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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Safety fears over elite police officers drunk on duty at UK’s nuclear sites

Safety fears over elite police officers drunk on duty at UK’s nuclear sites

Police officers with the elite force that guards Britain’s nuclear power stations have been caught drunk, using drugs, misusing firearms and also accused of sexual harassment and assault.

The offences by officers with the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), released under the Freedom of Information Act, have raised concerns about the safety of the UK’s nuclear plants and radioactive material.

The CNC recently stepped up the number of officers guarding the Sellafield plant in Cumbria. Read more

Andy Rowell | The Independent | 26th June 2013

Bedroom tax ‘could make thousands of poor people homeless’

Bedroom tax ‘could make thousands of poor people homeless’

Tens of thousands of the poorest people in Britain risk being made homeless because of the bedroom tax, according to an analysis of councils’ assessments of the welfare cut.

From last month, housing benefit has been reduced to council or housingassociation tenants who ministers claim have more bedrooms than they need.

Data from 107 local authorities shows 86,000 households have been forced to look for one-bedroom homes, of which only 33,000 have become available in the past year. Read more

Randeep Ramesh | The Guardian | 27th May 2013

Legal aid cuts: what price justice?

In Sheffield magistrates court, Mr Zahedi has just been bailed; he only speaks Farsi. He is shaking his head as if a terrible mistake has been made, not by the court, not in the charge, but that his standing in this room at all, in his glass cage, is all the result of a factual error. He blows everybody a kiss in thanks. His bail conditions are that he stay away from a particular person; they can’t curfew him because he’s homeless. Most nights he sleeps behind the police station.

His solicitor, Lucy Hogarth, explains: “It took me and the clerk to persuade the court that they couldn’t remand him in custody, because the trial isn’t going to result in a custodial sentence. But the prosecutor wanted to lock him up.”

Her next client, Mr Oates, is up for benefit fraud, but the Department for Work and Pensions hasn’t sent the paperwork for two days, during which time he’s been held in a cell. “Without me asking,” Hogarth says, “he’d probably still be in there.” Read more

Zoe Williams | The Guardian | 24th May 2013

Paramedics ‘blacklist’ 600 Scottish homes

Nearly 600 homes across Scotland have been blacklisted as being too dangerous for ambulance crews to enter without police protection. The 593 addresses have been pinpointed because of previous attacks or threats on paramedics.

The statistics were obtained by the Conservatives under Freedom of Information legislation. The Scottish government said the figure was a “small proportion” of the country’s 2.5 million homes.

NHS Lothian had the most red flagged addresses, with 162, followed by Greater Glasgow and Clyde with 147, and Fife with 68. The Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed the snapshot for May 2013, which was an increase from the same time in 2012 when 437 addresses were red flagged. Read more

BBC | 26th May 2013

Investors target City regulator over handling of 2008 bank collapse

Campaigners fighting on behalf of almost one million Bradford & Bingley investors have fixed their sights on the City regulator.

The Bradford and Bingley Action Group (BBAG) has lodged a Freedom of Information request with the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to see whether its predecessor – the Financial Services Authority (FSA) – withheld information from shareholders in the lead up to the bank’s collapse in 2008.

Bradford & Bingley, best known for its bowler hat logo, was heavily exposed to the troubled buy-to-let mortgage market in the lead-up to the financial crisis. The lender ran into difficulties when funding from the wholesale money markets dried up. Read more

Jamie Dunkley & Roger Aitken | The Independent | 26th May 2013

Police pay £40m to translate inquiries

POLICE FORCES have spent nearly £40million on translators for suspects and victims unable to speak English over the past three years, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has established. The Metropolitan Police paid out £7.1million on interpreters and translators in a single year. The London force listed 97 languages it has paid to translate, including African dialects such as Wolof, Yoruba and Oromo.

Rural constabularies have also spent substantial sums on language services. Thames Valley Police’s bill for translators and interpreters has exceeded £1million in each of the past three years. Forces in Kent, Norfolk and Lincolnshire have at times spent more than £400,000 a year on translation.

Polish, Romanian, Mandarin and Lithuanian are among the languages which police authorities most frequently require interpreters for. The figures – obtained using the  Freedom of Information Act – expose one of the hidden costs of years of high migration. Read more

Robert Watts | The Sunday Telegraph | 26th May 2013

How taxpayers are paying for Speaker John Bercow’s nanny to live in a grace and favour flat in the Houses of Parliament

The Commons Speaker is facing a storm of criticism after it emerged his children’s nanny lives in a taxpayer-funded apartment in the Houses of Parliament. John Bercow – who earns over £140,000 per year and has backed calls for pay rises for MPs – and his wife Sally have given their nanny the run of the housekeeper’s apartment near their own palatial rooms inside the Palace of Westminster.

The nanny’s accommodation in the Commons is entirely covered by the public purse, including the council tax and utility bills. The arrangement has been described as ‘indefensible’ by a former chairman of the Standards in Public Life committee. The Bercows, who have three young children, have separately acquired a riverside property nearby for £935,000 just four miles away.

Previously the couple said that their nanny was ‘live-in’. But according to details released after a freedom of information request, it now transpires that she lives in a separate flat consisting of one bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and a living room. Read more

Gerri Peev | The Daily Mail | 28th May 2013

Police Chiefs Fears over Bettison Quiz

SOUTH Yorkshire Police’s chief constable was keen to avoid questions about Sir Norman Bettison after the Hillsborough report, a previously secret email shows. The two men worked together at West Yorkshire Police before David Crompton left to head the South Yorkshire force.

They were in touch over Hillsborough before last year’s damning report, which revealed Mr Bettison’s role in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster. The day before the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, Mr Crompton and Mr Bettison swapped emails.

Mr Crompton, 49, told the then-West Yorkshire chief constable he did not expect a “direct focus” on him. But the HIP report, which exposed a police cover-up, did feature Sir Norman’s role – and led to calls for him to resign. And today we can reveal Mr Crompton was reluctant to answer questions over Mr Bettison, 57, after the details emerged. Read more

Jonathon Corke | The Daily Star | 28th May 2013

Just 6% of British army uniforms are made in the UK while £75million of manufacturing is outsourced abroad

Just six per cent of army uniforms were made in Britain last year under manufacturing contracts worth £5million while £75million worth of production was outsourced to India, China and Eastern Europe.

Struggling defence companies in the UK have been forced to lay off staff and open factories overseas in a drive to cut costs or risk losing contracts.

Senior Tory MP Patrick Mercer – a former Army colonel and former security spokesman – claimed there was a security risk involved with making the kit abroad and said ‘every soldier should have a uniform made in Britain’.  The staggering figures were released by the Ministry of Defence under a Freedom of Information Act request by Mail Online. Read more

Rob Cooper | The Daily Mail | 27th May 2013

Over 100 skipfuls of rubbish on roads and railways

LITTER louts drop enough rubbish at the side of Scotland’s railways and roads every year to fill 112 skips – or two Olympic-sized swimming pools. Figures released through Freedom of Information show 1,800 tonnes of refuse are collected each year, ranging from old furniture, washing machines and televisions, to food packaging, paper and cans.

The cost of the clean-up operation is about £60,000 a month. Last month, almost 4,000 hours were spent clearing litter from motorways in Glasgow and surrounding area.

Transport minister Keith Brown urged people to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. He said: “Scotland is a wonderful country and its natural beauty is a key factor in attracting tourists. Read more

Claire Gardner | The Scotsman | 25th May 2013

Owners bear the brunt of catalytic converter thefts

THEFTS of catalytic converters ripped from vehicles across Nottingham soared by over 300 per cent in 2011-2012, a Freedom of Information request by the Post has revealed. Figures in 2013 have also already overtaken total offences in 2009.

The crimes represent just under 20 per cent of all recorded metal theft offences in 2012. The data shows an increase of 256 offences over the 87 reported incidents in 2011. It is the also the highest recorded number of catalytic converter thefts over the past five years.

Police say intelligence shows that the crimes being carried out mostly by organised gangs. Catalytic converters, devices used to reduce output of toxic chemicals, are being targeted for the valuable elements they contain. Platinum and rhodium from converters can fetch hundreds of pounds on the black market. Read more

Tom Norton | The Nottingham Post | 24th May 2013

Fire crews save pets from peril

They were among hundreds of bizarre calls to firefighters in Courier Country — including a cat that got its head stuck in a TV. A freedom of information request has revealed a series of strange animal emergencies such as a Perth iguana that got stranded on a roof and a dog that trapped its head between railings in Dundee’s Whitfield area.

Some of the more distressing calls included a dog impaled on a fence in Aberargie, a dolphin that got into difficulty at Moncrieffe Island and a horse that had to be put down after falling into a well in Auchterarder.

Data was requested from all eight of Scotland’s former fire services to cover the last five years, however only three responded with results. Since 2008 there have been almost 139 calls to animal-related incidents in Tayside compared with around 670 in Strathclyde since recording mechanisms changed there in 2009. Read more

Graeme Bletcher | The Courier | 27th May 2013

Sharp drop in school attacks

The number of physical attacks by pupils on teachers in Bassetlaw has dramatically reduced in the past year, according to new figures. Data obtained through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act shows there were zero recorded incidents between 2012-13 – compared to three in 2011-12 and 13 in 2010-11.

According to Notts County Council, the recorded attacks happened at Portland and Valley in Worksop and Elizabethan and Retford Oaks over the past three years. Of the total number of physical attacks, three resulted in exclusion, six pupils were verbally reprimanded and three cases put down to special educational needs.

There were no verbal attacks recorded over the same period. Katy Williams, director of business services at Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which governs Portland and Valley, said the data was a clear indicator of Outwood’s approach to discipline. Read more

Worksop Guardian | 25th May 2013

USA: Lawsuits seek more than U.S. acknowledgement of drone killings

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is facing demands in court to reveal more about the U.S. drone program, despite his speech addressing it on Thursday and his government’s acknowledgement a day earlier that four Americans have died in drone strikes.

Civil liberties advocates, news organizations and the families of those who died have brought lawsuits in New York, Washington and Oakland, California, challenging the government’s refusal to provide information.

Now that the drone program’s existence has at last been confirmed, government lawyers on Wednesday indicated they would abandon their previous arguments, which did not confirm or deny the drone program. In the case in Oakland, they said they would give a new response to the Freedom of Information Act request filed by the First Amendment Coalition within 30 days. Read more

David Ingram | The Chicago Tribune | 23rd May 2013

USA: EPA out of control

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative advocacy group, has sued the Environmental Protection Agency seeking an explanation of why it has been denied waivers of fees for provision of documents while environmental groups almost always got waivers. Just more evidence EPA is becoming a law unto itself.

Christopher Horner of CEI used a Freedom of Information Act request to examine document requests over about 15 months. His own requests for waivers were denied 14 out of 15 times; requests from environmental groups were granted 75 of 82 times.

Every time Horner appealed (he didn’t say how many times that was) his request was granted. EPA’s inspector general says he will look into the accusation; the acting EPA administrator, Robert Perciasepe, says EPA’s policy is not to discriminate in waivers and anyway, documents increasingly are provided in electronic form, which incurs no fee. Read more

The Boston Herald | 26th May 2013

DENMARK: City Council moves to counter freedom of information act

The oft-criticised freedom of information act (offentlighedslov) proposal received another blow yesterday when the Copenhagen City Council approved a proposal from Enhedslisten (EL) aimed at maintaining transparency at the council level.

EL’s proposal is based on a principle that citizens and the media should enjoy the highest amount of transparency possible when attempting to gain insight into council policymaking.

“The City Council must, as much as possible, work towards transparency and openness in our administration and I am really pleased with this law,”  Rikke Lauritzen, an EL spokesperson, told Berlingske newspaper. Read more

The Copenhagen Post | 24th May 2013

TURKEY: Reporters Without Borders Condemns Sentencing of Sevan Nişanyan

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the sentence of 13 and a half months in prison that an Istanbul magistrate’s court passed yesterday on Turkish-Armenian journalist Sevan Nişanyan for posting “insulting” comments about Mohammed in his blog.

“Nisanyan’s jail sentence is a grave violation of freedom of information and sends a threatening message to fellow journalists and bloggers that is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It should be overturned on appeal. Suppression of comments critical of Islam has no place in a secular country such as Turkey.”

“We have often hailed the gradual weakening of Turkey’s Kemalist – secularist, nationalist and militarist – taboos but democracy will not benefit if they are replaced by a new religious censorship.” Read more

Reporters Without Borders | 24th May 2013

IRELAND: Central Bank warned in advance over Joyce coin

The Central Bank was warned about potential design and copyright problems before it issued the flawed €10 James Joyce commemorative silver coin last month.

Department of Finance officials alerted the Central Bank on at least two occasions about the possibility of difficulties with the James Joyce estate over copyright and design. The details are contained in documents obtained by RTÉ News under Freedom of Information.

The coin sold out within two days of being issued on 11 April, despite carrying on its front an error in a quotation from Joyce’s most famous work, Ulysses, alongside an image of the author that was not approved by his estate. Read more

The Irish Times | 24th May 2013

MoD admits campaign in Afghanistan is ‘an unwinnable war’

MoD admits campaign in Afghanistan is ‘an unwinnable war’

British soldiers fighting in Afghanistan are part of a campaign that attempted to “impose an ideology foreign to the Afghan people” and was “unwinnable in military terms”, according to a damning report by the Ministry of Defence.

The internal study says that Nato forces have been unable to “establish control over the insurgents’ safe havens” or “protect the rural population”, and warns the “conditions do not exist” to guarantee the survival of the Afghan government after combat troops withdraw next year.

The report, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, says that when troops leave, Afghanistan “will be left with a severely damaged and very weak economic base”, which means that the West will have to continue to fund “large-scale support programmes” for many years to come. Read more.

Richard Cookson | The Independent | 14th March 2013

Nuclear boss wants to cut family fuel aid

The boss of a company set to build two nuclear reactors in Somerset has been demanding cuts to renewable energy subsidies and to help for people in fuel poverty while quietly lobbying the European Commission for financial help for new nuclear power stations.

Areva, which is part owned by the French state, has signed a contract to build nuclear reactors for EDF, another French company, at Hinkley Point. If it goes ahead, it will be the first new nuclear power plant in Britain for a generation. Areva already has hundreds of engineers working on the project.

Until now, it was widely assumed that EDF was leading the call for subsidies for new nuclear. But a new document reveals that last November, Areva’s chief executive officer, Luc Oursel, lobbied the European Environment Commissioner, Connie Hedagaard, for financial help for the construction of new nuclear power stations. He asked the commission and European Central Bank to give “credit guarantees … to be used as a catalyst to ease the financing of low-carbon technologies”, such as nuclear. His letter was obtained by the NuclearSpin website under European Freedom of Information laws. Read more.

Andy Rowell and Richard Cookson| The Independent | 17th March 2013

Aaron Swartz to Receive Posthumous Freedom of Information Award

The late activist and coder Aaron Swartz will be posthumously honored Friday, when his family will receive the Freedom of Information award in a ceremony at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center in Washington, D.C.

Democratic California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who won last year, will present the award, which is officially named the James Madison Award and administered by the American Library Association. Lofgren has been one of Swartz’s most vocal supporters in D.C., criticizing the prosecution that accused him of computer crimes and proposing a bill named “Aaron’s Law” to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was levied against him. Read more.

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai | Mashable | 15th  March 2013

Former MP Sir Cyril Smith ‘bullied police investigating claims he molested young boys’.

Sir Cyril Smith tried to bully police after they launched an investigation into claims he molested young boys, according to files. The late politician went to a police station in 1970 and demanded to know why  detectives were investigating the claims.

Officers later submitted a file to prosecutors with a covering letter that said: ‘He appears guilty of indecent assault.’ During their meeting Smith tried to find out from officers who his accusers were and admitted approaching two of the teenagers.

An officer then warned him about interfering with witnesses and accused the politician of ‘fishing’ for information, according to the records. Last night an MP claimed the documents – released in a Freedom of Information request this week – prove that 30st Smith was trying to meddle with the police investigation. Read more.

Jaya Narain | Daily Mail | 15th March 2013

Obama Administration Falling Behind In Freedom of Information Requests, Senators Charge

The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday expressed frustration with the Obama administration’s inability to comply with a 2007 open government law that Congress enacted to speed up the processing of Freedom of Information Act requests.

Advocates say that if the administration wants to get serious about improving its record on access to information, it should apply the tech savvy that has become a hallmark of the Obama brand.

Both Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, and its top Republican Chuck Grassley during a Wednesday morning hearing on the OPEN Government Act cited analyses from open government groups that showed that executive branch agencies are either simply not complying with the law, or not keeping up. Both senators cited a December 2012 study from the National Security Archive, a research institute and archive at George Washington University, that found that 56 federal agencies haven’t fully complied with the 2007 OPEN Government Act. Read more.

Sarah Lai Stirland | Tech President | 13th March 2013

Carer crisis: Councils cutting vital grants for those looking after sick and disabled relatives

Carer crisis: Councils cutting vital grants for those looking after sick and disabled relatives

A cruel new wave of council cuts is axing vital grants to people who care for their disabled relatives. Respite payments, which let full-time carers take an occasional break, are a lifeline for thousands of people who look after vulnerable loved ones.

Some use the money to pay for home visits from professional carers or to take their family members to respite centres near their homes. Details of the cuts have emerged in a disturbing new report by the disability charity Mencap. It ­submitted Freedom of Information requests to 152 councils in England and Wales which reveal that half have cut respite support spending in the past year. Read more.

Nick Owens | The Mirror | 9th March 2013

David Cameron ‘not at all sure’ on extending Freedom of Information Act

The Prime Minister has said he is “not at all sure” about extending the Freedom of Information Act to private providers who are given billions of pounds of public money for services.

He was challenged by Labour MP Margaret Hodge at a House of Commons Liaison committee meeting on March 12. He was broadly challenged on two topics, ‘Protecting the public’ which focussed on the Government’s accountability and developments on Britain’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Keeping on message with his government’s line Cameron said he prefers transparency from public authorities and private providers operating under public contracts, rather than having to extend the Freedom of Information Act.

Hodge told the Conservative party leader that her committee needed to be easily able to follow the “taxpayers’ pound” when it is being used by  private providers increasingly providing public services including G4S, Serco, Capita and A4e. Read more.

Matt Burgess | FoI Directory | 18th March 2013

Obama DOJ again refuses to tell a court whether CIA drone program even exists

Obama DOJ again refuses to tell a court whether CIA drone program even exists

It is not news that the US government systematically abuses its secrecy powers to shield its actions from public scrutiny, democratic accountability, and judicial review. But sometimes that abuse is so extreme, so glaring, that it is worth taking note of, as it reveals its purported concern over national security to be a complete sham.

Such is the case with the Obama DOJ’s behavior in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the CIA to compel a response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about Obama’s CIA assassination program. That FOIA request seeks nothing sensitive, but rather only the most basic and benign information about the “targeted killing” program: such as ”the putative legal basis for carrying out targeted killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out.”

Everyone in the world knows that the CIA has a targeted killing program whereby it uses drones to bomb and shoot missiles at those it wants dead, including US citizens. This is all openly discussed in every media outlet. Read more.Glenn Greenwald | The Guardian | 14th February 2013

Snoop cops axed: 18 officers leave force after checking up lovers and friends on police database

Cops have been nicked using police records to snoop on family and friends 62 times. Four were sacked and 14 resigned after the breaches.

They were caught carrying out private checks on partners, relatives and friends, as well as altering their own records, and passing data to third parties.

A spokesman for the Infor­mation Commissioner’s Office, responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Act, said: “It is important officers do not abuse this access and only use information for their policing duties.

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that South Wales Police had 28 breaches in 2011-12. Read more.

Adam Aspinall | The Mirror | 15th Feb 2012

Prince’s charity lobbied government to water down homeopathy criticism

Draft guidance for the website NHS Choices warning that there is no evidence that homeopathy works was suppressed by officials following lobbying by a charity set up by the Prince of Wales.

Homeopathy, which involves the use of remedies so heavily diluted with water that they no longer contain any active substance, is “rubbish”, said chief medical officer Sally Davies in January to the House of Commons science and technology committee. She added that she was “perpetually surprised” that homeopathy was available in some places on the NHS.

Lobbying by opponents, and the response from DH officials who did not want to take on Prince Charles’s now defunct Foundation for Integrated Medicine and other supporters of homeopathy, is revealed in correspondence from the department discussing the new guidance. It was released under the Freedom of Information Act to Prof David Colquhoun of University College London, a Fellow of the Royal Society and prominent science blogger. Read more.

Sarah Boseley | The Guardian | 13th February 2013

Sharp drop in new affordable homes under coalition, council data shows

Sharp drop in new affordable homes under coalition, council data shows

The coalition will commission just 37,000 new affordable homes for poorer residents – a fifth of the number ministers had promised to build by the end of the parliament – with Tory-controlled local authorities giving the go-ahead for an average of just 93 affordable homes per council, according to a survey.

Freedom of information requests by the Labour party to 324 local councils showed Tory administrations were building 30% fewer affordable homes than Lib Dem councils and about only 40% of those in Labour authorities, which were planning an average of 211 affordable properties over the next three years. More than 200 councils responded to the request for information.

There are concerns that the number of affordable homes, be they in council hands or built by housing associations, has collapsed under the coalition. Last summer official statistics showed the number of “affordable housing starts” for 2011-12 fell by 68% on the previous year. Read more.

Randeep Ramesh| The Guardian | 10th February 2013

Sorry state of affairs: MPs, Lords or aides view love cheat site 52,000 times

Westminster love rats have been trawling the web for illicit sex using taxpayer-funded computers.

MPs, peers or aides hit on a site called Out of Town Affairs 52,375 times in seven months on parliamentary systems.

Its pages cater for married men and women who are “looking to do the dirty on their partners whilst out of town”.

The site received 289 hits a day from Westminster computers in December, making it more popular than the official Treasury, Ministry of Justice and Department for Education websites.

The site’s popularity at Westminster was revealed by a Freedom of Information request asking for the top 500 websites accessed on Parliament computers.

Read more.

James Lyons | The Mirror | 10th February 2013

£18,000 bar bill for President Obama

More than £18,000 of wine was drunk in a single night by 170 wealthy guests and top politicians at a glitzy white-tie state banquet at Buckingham Palace for the US president.

The bar bill will infuriate hard-pressed families who now have to pay even more for a drink under Government plans to impose a Minimum Unit Price on alcohol.

Freedom of Information requests reveal how the Government raided its wine cellars for Obama’s visit.

On arrival guests drank 22 bottles of a sparkling Ridgeview ­Fitzrovia Cuvée Merret Rosé 2004 and 32 bottles of Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2004 were also on offer, worth £32 per bottle. Read more.

Kirsty Buchanan | The Express | 10th February 2013

Somalia: Open Letter To Prime Minister About Freedom Of Information Reforms

Reporters Without Borders addressed an open letter today to Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon calling for the decriminalization of media offences and measures to protect journalists.

With 18 journalists killed in 2012, Somalia is Africa’s deadliest country for media personnel and is ranked 175th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, down 11 places from its position in the previous year’s index.

Here is the text of the letter:

Reporters Without Borders | 8th February 2013

US newspapers accused of complicity as drone report reopens security debate

US newspapers accused of complicity as drone report reopens security debate

US news organisations are facing accusations of complicity after it emerged that they bowed to pressure from the Obama administration not to disclose the existence of a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia despite knowing about it for a year.

Amid renewed scrutiny over the Obama administration’s secrecy over its targeted killing programme, media analysts and national security experts said the revelation that some newspapers had co-operated over the drone base had reopened the debate over the balance between freedom of information and national security.

On Tuesday, following Monday’s disclosure by NBC of a leaked Justice Department white paper on the case for its controversial targeted killing programme, the Washington Post revealed it had previously refrained from publishing the base’s location at the behest of the Obama administration over national security concerns. Read more.

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian | 6th February 2013

The sneak attack on Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act is an essential tool for the British people to hold authority to account. The Coalition’s new proposals will erode its powers, expose the NHS still further and deliver an underhand blow to democracy.

The Freedom of Information act was introduced to Britain after much delay, long after other democracies including the US and Australia. Less than a decade since it came into force, the Coalition are already trying to curtail it.

On January 24th, at a poorly attended debate in Westminster Hall, justice minister Helen Grant laid out plans to reduce the amount of money spent answering Freedom of Information requests by public authorities. It was also announced that private contractors, such as G4S, Capita and others working in the NHS, who work under public contracts, would not be made subject to the Act, despite pressure from campaigners. The proposals are likely to significantly limit the number of requests that are responded to, as well as impacting seriously on the public’s ability to hold officials to account.

The FOI act allows anyone to request information from a public authority, such as a local council, government department or school, as long as requests are not subject to an exemption, or go over a cost limit. At present, staff can reject requests which breach a cost limit of £600 for central government and £450 for other public authorities. In 2011, central government received 47,000 FOI requests, costing £8.5million in staff time.  Read more.

Matt Burgess | Open Democracy | 6th February 2013

The Day in FoIA: US government “outsources transparency”, Welsh assembly at the Supreme Court and Danish opposition to new FOIA

Transparency Outsourced as U.S. Hires Vendors for Disclosure Aid

The next time you submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. government, it may end up in the hands of a company you’ve never heard of.

At least 25 federal agencies are outsourcing parts of the FOIA process. The contractors, sometimes using workers with security clearances, are building FOIA software, corresponding with requesters, redacting documents and recommending what information should be withheld.

Since fiscal 2009, the year President Barack Obama took office, spending on FOIA-related contracts has jumped about 40 percent, leaving transparency advocates wondering who’s making the decisions on whether records should be kept secret. Read more.

Danielle Ivory | Bloomberg | 9th October 2012

Legality of first Welsh bill challenged at Supreme Court

The legality of the first bill passed by the Welsh assembly under new law-making powers is being challenged at the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve claims the Local Government Byelaws Bill goes beyond devolved powers and wants the UK’s highest court to overturn them.

The bill allows Welsh councils to make byelaws without ministers confirming them.

Letters released under the Freedom of Information Act show the UK government repeatedly warned the Welsh government over a period of months that it did not believe that some parts of the proposed bill were lawful.  Read more.

Denmark: Opposition builds to new freedom of information law       

Three parties raise concern that the new freedom of information law would limit access to government documents that can reveal corruption and abuse of power.

Opposition is building to the new information access law, offentlighedslov, that was agreed upon this week between the government and opposition parties Konservative and Venstre.

The new law will place limitations on what government documentation the press and general public are entitled to access through freedom of information requests.

Despite the consensus between the five parties that negotiated the changes, the three remaining parties – Liberal Alliance (LA), Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and Enhedslisten (EL) – are demanding that the new law be subject to a proper debate before it is presented in parliament in February. Read more.

Peter Stanners | The Copenhagen Post | 9th October 2012

Obama administration struggles to live up to its transparency promise, Post analysis shows

Obama administration struggles to live up to its transparency promise, Post analysis shows

In its first year, the Obama administration vowed an increase in transparency across government, including through the Freedom of Information Act, the proactive release of documents and the establishment of an agency to declassify more than 370 million pages of archived material.

Three years later, new evidence suggests that administration officials have struggled to overturn the long-standing culture of secrecy in Washington. Some of these high-profile transparency measures have stalled, and by some measures the government is keeping more secrets than before.

Media organizations and individuals requesting information under the FOIA last year were less likely to receive the material than in 2010 at 10 of the 15 Cabinet-level departments, according to a Washington Post analysis of annual reports of government agencies.

Read more.

James Ball | The Washington Post | 3rd August 2012

Stress of new curriculum to blame for high teacher absence levels

MORE than a fifth of sick days taken by teachers last year was due to stress, figures have revealed.

Personal stress, work-related stress and mental health issues have forced teachers to take thousands of days off work, accounting for 22 per cent of absences in Scotland.

This has been blamed on pressures teachers are put under by the Curriculum for Excellence project.

The figures, released under Freedom of Information, show psychological issues accounted for 26 per cent of sick days taken by teachers in Glasgow, with 33 per cent in Falkirk, 20 per cent in Edinburgh and 31 per cent in Stirling.

Read more.

The Daily Record | 4 August

Birmingham City Council wants to charge for Freedom of Information requests

Councils should be allowed to charge to provide information to the public following a dramatic increase in Freedom of Information requests, Birmingham City Council has suggested.

It urged MPs to let it charge £25 for every request it deals with, after complaining that some people make hundreds of requests but don’t pay a penny.
The authority suggested the charging scheme in a submission to a Commons inquiry into the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which gives the public a legal right to request information from public bodies.

Read more.

Jonathan Walker | Birmingham Post | 3rd August 2012

Over 750 files released by FBI relating to late US Senator Robert C. Byrd

The FBI released more than 750 pages relating to the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd from its files in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Associated Press. The records date to the early 1950s, when the West Virginia Democrat was in the U.S. House. Byrd was serving a record 9th term in the U.S. Senate when he died in June 2010 at age 92. Among the revelations in the released records:

Byrd’s skepticism of civil rights figures extended to Martin Luther King Jr., but he condemned King’s 1968 murder in a telegram to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. “I was not an admirer of Dr. King, but the assassination of anyone is a despicable act,” Byrd wrote, while urging Hoover to investigate whether King was killed as part of a conspiracy.

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Tulsa Channel 8 | 4th August 2012

Obama’s worst kept secret

Obama’s worst kept secret

Last week, the Obama administration submitted a Motion for Summary Judgment in response to a lawsuit filed by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that demanded government agencies release documents on its alleged programme of targeted killings.To avoid accountability, US government equivocates over whether Obama’s ‘kill list’ of suspected terrorists even exists.

As early as June 2011, the Times and the ACLU had filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that the government blocked in the name of national security. In its brief, the government argues for the continuation of complete secrecy surrounding its reported assassination programme. In fact, the government goes further, claiming that whether the programme even exists is “classified” information.

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Charlotte Silver | Aljazeera | July 2nd 2012

Fall in fines for cyclists riding on Norfolk and Suffolk’s pavements

The statistics, which were revealed through a Freedom Of Information request to Norfolk police show that in 2011, just 26 cyclists were hit with fines after being caught riding on pavements, of which 25 were paid.

In 2009, 172 cyclists were issued with fines for riding on pavements, of which 160 were paid, eight were cancelled and four were prosecuted.

The figure fell in 2010, with 46 offences, of which 44 were paid, one was cancelled and one was prosecuted.

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Dan Grimmer | EDP 24 | July 2nd 2012

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