Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Using the Freedom of Information Act

On September 20, 2005, the US House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform, transmitted for public release its report number 109-226, A CITIZEN'S GUIDE ON USING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT AND THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974 TO REQUEST GOVERNMENT RECORDS.

This report updates the earlier citizen's guide and is the definitive reference for people who want to exercise their right to information under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

At a time when agencies at all levels of government are trying harder to conceal rather than reveal information, it is important that the public know what tools are available to thwart unreasonable secrecy.


Blogger stebbijo said...

That is so interesting. However, it does not work. Case in point -- some years back, my husband and I were investigating the appointment of a judge. We wanted the information and used the FOIA. This is in Bonner County, Idaho -- Sandpoint, Idaho. We were denied the information based on some administrative rule. I don't know why that would be such a big secret -- but it was. We heard through a very good source -- that the judge was appointed because she threatened a discrimination suit against the county if she wasn't. I kind of believe that because another very good source of mine almost opted out when this judge called the governor of Idaho then (Batt) and threatened another lawsuit against the state when I spoke on the statehouse steps some years back with this statehouse official.

Then -- well I have other stories on the FOIA and Idaho -- but later. Ho - Hum.

11:49 AM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...

The FOIA only covers information held by federal agencies; it does not apply to state agencies. Idaho has its own laws: The Idaho Public Records Law and the Idaho Open Meeting Law. I recall from earlier emails that you don’t think very much of AG Wasden, but the AG’s website does have some useful information (link: http://www2.state.id.us/ag/manuals/index.htm). I guess my questions would be: Who appointed the judge? If the judge was appointed by an administrative governmental body such as the county commissioners, that body’s deliberation and vote on the judge’s appointment would have been required to be open to the public. What administrative rule was cited to deny the information? If such a rule is an exemption to the Public Records Law, the denying party/body must tell you the specific exemption.

12:14 PM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger stebbijo said...

Well you got me. I just know that they would not produce it. She was appointed by a panel. We tried to find out who that was.

Information is good if you can use it. The other FOIA case involved where a South Dakota prisoner was able to get letters released that were written to the current governor's wife. So yeah, I am confused. The AG's office says this is okay.

It appears to me that the Idaho Public Records law only makes public records of private individuals and protects local government official. Idaho pays attention to Federal Law when it behooves them and ignores their own and cites that none exist when they want to skirt around an issue.

I don't remember the rule -- I just know that it happened. Do you need a bevy of lawyers in this area just to get public records? Looks like it. People like myself are denied due process everyday and I am tired of it.

Of course a lot of this is hearsay, but then that is this particular judge's favorite peice of evidence -- I said it on the statehouse steps and I will say it again.

So there you have it. You threaten lawsuits -- then you become a judge - then you rule with gossip.

2:16 PM, September 22, 2005  

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