Today in OpenGov: FOIA delays, denials and dismissals head to committee


FAILURES: ProPublica collected a series of frustrating experiences with public records requests from its reporters. [ProPublica]

Almost every reporter on our staff can recite aneurysm-inducing tales of protracted jousting with the public records offices of government agencies. Local, state and federal agencies alike routinely blow through deadlines laid out in law or bend them to ludicrous degrees, stretching out even the simplest requests for years. And they bank on the media’s depleted resources and ability to legally challenge most denials.

IN COMMITTEE: The federal Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee met today at the National Archives. The meeting was kicked off by comments on FOIA by David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, and Shaun Donovan, the director of the White House Office of Management Budget. Your correspondent attended and provided some feedback on FOIA during the public comment period. Video is embedded below. Please share comments about FOIA and the Obama administration’s proposed “release to one, release to all” policy.

AWARENESS: Lily Rothman reported on a series of opinion polls compiled by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, which reveal something interesting: “No matter what Americans think of government transparency, it’s now at least something they think about.” [TIME]

PARTYTIME, EXCELLENT: Sunlighters Libby Watson and Josh Stewart wrapped their coverage of the scene and the parties at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, giving us a behind the scenes look at money in politics and influence at the convention. Including boats. [READ MORE]

CONSTRUCTIVE: The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a FOIA request seeking information regarding how the U.S. government launders evidence through the use of parallel construction. [ACLU]


  • How can we take the money out of politics? Here’s some ideas from Maria Yuan, CEO of [Huffington Post]
  • The flow of senior Obama administration officials joining tech companies after their service continues: Airbnb hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to craft an anti-discrimination policy. To counteract unconscious bias, Holder could recommend that Airbnb adopt blind reservations. [TechCrunch]
  • The Department of Justice has prompted agencies to “get the ball rolling” on implementing the new FOIA law. [Federal News Radio]
  • Health gadgets and apps are outpacing regulatory privacy protections, reports Charles Ornstein. [ProPublica]
  • The Open Data Institute is working on a transition report on open data. [Huffington Post]
  • The Washington Post editorial board opined that a presidential candidate not disclosing tax returns erodes one of the United States’ essential democratic norms. [Washington Post]
  • The U.S. government and the European Union agreed upon new framework for data and privacy. []
  • Speaking of privacy, the Department of Homeland Security tried to seize the smartphones of a Wall Street Journal crossing the border, who wrote about her experience on Facebook. It’s a reminder that border crossings are a dangerously unconstitutional area when it comes to journalists and the Bill of Rights. [MuckRock]
  • New York City is soliciting public comment on a draft policy on the use of body-worn cameras by police and the video they capture.

State and Local

  • Jessica McKenzie reported out an excellent, thoughtful feature about the growing pains Code for America faces with its “brigades” of thousands of volunteers around the U.S.A. [Civicist]
  • There’s a growing body of evidence that privatization of public infrastructure and outsourcing of services are often not in the public interest and reduce accountability. [TalkingPointsMemo]
  • Boston launched a wicked good new website at [Boston Magazine]
  • Lisa Abeyta says that Albuquerque, N.M., is automatically publishing open data feeds of the city’s most commonly requested public records. Good idea. [Inc]
  • A team at a hackathon in Louisville, Ky., came up with an idea for an inexpensive wireless smoke detector for vacant properties. [Living Cities]
  • Motor City Mapping is making property data available to the public in Detroit — and Loveland is taking the idea nationwide. [New York Times]
  • Here’s a great segment on the growth of secret spending in state and local politics from our local public radio station in D.C. [The Diane Rehm Show]
  • Does crime-predicting software bias judges? Unfortunately, we don’t know. [Motherboard]


  • U.S. prosecutors have linked the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, to the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from an economic development fund. The Department of Justice is now moving to try to seize over 1 billion dollars in assets, though Razak may not be held accountable. [WSJ]
  • The Turkish government has now declared a state of emergency and purged over 50,000 people from across its institutions. [New York Times]
  • Here’s a look at corruption, Nigeria and the United States. [Council on Foreign Relations]
  • Google has had more influence on government transparency than you might think. [CS Monitor]
  • And speaking of Google, Natasha Lomas suggest that we should be talking about artificial intelligence and access to open government data, looking at how Alphabet’s DeepMind is gaining access to a million eye scans from the U.K.’s National Health Service and asking sharp questions about consent, value and public good. [TechCrunch]

Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox!

We want to find and share the most important stories about open government around the world from the past 24 hours here. To do that, we’ll need YOUR help. Please send your tips and feedback at If you would like suggest an event, email us by 7 am on the Monday prior to the event.