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A day in FoIA: ACLUS takes TIA to court as agency denies existence of drone programme, fears of shortfall as sell-off begins, secret costs of railway upgrade, Italians call for a freedom of information act on ‘Day of Transparency’

ACLU takes CIA to court as agency denies existence of drone programme

The American Civil Liberties Union will go to court on Thursday in an attempt to get the CIA to hand over documents related to President Barack Obama’s controversial “targeted killing” programme that uses unmanned drones to strike suspected Islamic militants.

The programme has been repeatedly referenced in public by numerous senior officials, including by Obama himself and defence secretary Leon Panetta, but the spy agency has refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request from the civil liberties group because it says it will not confirm the secretive use of drones.

As a result the ACLU has gone to court to argue that the CIA cannot deny the existence of a programme that has been so widely reported, including in great detail in off-the-record briefings by administration and agency officials. Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, said: “It is preposterous. The assertion that this programme is a secret is nothing short of absurd.

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Paul Harris | The Guardian | September 19th 2012.

Fears of shortfall as sell-off begins

JUST 10 buildings are being touted for sale by a council trying to raise £25 million from offloading properties

Stoke-on-Trent City Council needs to sell dozens of key buildings to limit the amount it will have to borrow to pay for a new £40 million HQ in Hanley – but the Civic Centre and Spode are still not being marketed.

Details of the authority’s sell-off plans, disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal just 10 buildings are currently listed as ‘for sale’ or ‘available soon’.

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This is Staffordshire | September 19th 2012.

Secret costs of railway upgrade

THE company in charge of Swindon’s railway forecourt upgrade has refused to divulge how much a series of delays to the troubled project will cost taxpayers.

Forward Swindon, set up by the council two years ago to regenerate the town, cited ‘commercial confidentiality’ as its reason for not revealing the figures.

The scheme has been plagued by problems from the outset and is still not finished – four months on from the scheduled deadline.

A Freedom of Information request from the Adver asked for the total budget, together with the costs incurred as a result of any delays.

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Josh Layton |This is Wiltshire| September 19th 2012.

Italians call for a freedom of information act on ‘Day of Transparency’

Today, September 19, is Italy’s “Day of Transparency:” which activists hope to use to put pressure on the government for the adoption of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the country.

A group of associations and prominent individuals started a campaign last spring to demand the introduction of a law that allows citizens to have access to  documentation from the public administration. The initiative was presented at the Italian Parliament on May 29 this year. Amongst the organizers are the Italian Association of Newspaper Publishers (FIEG) and the National Federation of the Italian Press (FNSI) and personalities like Valerio Onida, President emeritus of the Constitutional Court.

Gathered today in Rome at the headquarters of the FNSI, the promoters are holding a conference with speeches from professors, politicians and journalists.

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Federica Cherubini |WAN-IFRA| September 19th 2012.


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