February 18th, 2014

Adventures in FOIA

CIR reporters Ryan Gabrielson and Shoshana Walter received a uniquely packaged response to their public information request from North Carolina today. Here’s a photo of the two digging through the delivery, which included pages of clumsily redacted documents mixed haphazardly with a mound of shredded paper. 

This isn’t the first time they’ve received such a response to a public records request. Here’s what they got back from the state of Louisiana last year.

February 17th, 2014

Forty-one states nationwide received a failing grade from health advocates for a lack of public access to information on the quality of care provided by doctors, according to a new report.

Read more from Connecticut Health I-Team.

February 3rd, 2014

The state of California says it will cost $20,000 and take two years to export basic data on child care inspections. The majority of states already make these public reports available online, but California has no plans to do so.

Why it’s hard for parents in California to find out if day care providers are breaking the rules.

July 17th, 2013

"Free" information is not always free

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), called “FOY-ah” by journalists, is at the heart of public demands for government accountability. This federal law says anyone can make a freedom of information request. Many states have similar legislation, often called sunshine laws. 

Sounds easy, right? 

But there’s a catch: FOIA is riddled with exceptions, its rules differ widely from agency to agency and state to state, it often requires legal expertise to surmount bureaucratic brick walls, and “free” requests can end up costing a bundle of money. Those who have abused public trust often are able to hide behind all of this bureaucracy. Their secrets, held in millions of government documents, simply won’t reveal themselves. 

Help kickstart FOIA Machine — an open online solution to automate the Freedom of Information Act process. It’s like TurboTax for government records.

May 6th, 2011

How much do government secrets cost? Try $10 billion.

In its first full year in office (FY 2010), the Obama administration generated a record-breaking 224,724 “new secrets” — a 22.6 percent increase over the year before, according to the Information Security Oversight Office and first reported by Secrecy News. Transparency expert Steven Aftergood also reports that as the volume of secrets goes up, so does the price tag for taxpayers to keep information hidden.

According to Secrecy News:

The estimated costs of the national security classification system grew by 15% last year to reach $10.17 billion, according to the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). It was the first time that annual secrecy costs in government were reported to exceed $10 billion.

This does not include the costs for the intelligence agencies like the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. Their spending on information secrecy is itself considered a secret.

April 29th, 2011

Cost of global war on terror reaches $1.2 trillion

"As of March 2011, Congress had approved a total of more than $1.2 trillion dollars for costs associated with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other post-9/11 ‘war on terror’ operations, the Congressional Research Service said in its most recent update on the subject." - via Secrecy News

Congressional Research Service reports are not readily made available to the public. But the Federation of American Scientists, which hosts Secrecy News, regularly posts them. Below, find the full report.

Cost of the war on terror

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At The Center for Investigative Reporting, we believe journalism that moves citizens to action is an essential pillar of democracy. Since 1977, CIR has relentlessly pursued and uncovered injustices that otherwise would be hidden from the public eye. Today, we are upholding this legacy and looking forward, working at the forefront of journalistic innovation to produce important stories that make a difference and engage our audiences across the aisle, coast to coast, and worldwide. What drives our work isn't profit – it's impact. Learn more at http://cironline.org/

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