them; some loan recipients
had no idea their funds came from terror-relief program," Richmond
Times Dispatch (Virginia), September 9, 2005, at A-1.
Analyzing loan records obtained under the Freedom of Information
Act, the Associated Press found that a significant portion of the
$5 billion designated for a post-September 11 recovery program to
help small businesses was used to give low-interest loans to companies
that did not need terrorism relief; in fact, only 11 percent of the
19,000 loans were to companies in New York City and Washington. Some
of the companies that received the funds-including a South Dakota
country radio station, a dog boutique in Utah, an Oregon winery, and
a variety of Dunkin' Donuts and Subway franchises-did not even know
that they were receiving funds supposedly dedicated to terrorism recovery
when they were awarded loans by the Small Business Administration.
"On Range, deadly illness went unreported; Mesothelioma strikes
years after victims' exposure to asbestos," Star Tribune (Minneapolis,
MN), August 21, 2005, at 9B, by Greg Gordon.
Because of a loophole in report requirements, the LTV Steel Mining
Company did not report a trend of mesothelioma and other debilitating
asbestos-related illnesses among workers in its Minnesota taconite
mines dating from1980, according to records obtained from the Mine
Safety and Health Administration under the Freedom of Information
Act. A 1977 agency rule requires companies to report work-related
illnesses among active workers, but because mesothelioma usually does
not appear for more than 20 years after exposure to asbestos, LTV
did not report illnesses and deaths among its retirees, and so no
action was taken to improve safety of other workers at the mine. The
gross failure of companies to report lung disease cases among mine
workers was evident from the documents, after reporters spoke with
families of dozens of affected workers in the Iron Range region alone.
According to MSHA, the maximum penalty for companies that fail to
report an illness is $60.
"Prewar Memo Warned of Gaps in Iraq Plans; State Dept. Officials
Voiced Concerns About Post-Invasion Security, Humanitarian Aid,"
The Washington Post, August 18, 2005, at A13, by Bradley Graham.
In a formerly secret memo released to the National Security Archive
in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, three senior
State Department officials warned of "serious planning gaps for
post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance" in
Iraq before the U.S. invasion. The memo, written February 7, 2003
to Paula J. Dobriansky, undersecretary for democracy and global affairs,
challenged increasing Pentagon control over planning for the post-invasion
occupation and argued that lack of attention to security and humanitarian
concerns in Iraq could undermine the military campaign and harm the
U.S. reputation in the world.
"Fighter jet's brake failures elicit urgent safety alerts,"
The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), August 5, 2005, at A14,
by Ted Bridis.
Brake problems with a front-line fighter jet used by the Navy and
the Marines poses "a severe hazard to Naval aviation" and
has prompted urgent warnings from military commanders, according to
documents obtained by the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information
Act. The brake problem in the F/A-18 Hornet jet, apparently related
to a $535 electrical cable, has caused a significant number of accidents
since 1990 but went unnoticed until a series of failures last year
drew attention to the trend. In 20 years of flight of this model of
jet, military documents show, there have been 17 malfunctions of the
anti-skid braking system.
"Inefficient Spending Plagues Medicare; Quality Often Loses Out
as 40-Year-Old Program Struggles to Monitor Hospitals, Oversee Payments,"
The Washington Post, July 24, 2005, at A1, by Gilbert M. Gaul.
As part of a large-scale investigation into the quality and monitoring
of Medicare services, the Washington Post obtained records of hospital
visits by Medicare patients under the Freedom of Information Act.
The records, along with further investigatory work, revealed that
Medicare officials knew of a number of health care facilities that
were out of compliance and that conditions at some facilities put
patients in jeopardy. At one Florida hospital that handles many Medicare
patients, a high rate of recurring infections in heart patients actually
served to benefit the hospital, which is reimbursed equally for new
cases and for patients readmitted with complications from medical
errors or poor care. Critics of Medicare cite as problems the incentive
for health care providers to charge for additional services and to
focus on receiving greater payments rather than on patient needs and
"Jail's Broken Locks are Widespread; Reports Detail Incidents of
City Inmates Regularly Breaking Out of Their Cells," Richmond
Times Dispatch (Virginia), June 7, 2005, at A-1, by Jim Nolan,
David Ress and Jeremy Redmon.
According to reports released under the Freedom of Information Act,
up to 75 percent of the cells in the Richmond City Jail may have faulty
locks. The Times-Dispatch obtained disciplinary reports for
at least 15 incidents of inmates breaking out of their cells in 2004
and more than two dozen other reports of inmates found wandering in
unauthorized areas of the jail. Jail officials acknowledge that inmates
may be able to jam paper and other debris into the locks on their
cell doors, and then later simply shake the jammed locks to release
them. The ongoing problem came to light last year, when one young
inmate got out of his cell in the felony lockdown area of the jail
and attacked and beat to death another inmate, who had been arrested
on charges of sexually assaulting the young man's mother. After the
reports were published, the Richmond Sheriff's office announced that
it would hire a locksmith to repair inoperable locks in the jail,
at an estimated cost of $120,000. City officials claim that the sorely
needed full renovations to the jail will cost upwards of $25 million.
"Broader definition of terror; The U.S. Justice Department's silence
regarding specific cases has sparked a controversy," Des Moines
Register (Iowa), May 16, 2005, at 1B, by Dalmer Bert.
Department of Justice documents obtained under the Freedom of Information
Act show that the Justice Department has greatly broadened the definition
of terrorism since 2001 for purposes of counting terrorism-related
cases and seeking congressional funding and authorization for greater
police power, as under the Patriot Act. Justice Department memoranda
show that officials broadened record-keeping practices so that they
could increase the reported number of "terrorism-related cases."
Under the new practices, the Department of Justice could count an
investigation into drug charges against several American contractors
working at airport runway jobs as well as cases in which terrorism-related
tips were received and immediately disregarded before investigations
were opened. In the year prior to September 11, 2001, only 29 terrorism-related
convictions were reported; in the two years after the new policy changes
took effect, the Justice Department claims that it has won convictions
in 1,065 terrorism-related cases, in addition to hundreds of arrests
and investigations. Few of the defendants in the reported cases have
been identified, however, even at the request of Congress.
"City rarely prosecutes civil rights complaints; A report shows
officers seldom are taken to court over alleged offenses, here or elsewhere,"
The Houston Chronicle, December 1, 2004, at A1, by John Frank.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) analyzed hundreds
of Department of Justice records it obtained under the Freedom of
Information Act and concluded that federal prosecutors around the
country decline to prosecute about 98 percent of all civil rights
violations alleged against police officers, prison guards, and other
government officials. According to the report, the prosecution rates
are among the lowest in Houston, with less than 1 percent of all cases
actually being pursued by the U.S. Attorney's Office there, although
the Southern District of Texas has the highest number of FBI investigations
of police abuse and civil rights violations. One co-author of the
report suggests that one contributing factor may by the FBI's failure
to follow through fully with civil rights investigations.
"Amid Strife, Abramoff Had Pal at White House," Los Angeles
Times, May 11, 2006, by Peter Wallsten, James Gerstenzang, and
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has recently pled guilty to fraud and
tax evasion in connection with secret kickbacks from Indian tribe
activities, had regular contact with a high-ranking official at the
White House, according to documents released under the Freedom of
Information Act. The Office of Management and Budget released a series
of friendly e-mails between Abramoff and David H. Safavian, the former
White House chief of federal procurement policy who was charged with
perjury in conjunction with the federal investigation into Abramoff's
lobbying activities last year. Safavian offered sympathy to Abramoff
after the scandal over his improper lobbying tactics broke, and at
one point offered to help Abramoff with "damage control"
and told him that "you're in our thoughts." It appears,
however, that Safavian was not Abramoff's only connection in the White
House. Documents released by the Secret Service recently show that
Abramoff made at least two official visits to the White House, and
it is believed that he was there on a number of other occasions, including
when he is shown in a photo with President Bush.
"Did Daley make him the fall guy? Water department's boss OK'd
probe of scam, then lost job," Chicago Tribune, May 5,
2006, by Gary Washburn.
Chicago Water Management Commissioner Richard Rice was fired after
a probe uncovered a timesheet scam by nine employees in Rice's department.
According to a confidential document obtained under the Freedom of
Information Act, however, it was Rice himself who approved the probe,
tracking payroll irregularities involving nine workers. Some have
suggested that Rice may have served as a scapegoat, who was fired
to demonstrate that the mayor is living up to his promises of being
tough on corruption.
"Yellowstone considers wireless tower expansion," Centre
Daily Times (State College, PA), May 4, 2006, by Rita Beamish,
The Associated Press.
Officials of Yellowstone National Park are preparing to expand the
availability of cellular phone service inside the park, according
to records of a meeting last year with telecommunications companies
who would like to operate in the park, which were released under the
Freedom of Information Act. The AP, which obtained the documents pursuant
to a Freedom of Information Act request, said that park officials
asked them to identify sites where wireless towers or other equipment
would have the least visible impact on visitors after vigilant watchdog
groups alleged that cell phone service in the park would mar the quiet
of the landscape there. Because the park attracts more than 2.8 million
visitors annually, the companies have pressured park officials to
allow them to provide service there in order to get an edge in the
"Few Punished in Abuse Cases," The New York Times,
April 27, 2006, by Eric Schmitt.
A report compiled by several human rights groups, based on tens of
thousands of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act,
finds significant failures in government efforts to investigate and
punish military and civilian personnel engaged in abuse of detainees
in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. According to the documents
reviewed for the report, 410 individuals have been investigated, but
only about one-third have faced any disciplinary action. The report
recommends, among other actions, that the Senate should deny promotion
to any officer who has been implicated in an abuse case.
"Washington owed billions of dollars: Fraction of fines actually
get paid; Penalties get axed, ignored, forgotten," Kansas City
Star, March 19, 2006, by Martha Mendoza and Christopher Sullivan,
the Associated Press.
An investigation by the Associated Press using records obtained under
the Freedom of Information Act uncovered a huge increase in the amount
of unpaid federal fines owed by individuals and corporations. In some
cases, large penalty fines have been avoided or reduced through negotiations,
because companies go bankrupt before the fines are paid, or because
federal officials often fail to keep track of who owes what in the
highly-decentralized collection system. According to the AP analysis
of financial penalty enforcement figures across the federal government,
the government is owed billions of dollars including, for instance,
more than $35 billion in fines owed to the Justice Department from
criminal and civil cases as well as billions of dollars in penalties
charged against energy and mining companies for safety and environmental
violations. In addition to unpaid fines, AP found countless fines
that were paid, but in a significantly reduced amount. For example,
the government sought to assess a fine in the amount of $60 million
for "commercial fraud" against one large corporation, but
the case ended with only a $15,000 collection by Customs after the
company challenged the government's claim.
"IRS audited group after criticism," Fort Worth Star-Telegram,
February 27, 2006, by R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post.
The Internal Revenue Service conducted an audit of the nonprofit
group Texans for Public Justice, which had openly criticized the campaign
spending of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The audit was
requested by Rep. Sam Johnson, a member of the Ways and Means Committee
and an ally of DeLay. The group's founder, Craig McDonald, used the
Freedom of Information Act to determine the circumstances that prompted
the audit; the released materials included a letter from Johnson to
IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, asking him to report the results of
the audit directly to the congressman. The IRS auditors, however,
found no tax violations by the group.
"Report Slams UCI's Kidney Transplant Care," Los Angeles
Times, February 16, 2006, by Charles Ornstein.
An investigation into the kidney transplant program at UCI Medical
Center in Orange County in December 2005 aided by documents released
under the Freedom of Information Act found that the hospital failed
to ensure that all staff completed required training, and did not
institute federally-mandated patient care reviews and oversight, including
monitoring the diets of organ donor recipients. UCI hospital shut
down its liver transplant program last year, after an investigation
by The Times revealed that more than 30 patients had died waiting
for organs, although the hospital turned down numerous donors.
"Pentagon accused of ignoring waste allegations; At issue is a
program that lets vendors set their own prices; Defense said the program
worked," Philadelphia Inquirer, January 24, 2006, by Seth
Documents acquired by Knight Ridder under the Freedom of Information
Act show that a retired Army Reserve officer, Paul Fellencer Sr.,
tried to expose as much as $200 million in wasteful spending, but
Pentagon officials casually dismissed his claim and claims of several
others. The whistleblower alleged that a multibillion-dollar Pentagon
prime vendor program used middlemen who set their own prices to purchase
certain equipment for use by the Defense Department. DOD apparently
bought kitchen equipment through the program, spending as much as
$20 each for ice cube trays that retail for less than a dollar, $1000
for toasters and popcorn-makers, and $5,500 for a deep-fryer (which
other government agencies bought for only $1,919). Fellencer documented
the prime vendor program spending in detailed spreadsheets, and provided
the data to officials at a Pentagon fraud hotline. After an eight-hour
investigation, officials declared the tip "unsubstantiated,"
and dismissed it, according to the recently released documents.
"Data: Navy tried to tilt Vieques vote," Orlando Sentinel,
July 23, 2005, by John J. Lumpkin, the Associated Press.
According to records obtained by Judicial Watch under the Freedom
of Information Act, the Navy paid $1.6 million to a communications
firm in 2001 for a public relations campaign seeking to influence
the results of a referendum on whether the military could continue
to use the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a bombing range for training.
The Rendon Group was under contract to "conduct public outreach
to build grass-roots support" in favor of continued Navy training
at Vieques. The vote never took place, however, because in January
2002 President Bush announced that the Navy would stop conducting
bombing practice on the island, and the range closed in 2003.
"A breach of the truth," Chattanooga Times Free Press
(Tennessee), March 4, 2006, at B6.
Despite President Bush's statement after Hurricane Katrina hit New
Orleans last August, claiming, "I don't think anyone anticipated
the breach of the levees," new video released to the Associated
Press under the Freedom of Information Act shows Bush being briefed
about potential weaknesses in the levees. The tape shows FEMA director
Michael Brown giving a briefing, including that the storm was "a
big one" and that experts, including Max Mayfield, director of
the National Hurricane Center, feared that it could submerge New Orleans
and result in a high death toll. On the tape, however, President Bush
appears unconcerned; he asked no questions and replied only that "We
are fully prepared."
"That Wild Taxi Ride Is Safer Than You Think, a Study Says,"
New York Times, April 28, 2006, by Thomas J. Lueck and Janon
A study, based on state accident records obtained under the Freedom
of Information Act, finds that contrary to popular belief New York
taxis are relatively safe-in fact, taxi and livery-cab drivers have
accident rates overall that are one-third lower than other private
vehicle drivers. The study also found, however, that passengers in
taxicabs are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries than passengers
in private cars, largely because taxi riders rarely wear seatbelts
and can be injured by cab partitions. Bruce Schaller, an independent
transportation consultant for cities and transit agencies, was not
paid by New York City Transit officials or the Taxi and Limousine
Commission, but rather conducted the study to satisfy his own curiosity.
"PETA urges AF to stop Taser testing on animals," San
Antonio Express-News, April 6, 2006.
Video footage obtained by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
shows Air Force testing of Taser guns on animals at Brooks City-Base.
The video showed animals writhing in apparent pain as they were hit
with electric shocks from the guns. PETA called on air force to stop
such testing, but an Air Force spokesman said that the research on
nonlethal methods of incapacitating individuals is vital to national
defense and the military will not comply with the request. PETA says
that stun guns have already been tested extensively, and these additional
tests, which "cause excruciating pain and suffering to the animals
involved," are unnecessary.
"System Error: The NSA has spent six years and hundreds of millions
of dollars trying to kick-start a program, intended to help protect
the United States against terrorism, that many experts say was doomed
from the start," Baltimore Sun, January 29, 2006, by Siobhan
A classified program, launched in 1999 to help the National Security
Agency sift through electronic communications data and enable analysts
to pick out the tidbits of information that are most important for
national security, is still not fully functional. After more than
six years and $1.2 billion in development costs, the project has resulted
in only a few technical and analytical tools and suffers from a lack
of clearly defined goals and direction. An NSA inspector general report,
obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Baltimore
Sun, found "inadequate management and oversight" of
private contractors and overpayment for the work on the project.
"Librarians would shelve Patriot Act," San Antonio Express-News,
January 25, 2006, by Amy Dorsett.
A series of Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the FBI
by the Electronic Privacy Information Center uncovered a series of
e-mails between agents complaining about public backlash over the
Patriot Act, including by "radical, militant librarians."
Members of the American Library Association last year debuted a button,
one of the biggest sellers at the organization's annual convention,
declaring "Radical Militant Librarians." This group's anger
over the Patriot Act largely stems from provisions in the law that
allow government agents to inspect reading lists and reference materials
used at libraries and bookstores by individuals under investigation;
librarians are prohibited from telling patrons that material about
them has been requested.
"U.S. Saw Spread of Nuclear Arms as 'Inevitable'; 1975 CIA Outlook
Bleak; Progress has Been Made," Boston Globe, August 6,
2005, by Bryan Bender.
A CIA estimate, sent to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld in
1975, offered a bleak outlook of the spread of nuclear weapons: "The
future is likely to be characterized not only by an increased number
but also an increased diversity of nuclear actors." The estimate
was declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act
to the National Security Archive, along with a series of other Cold
War nuclear intelligence documents, all of which demonstrate a belief
by the U.S. government that significant increases in the number of
nuclear actors was "inevitable." In the 30 years since the
estimate, however, only one country-Pakistan-is known to have developed
nuclear weapons and joined the existing seven nuclear states (U.S.A,
Russia, U.K., France, China, India, Israel).
"A haven for handouts; Records: Funds for a drug program run by
council candidate Thomas White went to him and employees," Newsday,
July 18, 2005, by William Murphy.
Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
by Newsday reveal rampant misappropriation of funds by the J-CAP Foundation
that were intended to provide money for drug treatment programs, including
the Queens Village Committee for Mental Health for Jamaica Community
Adolescent Program. Investigative reports show that benefits from
the Foundation, run by current City Council candidate Thomas White
during the 1990s, went primarily to J-CAP executives and employees.
White and other employees used SUVs leased by the foundation and used
funds to make personal loans to employees and to pay $4,196 in New
York City parking tickets.
"Social Security Opened Its Files For 9/11 Inquiry," New
York Times, June 22, 2005, by Eric Lichtblau.
The Social Security Administration has relaxed its privacy restrictions
since the September 11 attacks and searched thousands of its files
at the request of the FBI, according to memos obtained under the Freedom
of Information Act by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Despite
strict privacy policies that prohibit access by other agencies to
personal information about individuals, senior officials at the Social
Security Administration agreed to an "ad hoc" policy which
permitted FBI searches pursuant to claims of a "life-threatening"
emergency. The Internal Revenue Service also assisted the FBI, providing
income information about individual taxpayers for terrorism inquiries.
"State pols jump ahead in line for Illini tickets; For ordinary
fans, it's scalpers or TV," Chicago Sun Times, February
27, 2005, by Dave McKinney.
Tickets for the top-ranked Fighting Illini basketball games are difficult
to come by, but not for state politicians and others with high-level
connections, according to lists of ticket recipients obtained through
a Freedom of Information Act request to the University of Illinois.
The records show that the university has given more than 2,000 tickets
to its trustees as well as state lawmakers, congressmen, and lobbyists,
among others. And while the face value of the tickets can be as much
as $30, with ticket brokers and scalpers sometimes selling them for
up to 13 times face value, the VIPs have all received their tickets
"White House paid commentator to promote law; Pundit got $240,000
to pitch education reform," USA Today, January 7, 2005,
by Greg Toppo.
The Bush administration paid a well-known political pundit to promote
its reform of the No Child Left Behind Act on his television show
geared to black audiences, according to documents released to USA
Today under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents include
a contract between the Education Department and commentator Armstrong
Williams, which required Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB
during the course of his broadcasts" and to interview Education
Secretary Rod Paige. The government also asked Williams to use his
contacts with other black broadcast journalists to encourage wide
supportive coverage of President Bush's NCLB reform plan.
"Many FDA Scientists had Drug Concerns, 2002 Survey Shows,"
Washington Post, December 16, 2004, at A1, by Marc Kaufman.
A survey conducted by the inspector general of the Department of
Health and Human Services support some critics argument that the FDA
is ineffective at keeping unsafe drugs off the market, according to
records obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees
for Environmental Responsibility under the Freedom of Information
Act. Almost one-fifth of the FDA scientists surveyed in 2002 said
they had been pressured or intimidated into recommending approval
a drug, despite their own misgivings about the drug's safety or effectiveness.
Moreover, more than one-third of the scientists were not confident
in the FDA's ability to assess the safety of a drug.
"Anthrax slip-ups raise fears about planned biolabs," USA
Today, October 14, 2004, by Dan Vergano and Steve Sternberg.
A 361-page report by Army investigators, obtained recently under
the Freedom of Information Act, described a number of incidents of
anthrax contamination at the nation's premiere biodefense laboratory,
the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at
Fort Detrick, MD. In 2001 and 2002, anthrax spores apparently leaked
from secure labs into scientists' office, and 88 people were tested
for anthrax exposure but no one was injured and no contamination was
found in the residential area surrounding Fort Detrick. Nonetheless,
the report alarmed critics who have challenged military plans to build
additional biodefense research facilities at some major research institutions
across the country, including Boston College, citing the danger of
research on live bacteria in populated areas.
"Policy on Gays Seen Hurting Military; Others with Same Skills
are Recalled," Boston Globe, July 9, 2004, by Bryan Bender.
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prohibits gays
from serving openly in the U.S. military, has contributed to serious
skills shortfalls, including in intelligence, military police, and
infantry operations, according to new military statistics released
under the Freedom of Information Act. The statistics suggest that
reserve forces are being called up to fulfill gaps in many functions
that had previously been performed by soldiers dismissed on the basis
of their sexual orientation-nearly 10,000 since 1994. Critics argue
that the policy is outdated and undermines military readiness at a
time when demands on forces are high.
"Feds fault Chiron for lax cleanup of flu shot plant," San
Francisco Chronicle, June 21, 2006, by Sabin Russell.
The British pharmaceutical company Chiron Corp.'s Liverpool plant,
which produces half of the United States' supply of the influenza
vaccine, failed to meet FDA regulations as late as the end of last
summer, according to FDA documents released under the Freedom of Information
Act. The year before, in 2004, the plant's entire production run-over
48 million doses-was condemned and destroyed by the FDA, causing a
severe shortage of the vaccine for the winter. However, despite the
company's expectations of resuming production and shipments for the
end of 2005, the FDA found that the plant was not doing an adequate
job of testing for the presence of the bacteria that had led to the
previous year's shutdown. Chiron was only cleared to ship out the
vaccine as late at the end of October, 2005, causing a great deal
of concern for many awaiting the vaccine and several spot shortages
over the fall.
"More Army recruits have records: Number allowed in with misdemeanors
more than doubles," Chicago Sun-Times, June 19, 2006,
by Frank Main.
Documents released by the Army to the Chicago Sun-Times
under the Freedom of Information Act show that, even as the Army is
screening applicants more carefully than ever, the percentage of recruits
entering the Army with waivers for misdemeanors and medical issues
have doubled since 2001. Although studies have shown the recruits
with so-called "moral waivers," who have been convicted
of a misdemeanor in the past, are more likely to be separated from
the service, the Army has increased the number of waivers it has granted
as recruitments levels continue to fall.
"Pentagon videos of 9/11 released; Defense Dept. makes security
tapes public after Moussaoui trial, lawsuit," USA Today,
May 17, 2006, by Tom Vanden Brook.
Videos of the September 11. 2001 attack on the Pentagon were released
for the first time by the Department of Defense in response to a Freedom
of Information Act request made by Judicial Watch, a public interest
group. The lack of video confirmation of the attack led some to develop
a variety of theories about the crash; Judicial Watch hoped that the
release of the video would set things straight. The Pentagon withheld
the videos until the completion of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui,
who plead guilty to conspiring with Al-Qaeda to plan the attacks,
and was sentenced in early May.