30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

Secrecy and FOIA

Mar 7, 2018 | Blog Post
Just over a year ago, a Freedom of Information Act release by the National Park Service demonstrably proved that the President of the United States was lying about the size of his inauguration crowd.  That he was even elected president was, in part, because his opponent had improperly stored federal records on a personal server […]

Mar 1, 2018 | Blog Post
Agencies Still Trying to Weaken the FOIA Federal agencies are still trying to restrict access to information and weaken the Freedom of Information Act in a variety of ways. With Sunshine Week – the annual, week-long celebration of access to information – around the corner, I wanted to highlight some of the most egregious ways […]

Feb 22, 2018 | Blog Post
Federal Response to Hawaii Missile False Alert  Emails released through the FOIA give a detailed look at how the military responded to the false alert – sent by a Hawaii state official unaware that a drill was being conducted – that warned Hawaiians that a ballistic missile attack was imminent. The emails show the false […]

Jan 24, 2018 | Briefing Book
Washington D.C., January 24, 2018 - On the day before September 11, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld believed the gravest threat to American national security was Pentagon bureaucracy, according to “snowflakes” he wrote that were released by the Defense Department after a five-year Freedom of Information Act fight and lawsuit by the National Security Archive.

Dec 14, 2017 | Blog Post
Video Won Through FOIA Shows AG Sessions Spar with DOJ Interns Over Marijuana, Gun Control A video obtained by ABC News through the FOIA shows Attorney General Jeff Sessions taking pointed questions from Justice Department interns during a June 22 department event. While Sessions spent most of his time explaining his policies, the question and […]

Dec 11, 2017 | Blog Post
This article originally appeared in Bloomberg.  A Q&A with Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, on the historical value of Hillary Clinton’s emails, the sins of Julian Assange, and what national secrets are really worth keeping. How much does it cost to keep a secret? Well, the U.S. government sort of has an […]

Nov 16, 2017 | Blog Post
Border Wall Plans in Texas would Disrupt Retirement Community, Wildlife Preserves A FOIA request from the Sierra Club’s borderlands team won the release of documents, which were then shared with the Texas Observer, showing tentative border wall plans in the Rio Grande Valley. One of the releases – a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map […]

Nov 13, 2017 | Blog Post
This post originally appeared on The Wilson Center’s blog, Sources and Methods.  The archives of Ukraine are open and they are filled with former Soviet secrets. Anyone conducting research on the Soviet Union, nuclear history, or the Cold War should visit Ukraine as soon as possible. After being selected as the Nuclear Proliferation International History […]

Nov 9, 2017 | Blog Post
Anemic FBI Crime Report Published in Consultation with Public Affairs, not Advisory Board FiveThirtyEight has an excellent article on the FBI’s 2016 Crime in the United States report – “a collection of crime statistics gathered from over 18,000 law-enforcement agencies” that contains 70 percent fewer data tables than previous iterations. The missing data from the […]

Nov 1, 2017 | Special Exhibit
Over the years, we've seen countless cases of a government agency or official refusing to declassify a document on national security grounds, only to find out it's already been safely released to the public by another deparment. The sheer quantity of these "dubious secrets" points up problems of subjectivity, poor communication, and overclassification within the secrecy system.  Sometimes the decisions have real impact — halting criminal trials, for instance.  At other times they're downright silly.  Here are some of the more questionable ones we’ve encountered.    

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