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Tracking Down  Public Records SLA -  June, 2003
A Primer  on  Freedom of Information
What are these FOIA laws? <ul><li>one federal  </li></ul><ul><li>50 state laws </li></ul><ul><li>if gov’t has a record, yo...
Why have them? <ul><li>informed citizens=better democracy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>citizens and media can watchdog gov’t  </l...
What can you get? <ul><li>Information?  </li></ul>
What can you get? <ul><li>Information? </li></ul>
What can you get? <ul><li>Information? </li></ul><ul><li>Records!  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>-documents, photos, film, video, ...
What can you get? <ul><li>Information? </li></ul><ul><li>Records!  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>documents, photos, film, video, d...
Is nothing sacred? <ul><li>Yes, a few exemptions </li></ul><ul><li>State laws: </li></ul><ul><li>personal medical info  ne...
Federal law exemptions <ul><li>nat’l security </li></ul><ul><li>internal agency personnel rules </li></ul><ul><li>catch-al...
Federal law exemptions <ul><li>nat’l security </li></ul><ul><li>internal agency personnel rules </li></ul><ul><li>catch-al...
Who has access? <ul><li>citizens, not just media </li></ul>
Records from whom? <ul><li>public bodies and gov’t agencies of executive branch </li></ul><ul><ul><li>fed FOIA doesn’t cov...
How?   <ul><li>Oral request </li></ul>
How?   <ul><li>Oral request </li></ul><ul><li>Written request more common </li></ul>
When can you get records? <ul><li>Fed: 20 business days  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>but….. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>States: most ...
Common Problems <ul><li>officials don’t know law </li></ul><ul><li>staff overworked and behind </li></ul><ul><li>stalling ...
Archive of all records audits at Univ. of Missouri
<ul><li>Practical Tips and Strategies </li></ul>
1. Take a positive approach <ul><li>Presume you can get the record! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>make them prove what law says yo...
2. Do your homework on the law <ul><li>Have a copy of the law </li></ul><ul><li>Learn previous rulings/practices on specif...
 
 
 
 
 
2. Do your homework on the law <ul><li>Get the state guidebook </li></ul><ul><li>Check for other state resources  </li></u...
 
 
 
 
 
2. Know the law <ul><li>Get resources </li></ul><ul><li>Check for other state resources:  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.nfoic....
 
RE: Security and Safety Plans/Procedures
RE: Security and Safety Plans/Procedures
 
Federal E-FOIA  (1996) <ul><li>multi-track processing   (some agencies) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>simple – complex – exped...
 
 
<ul><li>1. Keep positive approach </li></ul><ul><li>2. Do your homework on the law </li></ul>
3. Write a simple letter  <ul><li>Right agency (ies); Right person </li></ul><ul><ul><li>state: records access officer or ...
 
3. Tips on  letter writing <ul><li>Right agency (ies); Right person </li></ul><ul><ul><li>records access officer or a mana...
<ul><li>Letter generators </li></ul><ul><ul><li>states: Student Press Law Center </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www...
 
 
 
4. Be persistent <ul><li>Call for the status  </li></ul><ul><li>Find out who’s handling it </li></ul><ul><li>If turned dow...
5. Try other routes <ul><li>An inside source </li></ul><ul><li>Another department at same level </li></ul><ul><li>An agenc...
<ul><li>Bonus: state ombudsperson if you’re working in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Connecticut Hawaii </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><l...
6. Other techniques  media can use <ul><li>Alert managers to denials </li></ul><ul><ul><li>News and Observer; Dayton Daily...
Susan Long, TRAC: <ul><ul><li>“ Delay is their ally. Try not to reward them for it!” </li></ul></ul>
Top Resources <ul><li>Citizen Access   [Brechner Center,U. of Fla] </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.citizenaccess.org ...
 
Hot Issues in States <ul><li>Medical records (HIPAA) </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-terrorism legislation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Li...
TV News Directors:  Since 9/11 which best characterizes news gathering related to gov’t and security issues?  <ul><li>RTND...
GOOD NEWS <ul><li>More states putting records online </li></ul><ul><ul><li>from GSA report, May ‘03 on e-government: </li>...
 
Hippo
Hippo HIPAA
When fed agency should deny: <ul><li>Reno:  if “foreseeable harm” </li></ul><ul><li>Ashcroft:  for  any “sound legal basis...
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  1. 1. Tracking Down Public Records SLA - June, 2003
  2. 2. A Primer on Freedom of Information
  3. 3. What are these FOIA laws? <ul><li>one federal </li></ul><ul><li>50 state laws </li></ul><ul><li>if gov’t has a record, you can see it </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why have them? <ul><li>informed citizens=better democracy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>citizens and media can watchdog gov’t </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>citizens can track how taxes are spent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. these are the citizen’s records! </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. What can you get? <ul><li>Information? </li></ul>
  6. 6. What can you get? <ul><li>Information? </li></ul>
  7. 7. What can you get? <ul><li>Information? </li></ul><ul><li>Records! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>-documents, photos, film, video, discs </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. What can you get? <ul><li>Information? </li></ul><ul><li>Records! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>documents, photos, film, video, discs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>always presume you have a right – make them prove you don’t </li></ul>
  9. 9. Is nothing sacred? <ul><li>Yes, a few exemptions </li></ul><ul><li>State laws: </li></ul><ul><li>personal medical info negotiations </li></ul><ul><li>trade secrets crime info during invest. </li></ul><ul><li>names of informants exam answers </li></ul>
  10. 10. Federal law exemptions <ul><li>nat’l security </li></ul><ul><li>internal agency personnel rules </li></ul><ul><li>catch-all – recs exempted by other laws </li></ul><ul><li>trade secrets </li></ul><ul><li>internal agency memoranda/policy </li></ul><ul><li>personal privacy </li></ul><ul><li>law enforcement investigations </li></ul><ul><li>federally regulated banks </li></ul><ul><li>oil and gas wells </li></ul>
  11. 11. Federal law exemptions <ul><li>nat’l security </li></ul><ul><li>internal agency personnel rules </li></ul><ul><li>catch-all – recs exempted by other laws </li></ul><ul><li>trade secrets </li></ul><ul><li>internal agency memoranda/policy </li></ul><ul><li>personal privacy </li></ul><ul><li>law enforcement investigations </li></ul><ul><li>federally regulated banks </li></ul><ul><li>oil and gas wells </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>not mandatory! </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Who has access? <ul><li>citizens, not just media </li></ul>
  13. 13. Records from whom? <ul><li>public bodies and gov’t agencies of executive branch </li></ul><ul><ul><li>fed FOIA doesn’t cover Congress </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>most state laws don’t cover state legislature or judicial branches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>other laws may cover them, however </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. How? <ul><li>Oral request </li></ul>
  15. 15. How? <ul><li>Oral request </li></ul><ul><li>Written request more common </li></ul>
  16. 16. When can you get records? <ul><li>Fed: 20 business days </li></ul><ul><ul><li>but….. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>States: most are 10 business days </li></ul>
  17. 17. Common Problems <ul><li>officials don’t know law </li></ul><ul><li>staff overworked and behind </li></ul><ul><li>stalling on newsworthy or embarrassing records </li></ul>
  18. 18. Archive of all records audits at Univ. of Missouri
  19. 19. <ul><li>Practical Tips and Strategies </li></ul>
  20. 20. 1. Take a positive approach <ul><li>Presume you can get the record! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>make them prove what law says you can’t! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Maintain a can-do attitude </li></ul>
  21. 21. 2. Do your homework on the law <ul><li>Have a copy of the law </li></ul><ul><li>Learn previous rulings/practices on specific records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Tapping Officials’ Secrets” </li></ul></ul>
  22. 27. 2. Do your homework on the law <ul><li>Get the state guidebook </li></ul><ul><li>Check for other state resources </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.nfoic.org </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Have a copy of the law </li></ul><ul><li>Learn the law on specific records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Tapping Officials’ Secrets” </li></ul></ul>
  23. 33. 2. Know the law <ul><li>Get resources </li></ul><ul><li>Check for other state resources: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.nfoic.org </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Compare state laws: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.citizenaccess.org </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Review law and exemptions </li></ul><ul><li>Learn the law on specific records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>states: “ Tapping Officials’ Secrets” </li></ul></ul>
  24. 35. RE: Security and Safety Plans/Procedures
  25. 36. RE: Security and Safety Plans/Procedures
  26. 38. Federal E-FOIA (1996) <ul><li>multi-track processing (some agencies) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>simple – complex – expedited </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>requires new databases be designed for easy retrieval </li></ul><ul><li>requires on-line info </li></ul><ul><ul><li>index & description of “major information systems” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>description of the “record locator systems” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>frequently requested records </li></ul></ul>
  27. 41. <ul><li>1. Keep positive approach </li></ul><ul><li>2. Do your homework on the law </li></ul>
  28. 42. 3. Write a simple letter <ul><li>Right agency (ies); Right person </li></ul><ul><ul><li>state: records access officer or a manager </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>fed: agency contact person </li></ul></ul>
  29. 44. 3. Tips on letter writing <ul><li>Right agency (ies); Right person </li></ul><ul><ul><li>records access officer or a manager </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The more specific, the faster (usually) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ any and all documents related to…” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>send a copy of the form needed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Expect to pay minimal copying costs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fed: ask for a fee waiver </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>see sample letter in packet </li></ul></ul>
  30. 45. <ul><li>Letter generators </li></ul><ul><ul><li>states: Student Press Law Center </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.splc.org </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>federal: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.rcfp.org </li></ul></ul></ul>
  31. 49. 4. Be persistent <ul><li>Call for the status </li></ul><ul><li>Find out who’s handling it </li></ul><ul><li>If turned down: demand a reason </li></ul><ul><li>Negotiate </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A look, rather than a copy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A summary first </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Okay deletions of unnecessary info </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Appeal </li></ul>
  32. 50. 5. Try other routes <ul><li>An inside source </li></ul><ul><li>Another department at same level </li></ul><ul><li>An agency at a higher level </li></ul><ul><li>Gov’t library </li></ul><ul><li>On-line sources </li></ul>
  33. 51. <ul><li>Bonus: state ombudsperson if you’re working in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Connecticut Hawaii </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Indiana Minnesota </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New Jersey New York </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Virginia </li></ul></ul>
  34. 52. 6. Other techniques media can use <ul><li>Alert managers to denials </li></ul><ul><ul><li>News and Observer; Dayton Daily News </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Nudge the editorial writers to write it up </li></ul><ul><li>Enlist media to tell the public the problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>column, PSA, cartoon, news series </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>add notation in news story that info gained through FOI law </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Network with other media </li></ul><ul><li>Monitor legislation re: e-access </li></ul><ul><li>Bob-bug-’em idea </li></ul><ul><li>Sue </li></ul>
  35. 53. Susan Long, TRAC: <ul><ul><li>“ Delay is their ally. Try not to reward them for it!” </li></ul></ul>
  36. 54. Top Resources <ul><li>Citizen Access [Brechner Center,U. of Fla] </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.citizenaccess.org </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Dept. of Justice </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.usdoj.gov/04foia/ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>FOI Center, Univ of Missouri </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://foi.missouri.edu/ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>National FOI Coalition </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.nfoic.org </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.rcfp.org </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Society of Professional Journalists </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.spj.org/foia.asp </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Student Press Law Center </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.splc.org </li></ul></ul></ul>
  37. 56. Hot Issues in States <ul><li>Medical records (HIPAA) </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-terrorism legislation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Limits on info re: security, emergencies, infrastructure since 9/11 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tendency toward privacy versus openness </li></ul><ul><li>Outsourcing records to private vendors </li></ul>
  38. 57. TV News Directors: Since 9/11 which best characterizes news gathering related to gov’t and security issues? <ul><li>RTNDF Survey by Prof. Bob Papper, Indiana Univ. </li></ul><ul><li>262 NDs Jan-Feb, 2003 </li></ul>
  39. 58. GOOD NEWS <ul><li>More states putting records online </li></ul><ul><ul><li>from GSA report, May ‘03 on e-government: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ reduced cost and enhanced revenue </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>aids economic development </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>reduces redundancy </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>fosters democratic principles …” </li></ul></ul></ul>
  40. 60. Hippo
  41. 61. Hippo HIPAA
  42. 62. When fed agency should deny: <ul><li>Reno: if “foreseeable harm” </li></ul><ul><li>Ashcroft: for any “sound legal basis” </li></ul>

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