Focusing public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues

Open Government

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. -- James Madison

EPIC FOIA Gallery

EPIC FOIA Litigation Manual

EPIC FOIA Cases

EPIC FOIA Notes

Scanned Images of Selected Documents Obtained Under FOIA

Top News

  • EPIC Launches FOIA.ROCKS: EPIC has launched a new web site - FOIA.ROCKS - to celebrate Open Government and the Freedom of Information Act. The site includes links to several current FOIA initiatives, including a coalition letter to President Obama on FOIA reform, recommendation for model FOIA regulations and a new recommendation from EPIC to the FOIA ombudsman on the problem for FOIA requesters of "Administrative closure." For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Oct. 29, 2014)
  • 50 Organizations Urge Obama to Update Freedom of Information Act: EPIC has joined a coalition of more than 50 organizations that has asked President Obama to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act. "Only statutory reform and your public commitment to that reform will ensure the commitments you have made last beyond your presidency," the groups wrote. President Obama signed a memorandum in support of Open Government the day after he was inaugurated in 2009, but open government groups say he has not done enough to promote government transparency. The groups are now urging the President to commit to a "presumption of openness" and to endorse the "foreseeable harm" standard mandated by the Attorney General. The groups would also like to see the President support a narrowing of the communication privilege and end the withholding of documents more than 25 years old. Finally, the groups said that agencies that miss statutory deadlines should not charge fees and that the FOIA ombudsman should be strengthened. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Oct. 24, 2014)
  • EPIC Files Lawsuit For Details of Government Profiling System: EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit about a controversial government data mining program, operated by the Department of Homeland Security. The "Analytical Framework for Intelligence" contains a vast amount of sensitive personal information obtained from government agencies and the private sector. The system is used by the DHS for link analysis, anomaly detection, pattern analysis, and predictive modeling. The system also incorporates "risk assessment" scores from the Automated Targeting System also operated by the DHS. EPIC has urged the suspension of the risk assessment system, arguing that the use of such factors as race and nationality in a government database is unconstitutional. The case is EPIC v. Customs and Border Protection, No 14-1217 (D.D.C. filed 7/18/2014). For more information see: EPIC: Automated Targeting System, EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: EPIC v. Customs and Border Protection (Analytical Framework for Intelligence). (Jul. 18, 2014)
  • EPIC Uncovers Complaints from Education Department about Misuse of Education Records: EPIC has obtained documents from the Department of Education detailing parent and student complaints about the misuse of educational records. The Department released the documents in response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request. The documents reveal that schools and districts have disclosed students' personal records without consent, possibly in violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The documents also reveal that the Department failed to investigate many FERPA complaints. EPIC is expecting to receive more documents about the agency’s enforcement of the federal student privacy law. For more information, see EPIC: Student Privacy and EPIC: Open Government. (Jul. 18, 2014)
  • EPIC Seeks Government Report about Security of Internet Voting: EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Defense for records detailing the security of online voting. The agency administers the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which has promoted online voting and provided funding to states for internet voting technology. Computer scientists have expressed concern about the reliability of these systems and privacy risks for voters. At a Congressional hearing in 2012, the agency promised to release the results of security tests it had conducted on voting software by December 2012. Because the agency has failed to make the test results public, EPIC has demanded these results, as well as related documents, be disclosed. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Voting Privacy. (Jul. 18, 2014)
  • Defense Agency Adopts Favorable Open Government Rules After EPIC Comments: The Defense Logistics Agency, an agency component within Department of Defense, has amended its Freedom of Information Act rules. EPIC submitted extensive comments on the initial proposal. EPIC said that several of the proposals are contrary to law, exceed the scope of the agency's authority, and should be withdrawn. The final rule incorporates many of EPIC's recommendations. For example, DLA revised several key definitions, including "administrative appeal," "adverse determination, and "consultation," and modified its general FOIA policy to promote agency transparency. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Interior Department have adopted EPIC's recommendations on proposed FOIA rule changes. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Jun. 25, 2014)
  • EPIC, Partners Draft Model FOIA Regulations: EPIC, together with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, the National Security Archive, and Openthegovernment.org, has drafted model Freedom of Information Act regulations. Under the National Action Plan, the Department of Justice has been tasked with creating a uniform set of FOIA regulations that would apply across the government. EPIC’s model FOIA regulations are designed to make it easier for FOIA requesters to obtain agency documents, favorable fee status, and expedited processing. They would also create a balancing test that agencies would need to satisfy before asserting Exemption 5 for internal agency memos. The model FOIA regulations have received the endorsement of more than 25 transparency and accountability groups. For more information, see ModelFOIAregs.org and EPIC: Open Government. (Jun. 6, 2014)
  • EPIC to Commerce Department: Uphold the Public's Right to Know: In comments to the Commerce Department about proposed changes to the agency's Freedom of Information Act regulations, EPIC urged the agency not to prematurely close requests. EPIC supported several changes that will make it easier for the public to obtain information from the government agency, but objected to a specific proposal that would allow the agency to terminate pending FOIA requests if requesters do not "reasonably describe the records sought." EPIC said the change was contrary to the purpose of the open government law. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Interior Department have adopted EPIC's recommendations on proposed FOIA rule changes. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Apr. 1, 2014)
  • FTC Adopts EPIC's Recommendations on Improved FOIA Processing: The Federal Trade Commission has issued a final rule updating its Freedom of Information Act fee provisions. EPIC submitted extensive comments to the agency, supporting proposed fee reductions but also recommending changes to strengthen open government. The FTC adopted nearly all of EPIC's proposals. The FTC announced that all "Commission decisions, orders, and other public materials" will be electronically available to all requesters without charge. The FTC also said it would grant requesters additional time to assess fees associated with FOIA requests rather than simply terminate processing. The FTC agreed to be more lenient in resolving unpaid FOIA fees. The Commission also adopted EPIC's recommendation to disclose private sector contract rates for FOIA processing. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact FOIA requesters' rights. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Federal Trade Commission. (Mar. 21, 2014)
  • EPIC Publishes 2014 FOIA Gallery, Highlights Documents Obtained Under Open Government Law: In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC has published the 2014 EPIC FOIA Gallery. The gallery highlights documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, such as previously secret records about government surveillance of telephone calls, FBI facial recognition technologies, DHS drones that identify human targets on the ground, the CIA's collaboration with the New York Police Department, and student debt-collectors' lax data security systems. In many of these cases, EPIC "substantially prevailed" and obtained attorneys fees. EPIC routinely pursues Freedom of Information Act matters to promote government accountability. EPIC published the first FOIA Gallery in 2001. EPIC also publishes an authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA. (Mar. 17, 2014)
  • House Passes FOIA Reform Bill: The House of Representatives has passed the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2014. The bill would strengthen the Office of Government Information Services, require agencies to update their FOIA regulations, and mandate the use of a single, free website for submitting FOIA requests and appeals and receiving information about the status of the FOIA request. The bill would also require that agencies seeking to withhold information under one of the FOIA's exemptions demonstrate that there would be a "specific identifiable harm," tied to the purpose of the exemption, if disclosure occurred. The bill does not address several key transparency community proposals, including recommendations to limit the use of exemptions and to make it easier to track legislative proposals for new FOIA exemptions. The Senate is currently considering a similar bill. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government. (Feb. 28, 2014)
  • Senate Confirms Judge Wald for Privacy Oversight Board: The Senate confirmed the reappointment of Judge Patricia M. Wald to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Judge Wald's current term was set to expire next month, but President Obama re-nominated her on March 21, 2013. Last year, EPIC recommended that the Oversight Board, consistent with its mandate, pursue a broad agenda, including (1) suspension of the Fusion Center Program ; (2) limiting closed-circuit television surveillance; (3) eliminating the use of body scanners; (4) establishing privacy regulations for drones; (5) improving Information Sharing Environment (ISE) and Suspicious Activity Reporting (SARS) Standards; and (6) Privacy Act adherence. More recently, EPIC addressed the Board at a workshop on NSA Surveillance. And in response to a public rulemaking, EPIC also provided extensive comments on a proposed rule governing the Board's Freedom of Information Act practices. The Board adopted nearly all of EPIC's recommendations on transparency. For more information, See EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and EPIC: Open Government. (Dec. 13, 2013)
  • White House Proposes New Open Government Plan: The Obama Administration has released a preview of the Open Government National Action Plan, which sets out commitments to improve the public’s access to information and improve government information management. The report covers a wide range of topics, including efforts to improve public participation in government, proposals to modernize management of government records and update the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as well as plans to transform the security classification system, increase transparency of foreign intelligence surveillance activities, make privacy compliance information more accessible, and strengthen protections for whistleblowers. Regarding the FOIA, the Administration proposes to establish a FOIA modernization committee, improve training for government employees, and develop a unified online FOIA system. If adopted, the proposed commitments would clarify the records requesting process and make the FOIA more accessible to the public. EPIC joined other open government organizations to advise the Administration on modernizing the FOIA. EPIC also regularly comments on proposed changes to agency FOIA regulations. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Dec. 6, 2013)
  • Oversight Board Adopts EPIC's Recommendations in New FOIA Rule: In response to extensive comments submitted by EPIC, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has issued a final rule that will govern its Freedom of Information Act, Privacy Act, and Sunshine Act practices. The Board's initial draft of the rule allowed the agency to encourage other agencies to classify information, reserved the Board's right to terminate public participation in Board meetings "at any time for any reason," and contained vague, broad definitions that would permit the oversight agency to withhold information and delay document production. In response, EPIC proposed new language for inclusion in the final rule. The Board adopted nearly all of EPIC's proposed changes. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. For example, EPIC submitted extensive comments to the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: APA Comments and EPIC: Open Government. (Nov. 8, 2013)
  • EPIC Urges Oversight Board to Uphold Strong Open Government Rules: In extensive comments, EPIC has urged the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board not to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Sunshine Act as the agency has proposed. According to EPIC, the Board proposes to adopt vague, broad, and otherwise unlawful definitions that would permit the oversight agency to withhold information and delay document production. The proposed regulations would also allow the Board to encourage other agencies to classify information. The Board proposes to terminate public participation in Board meetings "at any time for any reason." EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. In 2011, EPIC submitted extensive comments to the Department of Justice, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Jul. 15, 2013)
  • EPIC FOIA Document Reveals CIA Collaboration in Domestic Surveillance: According to a Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General's report obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA collaborated with the New York Police Department in domestic surveillance efforts. The CIA is prohibited from participating in domestic surveillance, but the report finds that the agency had embedded four officers within the NYPD over the past decade and that collaboration with the NYPD was fraught with "irregular personnel practices," that it lacked "formal documentation in some important instances," and that "there was inadequate direction and control" by agency supervisors. The Inspector General's Report was prepared in response to an investigation by the Associated Press which showed that the NYPD and the CIA had collaborated on a program of domestic surveillance targeting Muslims and persons of Arab descent. The CIA originally claimed that there was "no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted 'domestic spying,'" a statement that is contradicted by the Inspector General's Report obtained by EPIC. A front-page story in the New York Times discusses the findings in more detail. The case is EPIC v. CIA, Case No. 12-02053 (D.D.C. filed Dec. 20, 2012). For more information see: EPIC: EPIC v. CIA - Domestic Surveillance and EPIC: Open Government. (Jun. 27, 2013)
  • EPIC Seeks Documents on Government's Authority to Search Journalists' Email: EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, seeking documents explaining the DOJ's legal authority to search the electronic communications of reporters. Following news reports that the DOJ seized the telephone records of the Associated Press, EPIC's request seeks to discover the legal basis for the action as well as whether the DOJ could obtain the email or text messaging records of journalists. In 2005, EPIC filed the first FOIA request concerning the government's "warrantless wiretapping". EPIC eventually obtained emails and a memo (pdf) from a former high-level Justice Department official expressing doubt about the government's argument in favor of the legality of the program. EPIC also obtained internal messages (pdf) from the NSA's director to agency staff, defending the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping and discouraging employees from discussing the issue with the news media. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government, EPIC: New York Times v. DOJ. (May. 14, 2013)
  • On Proposed Trade Agreement, EPIC Says Keep Privacy Off the Table: EPIC has submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative addressing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between the US and the European Union. In its comments, EPIC recommended that the TTIP negotiations exclude consumer privacy and data policy. Mindful of the US' progress in recent years on developing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, EPIC cautioned the USTR that an attempt to harmonize existing privacy regulations would not end well. If provisions about cross-border data flows arises, EPIC urged the USTR to ensure that consumers are given the highest level of privacy protections. EPIC also recommended that all drafts of negotiating texts be made publicly available since previous negotiating documents in similar trade agreement negotiations have been kept secret. EPIC has recently begun a new FOIA project to obtain information about the statements of US officials who participate in international negotiations concerning privacy and data protection. For more information, see EPIC: TTIP. and EPIC: Open Government. (May. 10, 2013)
  • White House Launches Open Data Project: The President issued an Executive Order and memorandum this week outlining the administration's new "Open Data Policy." According to the White House, the goal is to make information "accessible, discoverable, and usable by the public" and to "promote interoperability and openness." The Executive Order states that agencies should also "safeguard individual privacy, confidentiality, and national security." The White House has launched Project Open Data, a collection of code, tools, and case studies to help agencies adopt the open data policy. An article in Foreign Policy this week "Think Again: Big Data" raises provocative questions about the actual value of "Big Data." For more information on Open Government issues, see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Privacy Act. (May. 10, 2013)
  • EPIC Pursues Public Release of Facebook and MySpace Privacy Reports: EPIC has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for the release of the privacy assessments of Facebook and MySpace submitted to the Federal Trade Commission. As a result of privacy violations, both companies are required to implement comprehensive privacy programs and submit to independent, biennial evaluations for 20 years. Previously, EPIC obtained a copy of Google's initial privacy assessment that redacted information about the standards by which the assessment was completed, the test procedures used to assess the effectiveness of Google's privacy controls, the procedures Google uses to identify privacy risks, and the types of personal data Google collects from users. The FTC settlements with Facebook and Google arose from complaints brought by EPIC and other consumer organizations. In comments to the agency on the proposed settlements, EPIC recommended that the privacy assessments be publicly available. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission and EPIC: Open Government. (Apr. 26, 2013)
  • EPIC Files Amicus Brief, Urges Disclosure of Secret Legal Memos: EPIC, joined by seven open government organizations, has filed a "friend of the court" brief urging a federal appeals court to order the government to disclose the legal authority for drone strikes. The case, New York Times v. Department of Justice, asks whether the administration is required, under the Freedom of Information Act, to disclose legally binding opinions from the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel. EPIC's brief argues that these opinions cannot be withheld under the FOIA. "By withholding these legal opinions, which direct the actions of the government and impact private parties, the Department is establishing secret law that is antithetical to democratic governance." For more information, see EPIC: New York Times v. DOJ and EPIC: Open Government. (Apr. 23, 2013)
  • EPIC Comments on FTC's FOIA Procedures: EPIC has submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission, supporting several of the agency's changes to its FOIA regulations. EPIC applauded the agency for reducing fees for requesters. EPIC also urged the Committee to: (1) update its definition for news media representative; (2) clarify which documents are public information and ensure that hyperlinks to those records work properly; (3) disclose private sector contract rates for FOIA processing; (4) refrain from prematurely closing FOIA requests; and (5) adopt alternative dispute resolution or arbitration when resolving delinquent FOIA fees. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. Last year, EPIC submitted extensive comments to theDepartment of Defense, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Apr. 4, 2013)
  • Federal Appeals Court Rules that Government Agencies Must Make an Actual "Determination" in Response to FOIA Requests: The D.C. Circuit Court reversed a lower court decision and sided with the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in a case concerning an agency's obligation to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request. CREW argued that the Federal Election Commission's response to its FOIA request did not meet the statutory obligations of a "determination" under the Act. The federal appeals court held that an agency must make and communicate its determination whether to comply with a FOIA request, and which exemptions if any it will claim with respect to any withheld documents, within 20 working days of receiving the request, or within 30 days in exceptional circumstances. EPIC joined five other prominent open government groups in a "friend of the court" brief in support of CREW. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Apr. 4, 2013)
  • EPIC Sues Education Department, Seeks Documents about Debt Collectors and Student Privacy: EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Education Department, following the agency's failure to release documents about private debt collection and compliance with federal privacy law. The Department has contracts with at least twenty-three private debt collectors who obtain sensitive personal information, including contact information, loan status, income, Social Security number, and credit history. The Department is expected to publish a procedures manual that instructs debt collectors on privacy safeguards. The Department is also supposed to require debt collectors to submit compliance reports to the agency. EPIC's sought release of the procedures manual and compliance reports for the last three years. After the Department failed to disclose any records in response to the FOIA request, EPIC sued. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Student Privacy. (Mar. 18, 2013)
  • EPIC Publishes 2013 FOIA Gallery, Highlights Documents Obtained Under Open Government Law: In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC has published the 2013 EPIC FOIA Gallery. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, such as previously secret documents about cell phone traffic monitoring, domestic drones that identify human targets and intercept electronic communications, Google's interception of WiFi transmissions, DHS monitoring of Twitter, technology that can scan crowds at a molecular level, and the government's use of license plate datas. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of government documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA. (Mar. 12, 2013)
  • EPIC Sues DHS for Information about "Internet Kill Switch": EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, following the agency's failure to produce any documents about the "Emergency Wireless Protocols," (Standard Operating Procedure 303 or "SOP 303"). SOP 303 describes the process that DHS would follow in order to execute a communications shutdown in the event of a national crisis. DHS has stated publicly under SOP 303 an agency component "will function as the focal point for coordinating any actions leading up to and following the termination of private wireless network connections, both within a localized area, such as a tunnel or bridge, and within an entire metropolitan area." But in response to EPIC's FOIA request, DHS wrote that it was "unable to locate or identify any responsive records." For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Feb. 28, 2013)
  • EPIC Thanks Congress for FOIA Oversight, Calls for Renewed Attention to Transparency: EPIC, along with more than 40 transparency organizations, thanked the House Committee on Oversight for sending a letter to the Department of Justice about the importance of the Freedom of Information Act. The open government organizations said "outdated FOIA regulations, excessive fee assessments, growing FOIA backlogs, and the misuse of exemptions are issues that continually frustrate FOIA requesters" and expressed hope that the Committee would share the Department of Justice's responses with the public. EPIC also joined more than two dozen transparency groups in a letter to President Obama, asking him to renew his commitment to transparency and FOIA. The President issued a memorandum on Transparency and Open Government in 2009.For more information see: EPIC: Open Government. (Feb. 20, 2013)
  • EPIC Challenges Secret Statute in Open Government Case: EPIC has opposed the Department of Justice's reliance on secret legal authority in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. In EPIC v. DOJ et. al, EPIC is seeking information about government surveillance of individuals who have exercised their First Amendment rights and expressed interest in WikiLeaks, an Internet-based media organization. The Department of Justice has withheld from disclosure certain information responsive to the EPIC request but will not reveal the legal basis for its decision. In opposing the government filing, EPIC said that secret law "poses unique concerns to democratic governance and undermines the purpose of the FOIA." For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DOJ (Wikileaks) and EPIC: Open Government. (Feb. 19, 2013)
  • Congress Challenges Justice Department Commitment to Open Government: In a letter to the director of the Office of Information Policy, a Congressional oversight committee has asked a series of question, challenging the government's compliance with the FOIA. The Office of Information Policy is tasked with "encouraging agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and for ensuring that the President's FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines are fully implemented across the government." The letter from Chairman Issa (R-CA) and Ranking Member Cummings (D-MD) called on the Justice Department to address concerns about "outdated FOIA regulations, exorbitant and possibly illegal fee assessments, FOIA backlogs, the excessive use and abuse of exemptions, and dispute resolution services." EPIC makes frequent use of the FOIA to obtain information from the government about surveillance and privacy policy. EPIC has also raised concerns in comments to federal agencies and to the Office of Government Information Services about systemic problems with FOIA compliance. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: FOIA Litigation Docket. (Feb. 7, 2013)
  • FTC Denies White House Involvement in Decision to Close Google Investigation: In response to a FOIA request filed by EPIC, the Federal Trade Commission has stated that there are no records of "communications . . . between the White House and the FTC regarding the Commission's antitrust inquiry into Google." In a closely watched proceeding, the Federal Trade Commission announced in early January that it had closed an antitrust inquiry into Google's business practices. EPIC has previously expressed concern about anticompetitive practices by Internet firms. In 2000, EPIC filed a complaint with the Federal TradeCommission regarding the proposed merger of Doubleclick, an Internet advertising company and Abacus, a catalog database firm. In 2007, EPIC opposed Google's acquisition of DoubleClick, which was approved by the FTC over the objection of former FTC Commissioner Pamela Harbor. In 2011, EPIC wrote to the FTC about Google's use of YouTube search rankings to give preferential treatment to its proprietary content over non-Google content. EPIC has also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding growing market concentration of essential Internet services. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Federal Trade Commission. (Jan. 18, 2013)
  • Senator Leahy Sets Out Judiciary Committee Agenda for New Congress: On January 16, 2013, Georgetown University Law School hosted Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy set out the agenda of the Judiciary Committee in the 113th Congress, vowing to commit the Committee to addressing "out most fundamental rights, and our most basic freedoms." Updates to key legislation, including laws on e-mail privacy and cybersecurity, are included in the Committee's agenda. The Chairman explained that the Committee would also address the need for oversight of US counterterrorism programs as well as privacy issues involved with the growing use of domestic surveillance drones. Furthermore, Senator Leahy emphasized the importance of open government as an American value, promising to "continue to fight for transparency that keeps the government accountable to the people." For more information, see EPIC: Electronic Communications Privacy Act, EPIC: Open Government, and EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones. (Jan. 17, 2013)
  • EPIC Succeeds in Fight Against Protective Order in FOIA Case: A federal judge has vacated provisions in a prior order that would have limited the ability of FOIA requesters to disseminate information to the public. EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security after the agency failed to respond to a request for documents about a plan to monitor internet traffic. In arguments before the court, the Department of Justice contended that EPIC should agree to a protective order that would prevent EPIC from disclosing documents obtained in the case. EPIC challenged this argument, stating that it was contrary to FOIA law and that the use of protective orders in FOIA cases would make it more difficult for the public to obtain information about government activities. Judge Kessler agreed with EPIC and discarded the protective order requirement. She also chastised the agency for its repeated delays in processing EPIC's FOIA request. The case is EPIC v. DHS, 12-333. For more information see: EPIC v. DHS - Defense Contractor Monitoring. (Jan. 9, 2013)
  • Interior Department Issues Revised FOIA Regulations, Addresses Some Open Government Concerns: The Interior Department has issued a final rule amending its FOIA regulations. In November 2012, EPIC submitted comments regarding the agency's proposed amendments, urging the Interior Department not to weaken the FOIA as it had proposed. The final rule incorporates several of EPIC's recommendations. For example, the Interior Department will provide examples of how FOIA requesters can reasonably describe the records they seek, and notify requesters in advance before charging them direct costs of converting records to a requested format. Additionally, the Interior Department clarified ambiguous language that would negatively impact FOIA requesters' rights. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. EPIC recently submitted extensive comments to the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Jan. 3, 2013)
  • EPIC Sues CIA for Details of NYPD Spying: EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency for details of the agency’s involvement in a New York Police Department surveillance program that targeted Muslims and persons of Arab descent. In August 2011, the New York Police Commissioner acknowledged that the CIA participated in the domestic surveillance. Following an investigation by the CIA Inspector General, the CIA announced that there is "no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted 'domestic spying.'" In early 2012 EPIC sought the public release of the report prepared by the CIA Inspector General. As the agency failed to comply with statutory deadlines established by the Freedom of Information of Act, EPIC has now filed suit for release of the document. For more information see: EPIC: EPIC v. CIA - Domestic Surveillance and EPIC: Open Government. (Dec. 21, 2012)
  • EPIC to Department of Defense: Maintain Strong Open Government Rules: EPIC has submitted extensive comments to the Defense Logistics Agency, an agency component within the Department of Defense, opposing changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The agency's proposals will substantially alter the Defense Logistics Agency FOIA Program, and modify key terms governing FOIA processing, general FOIA policy, exemptions under the FOIA, and fee waivers. EPIC said that several of the proposals are contrary to law, exceed the scope of the agency's authority, and should be withdrawn. EPIC further stated that the proposals contravene statements of the President and Attorney General concerning government transparency EPIC routinely submits comments on proposed changes to FOIA regulations, warning agencies not to erect new obstacles to those seeking information about government. The statement to the DLA was prepared with the assistance of students at the Georgetown University Law Center studying the law of open government. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Dec. 6, 2012)
  • EPIC Urges the Interior Department to Preserve Strong Open Government Rules: In comments the Department of the Interior, EPIC has urged the federal agency not to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as it has proposed. The Interior Department is considering regulations that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters by: (1) terminating FOIA requests, (2) denying FOIA requests without providing justifications as required by law, and (3) withholding the identity of agencies to which the Department refers FOIA requests. EPIC said that the Interior Department's proposal would undermine the open government law, is contrary to law, and the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General about the FOIA. EPIC routinely comments on agency proposals that impact the rights of FOIA requesters. In 2011, EPIC submitted extensive comments to the Department of Justice, warning the agency not to erect new obstacles for FOIA requesters. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Nov. 14, 2012)
  • FOIA Ombudsman Sides with EPIC, DHS to Revise Fee Procedures: Following a detailed complaint from EPIC, which stated that the DHS "is throwing up roadblocks" by withholding fee waivers that should be granted, the FOIA Ombudsman has announced significant changes that will assist all DHS Freedom of Information Act requesters. Beginning October 1, 2012, the DHS will conditionally grant fee waivers if the request is likely to qualify for fee waiver. EPIC had objected that previously the agency did not grant waivers even when it knew the requester was likely to qualify. Second, DHS will inform non-commercial requesters that they are entitled to two free hours of search time and 100 free pages of duplication. Previously, the agency did not inform requesters of this legal right. Third, when fees are imposed, the agency will now provide requesters a detailed breakdown of costs. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg praised the work of the FOIA Ombudsman and acknowledged the changes at DHS. "Congress made clear that the fee waiver provision promotes access to public information. These changes are consistent with that important purpose," said Mr. Rotenberg. For more information, see EPIC - Open Government. (Oct. 24, 2012)
  • EPIC FOIA Cases Move Forward in Federal Court: Federal judges have recently issued orders compelling government agencies to produce documents in two open government cases pursued by EPIC. In EPIC v. Office of Director of National Intelligence, 12-1282, EPIC is seeking information about a plan to integrate databases across the federal government, without the legal safeguards typically in place for personal data held by government agencies. (EPIC press release). In response to the EPIC FOIA lawsuit, a federal judge has ordered the agency to disclose the procedures it has established to safeguard privacy rights. In EPIC v. DHS, 12-333, EPIC is L6[seeking documents] about the monitoring of the Internet that some Justice Department officials believe may "run afoul of privacy laws forbidding government surveillance of private Internet traffic." The government sought a 16 month extension. The court has ordered the agency to start producing documents in the next month. For more information, see EPIC - Open Government. (Oct. 18, 2012)
  • Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Open Government Case: The DC Circuit Court of appeals today considered arguments in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission, concerning an agency's failure to comply with statutory obligations to process a Freedom of Information Act request. EPIC joined with Public Citizen and several other prominent open government organizations in an amicus brief supporting CREW's appeal. The open governments group argued that the FEC's practice conflicts with the plain language of the Freedom of Information of Act and would wreak havoc on open government. For more information, see EPIC, Open Government. (Oct. 16, 2012)
  • Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Restrictive State FOI Law: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case, McBurney v. Young, challenging a Virginia state open government law that restricts access to residents and new media organizations operating within Virginia. Petitioners are out-of-state residents whose requests for state documents under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act were denied. The case presents the important issue of whether states can discriminate against non-residents by denying them access to state records. EPIC filed an amicus brief along with several open government organizations urging the Court to hear this case. For more information, see: EPIC: Open Government. (Oct. 5, 2012)
  • EPIC FOIA Uncovers Google’s Privacy Assessment: Through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Trade Commission, EPIC has obtained Google's initial privacy assessment. The assessment was required by a settlement between Google and the FTC that followed from a 2010 complaint filed by EPIC over Google Buzz. The FTC has withheld from public disclosure information about the audit process, procedures to assess privacy controls, techniques to identify privacy risks, and the types of personal data Google collects from users. EPIC intends to challenge the agency withholdings. For more information, see EPIC: Federal Trade Commission, EPIC: Google Buzz, and EPIC: Open Government. (Sep. 28, 2012)
  • EPIC Files Lawsuit for Details of ODNI Plan to Amass Data on Americans: EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for details of the agency’s plan to gather personal data from across the federal government. The ODNI is the top intelligence agency in the United States, coordinating the activities of the CIA, the FBI, the DHS, and others. Under revised guidelines, the ODNI plans to obtain and integrate databases containing detailed personal information from across the federal government. The data will be kept for up to five years without the legal safeguards typically in place for personal data held by government agencies. EPIC's lawsuit asks the agencies to disclose the procedures it has established to safeguard privacy rights. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government. (Aug. 2, 2012)
  • EPIC Joins Open Government Groups in Freedom of Information Act Case: EPIC has joined five other prominent open government groups in a friend of the court brief in support of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The organization is seeking to reverse a federal court which held that federal agencies do not have to say whether they will comply with a FOIA request. In the friend of the court brief, the open government groups said that the ruling conflicts with the plain language of the Freedom of Information Act and would produce unnecessary confusion in FOIA cases. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Jun. 20, 2012)
  • EPIC Asks Ombudsman to Investigate DHS FOIA Practices: EPIC has submitted a letter to the Office of Government Information Services, asking for an investigation into FOIA practices at the Department of Homeland Security. EPIC explained that the federal agency, which includes the TSA and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, routinely denies fee waivers in circumstances where the agency knows that the requester properly qualifies. By way of example, EPIC cited a recent FOIA appeal in which the agency wrongly denied a fee waiver request. EPIC said that the practice creates additional work for sophisticated FOIA requesters and may, as a practical matter, prevent other requesters from pursuing important FOIA requests. For more information, see EPIC: DHS Privacy Office and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws. (Jun. 4, 2012)
  • Senate Approves FDA Transparency Amendment: The Senate has approved a pro-transparency amendment sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. Senator Leahy's amendment will preserve public access to information in the agency's possession related to drugs and pharmaceuticals. The Act originally would have allowed the agency to deny public access to information relating to drugs obtained from a federal, state, local, or foreign government agency if that agency had requested that the information be kept confidential. Many members of the government transparency and accountability community objected in a letter to Congress, highlighting the importance of transparency regarding drug information and the potential health and safety risks created by the original language. For more information, see Openthegovernment.org and EPIC: Open Government. (May. 24, 2012)
  • FOIA "Ombudsman" Releases Open Government Report: In response to several demands from Congress, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) has released a long-delayed report with recommendations to improve the administration of the Freedom of Information Act. The report addresses several FOIA processing issues, but doesn't examine the significant issue of delays in FOIA processing and efforts by agencies - such as the Department of Justice - to create new obstacles for FOIA requestors. And OGIS did not address EPIC's pending request to determine whether DHS's practice of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees is permissible. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (May. 1, 2012)
  • House of Representatives Issues FOIA Request Management Report Card: The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a "Report Card on Federal Government's Efforts to Track and Manage FOIA Requests." The Report Card assigned letter grades to agencies based upon their "ability and willingness . . . to submit information" to the House Committee about the agencies’ FOIA tracking systems. This information included the requester's name, the date of the request, a description of the records sought by requesters, the date the request was closed, and whether the agency provided responsive records to the request. The Federal Trade Commission was one of the highest scoring agencies, earning an "A+" for its FOIA management. The Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security each received a "D" letter grade for their FOIA tracking systems. For more information, see: EPIC: Open Government. (Mar. 20, 2012)
  • EPIC Publishes 2012 FOIA Gallery: In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2012. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation's watch list guidelines, records of the Department of Homeland Security's social media monitoring program, Google's first Privacy Compliance Report, records detailing the government's FAST scanning program, records of the FBI's surveillance of Wikileaks supporters, and DHS records detailing the use of body scanners at the U.S. border. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA. (Mar. 12, 2012)
  • DHS Privacy Office Releases 2011 Data Mining Report: The Department of Homeland Security has released the 2011 Annual Data Mining Report. The report must include all of the Agency's current activities that fall within the legislative definition of "data mining." Among other things, this year's report references the Agency's programs to profile individuals entering or leaving the country to determine who should be subject to "additional screening." A FOIA request by EPIC in 2011 revealed that the FBI's standard for inclusion on the list is "particularized derogatory information," which has never been recognized by a court of law. The report also provides information on Secure Flight and Air Cargo Advanced Screening. For more information, see EPIC: FBI Watch List FOIA and EPIC: DHS Privacy Office. (Mar. 5, 2012)
  • EPIC Files Suit for Documents Detailing Surveillance of WikiLeaks Supporters: EPIC has filed suit against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation under the Freedom of Information Act for documents detailing surveillance of WikiLeaks supporters. After WikiLeaks' November 2010 publication of diplomatic cables, the U.S. government opened investigations into WikiLeaks supporters and pressured many online donation systems, including Amazon and Paypal, to cease processing donations to WikiLeaks. In June 2011, EPIC filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. EPIC is seeking documents that detail government requests for information about users of Facebook, Twitter, Paypal and Visa. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government. (Jan. 25, 2012)
  • Senate Adopts Leahy's Open Government Amendment: The Senate has unanimously adopted an amendment authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to the National Defense Authorization Act. Senator Leahy's amendment will limit an overbroad legislative exemption to the Freedom of Information Act. The amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to consider whether the disclosure of critical infrastructure information would reveal vulnerabilities that would result in harm to government property or facilities, and whether the public interest in the disclosure of this information outweighs the government’s need to withhold the information. The Senate will vote on final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act later this evening. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Dec. 5, 2011)
  • Justice Department Revises FOIA Proposal, But Problems Remain: In response to widespread criticism from EPIC and other open government groups, the Department of Justice has agreed to withdraw one of its proposed Freedom of Information Act revisions. The section would have allowed the agency to make misrepresentations about the existence of documents subject to the FOIA. In extensive comments to the Department of Justice, EPIC said that the Justice Department proposal would undermine the FOIA and is contrary to law as well as the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General. But EPIC also pointed to proposed changes that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters, make it more difficult to qualify for educational and news media fee status, allow the agency to terminate FOIA requests, and even destroy records subject to FOIA. For more information see EPIC: Open Government. (Nov. 4, 2011)
  • EPIC to Justice Department: Maintain Strong Open Government Regulations: In extensive comments to the Department of Justice, EPIC has urged the federal agency not to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as it has proposed. The Justice Department is considering regulations that would place new burdens on FOIA requesters, make it more difficult to qualify for educational and news media fee status, and allow agencies to terminate FOIA requests, and even make misrepresentations about the existence of documents and destroy records subject to a FOIA request. EPIC said that the Justice Department proposal would undermine the FOIA, is contrary to law as well as the views expressed by the President and the Attorney General. EPIC has an extensive FOIA practice and has recently uncovered documents regarding the FBI's Watchlist and the Department of Homeland Security's "Minority Report" Pre-crime Detection Program. The Justice Department must now decide whether to adopt the changes it has proposed, withdraw the rule, or make modifications. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Oct. 20, 2011)
  • Documents Obtained by EPIC Reveal FBI Watch List Details: EPIC has obtained documents that reveal new details about standards for adding and removing names from the FBI watch list. The documents were obtained as the result of an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI's standard for inclusion on the list is "particularized derogatory information," which has never been recognized by a court of law. Also, individuals may remain on the FBI watch list even if charges are dropped or a case is dismissed. The New York Times broke the story and posted the documents obtained by EPIC. For more information, see EPIC: FBI Watch List FOIA and EPIC: Open Government. (Sep. 28, 2011)
  • EPIC to Appeal Security Agency's Non-response in FOIA Lawsuit: EPIC has filed a notice of appeal in EPIC v. NSA, a recent court decision that allowed the National Security Agency to neither confirm or deny the existence of government records EPIC sought under the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC is seeking information about the relationship between Google and the NSA, which could reveal that the NSA is developing technical standards that would enable greater surveillance of Internet users. The NSA provided a "Glomar Response," a controversial legal claim that allows federal agencies to conceal the existence of records that might otherwise be subject to public disclosure. In related FOIA matters, EPIC is also seeking government documents relating to the NSA's cybersecurity authority and the NSA's "Perfect Citizen" program. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Sep. 9, 2011)
  • Senate Passes Faster FOIA Act: The Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), to improve Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing. The Faster FOIA Act will create an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs and provide recommendations to Congress. The bill awaits action by the House of Representatives. EPIC previously testified before the House Oversight Committee about FOIA delays and politicized processing within the Department of Homeland Security. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws. (Aug. 2, 2011)
  • Senate Unanimously Passes Faster FOIA Act: The Senate has unanimously approved bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Cornyn (R-TX), that will improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Faster FOIA Act will establish an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests and provide recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action to enhance agency processing. The bill now moves on to the House of Representatives for consideration. EPIC testified earlier this year in a House Oversight Committee hearing on the need to strengthen FOIA. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Jun. 1, 2011)
  • Faster FOIA Act Moves Forward in Senate: The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), to improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing. The Faster FOIA Act will create an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs and provide recommendations to Congress. EPIC recently testified before the House Oversight Committee about FOIA delays and politicized processing within the Department of Homeland Security. For more information see: EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws. (Apr. 12, 2011)
  • EPIC: DHS Review of FOIA Requests is "Unlawful": EPIC testified today before the House Oversight Committee hearing "Why Isn't The Department Of Homeland Security Meeting The President's Standard On FOIA?" The hearing examined the DHS's political review of open government requests. The DHS "Awareness" program singled out FOIA requests for additional scrutiny by political appointees based on the subject of the requests and the identities of the requesters. EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi called the program "uniquely harmful" and "unlawful." He pointed to Supreme Court precedent and the additional delay in FOIA processing. Also testifying at the hearing were the DHS General Counsel, the DHS Chief FOIA Officer, and the DHS Inspector General. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010. (Mar. 31, 2011)
  • EPIC to Testify at House Oversight Hearing on FOIA: EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi will testify before the House Oversight Committee on March 31, 2011 regarding Homeland Security’s political review of FOIA requests and the effects of the agency’s policies on requesters. The hearing arises as the AP reports that DHS career staff repeatedly questioned the political review policy. This report also follows an earlier release of 1,000 agency documents revealing the long-standing process of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees. In a previous letter to the Committee, EPIC and a coalition of open government groups wrote that FOIA does not permit agencies to select requests for political scrutiny. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010. (Mar. 28, 2011)
  • EPIC Publishes 2011 FOIA Gallery: In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2011. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including records detailing the privacy risks posed by airport body scanners, agency plans to expand the scanner program to non-airport locations, FBI abuse of surveillance authorities, and the Federal Trade Commission's failure to investigate Google Street View. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA. (Mar. 14, 2011)
  • Supreme Court Affirms Open Government, Limits Exemptions: In Navy v. Milner, the Supreme Court held that the Freedom of Information Act’s “Exemption 2” is limited to employee relations and human resources issues. The decision overturns previous decisions by lower courts that applied the exemption to broader categories of records, allowing federal agencies to block disclosure of documents to the public. The Court stated that this practice contravened Congress’s intent. The Court emphasized that Congress intended all nine FOIA exemptions to be construed narrowly. EPIC is currently challenging the use of Exemption 2 in its lawsuit to force disclosure of records concerning full body scanners at airport checkpoints. The Court's decision in Navy v. Milner demonstrates that the Department of Homeland Security is improperly withholding information about the scanners from the public. For more information, see EPIC-Milner v. Dept. of Navy, and EPIC: OPEN Government. (Mar. 7, 2011)
  • Chairman Issa Subpoenas Homeland Security Officials about FOIA Practices: Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued subpoenas to two Department of Homeland Security employees for depositions to take place on March 7 and March 8. Rep. Issa has undertaken an investigation of DHS’s policy of submitting FOIA requests to political review. EPIC and a coalition of open government organizations sent Rep. Issa and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) a letter supporting the investigation. The political review policy came to light after the release of over 1,000 agency documents revealed a long-standing process of submitting FOIA requests from watchdog organizations to review by political appointees. EPIC has also recommended that the FOIA Ombudsman undertake an investigation of this practice. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010. (Feb. 25, 2011)
  • Senate, House Pass Limited Patriot Act Extensions: The Senate and the House each passed short-term extensions of the Patriot Act. The Senate passed a three-month extension while the House extended the provisions until Dec. 8. The extensions included the “lone wolf” provision permitting surveillance of individuals and groups not connected to identified terrorist groups, the “library law” provision granting access to “any tangible items” of individuals under surveillance, and the provision authorizing the FBI’s use of roving wiretaps. A Judiciary Committee hearing on Senator Leahy’s proposal to extend the provisions until 2013 with increased oversight is expected soon. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) opposed efforts to extend the provisions that “undercut important oversight and government accountability of these intelligence gathering tools.” EPIC has in the past urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to require the Attorney General to report to Congress on potentially unlawful investigations. For related information, see EPIC: USA Patriot Act and EPIC: PATRIOT FOIA Litigation. (Feb. 16, 2011)
  • EPIC, Coalition Urge Congress to Pursue FOIA Oversight: EPIC and a coalition of over 30 organizations and open government experts sent a letter to Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, urging public hearings on the DHS policy of vetting FOIA requests by political appointees. Rep. Issa has undertaken an investigation of this "political review" policy. The coalition also recommended that the Committee support the Office of Government Information Services, the "FOIA Ombudsman," and encourage the Government Accountability Office to conduct investigations of agency FOIA practices. EPIC previously requested an investigation into DHS's FOIA practices. EPIC said that the FOIA does not permit agencies to sect requests for political scrutiny. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010. (Feb. 16, 2011)
  • Chairman Issa Investigates "Political Review" Policy at Homeland Security: Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has issued a letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano demanding that DHS release all documents regarding the agency's policy of vetting FOIA requests through political appointees. Rep. Issa also asked that DHS political appointees appear before the Committee for interviews regarding the policy. Previously, EPIC urged the FOIA Ombudsman to conduct an investigation of the DHS. EPIC said the "political review" policy is contrary to federal law and Supreme Court holdings; the FOIA does not permit agencies to select requests for political scrutiny. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010. (Feb. 2, 2011)
  • EPIC Joins Campaign to Promote Transparency in Europe: EPIC has supported a global initiative, led by Access Info, to urge the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament to safeguard government transparency. Under consideration is a proposal to limit open government by withholding documents that are not "formally" transmitted. 180 organizations, journalists, and activists support the campaign, and over 90 countries worldwide have adopted laws, constitutional amendments or regulations protecting the right to freedom of information. For related information, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Privacy & Human Rights: An International Survey of Privacy Laws and Developments. (Jan. 31, 2011)
  • DHS Releases FOIA Report, But Questions Remain: The Department of Homeland Security has released the Freedom of Information Act Report for 2010. The report analyzes the processing of FOIA requests made throughout the year by each DHS component, detailing the disposition of each request, response times, and the number of backlogged requests. DHS is under scrutiny for their policy of referring FOIA requests to political appointees before processing. The release of over 1,000 agency documents revealed a persistent agency practice of flagging FOIA requests from EPIC and other watchdog organizations for referral.The FOIA does not permit agencies to select FOIA requests for political scrutiny and the Supreme Court has stated that neither the identity of the FOIA requester nor the reason for the request is relevant to the processing of requests. EPIC has recommended that the FOIA Ombudsman investigate the Department’s policy. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010. (Jan. 24, 2011)
  • EPIC Urges Investigation of White House FOIA Review Policy: In a letter (Appendix 1-6, 7-12, 13-18)sent today to the FOIA Ombudsman, EPIC recommended an investigation of the Department of Homeland Security’s policy of referring FOIA requests to political appointees in the White House. Under the DHS policy, political appointees receive detailed information about the identity of FOIA requesters and the topics of their requests. This policy is contrary to federal law and Supreme Court holdings, as the FOIA does not permit agencies to select FOIA requests for political scrutiny. The release of over 1,000 agency documents reveals a persistent agency practice of flagging FOIA requests from EPIC and other organizations for referral to political appointees. For related information see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Litigation under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010. (Dec. 8, 2010)
  • EPIC Challenges DoD FOIA Processing Policies: EPIC filed a request with the FOIA Ombudsman challenging the Department of Defense's unlawful assertion that the DoD has the statutory authority to administratively withdraw a FOIA request without input or consultation from the FOIA requester. DoD made the assertion in response to a FOIA request EPIC had filed seeking documents detailing the agency's agreements with Project Vigilant, a private sector company that monitors Internet Service Providers and provides that information to federal agencies. The FOIA Ombudsman is authorized to review policies and procedures of administrative agencies, review compliance by administrative agencies, and recommend policy changes to Congress and the President. EPIC requested that the FOIA Ombudsman investigate DoD's policies and publish a report of its findings. For related information see Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010 and EPIC: Open Government. (Nov. 23, 2010)
  • EPIC to Release 2010 Privacy Report Card: As part of the Privacy 2010 campaign, EPIC will release a privacy "report card" for the Obama Administration at a Capitol Hill press conference on October 19. EPIC released a similar report card at the National Press Club in 2009. In the 2009 Privacy Report card, the Administration received the following grades: Medical Privacy A- ; Consumer Privacy INC; Civil Liberties C+; and Cyber Security B. The 2010 Report Card will reflect developments during the past year. (Oct. 19, 2010)
  • Supreme Court Will Decide If Corporations Have Personal Privacy Rights: The Supreme Court has agreed to review AT&T v. FCC, a case in which the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that corporations have personal privacy rights. In that case, AT&T prevented the public disclosure of records held by a government agency, arguing that the corporation's privacy rights would be violated. The case hinges on the interpretation of the "personal privacy" exemption in the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC, which both advocates for privacy and supports open government, is likely to file an amicus brief. For more information, see EPIC: FCC v. AT&T and EPIC: Open Government. (Sep. 29, 2010)
  • Five Billion Have Right to Information: Human rights organization Article 19 reported that over 90 countries have adopted laws, constitutional amendments or regulations protecting the right to freedom of information. Additionally, over 50 countries are considering proposals to adopt laws that will protect citizens’ right to know. Article 19 commends the World Bank for its transparency policy, the United Nation’s Environmental Programme for enhanced access to environmental information, and the efforts of the U.S. and UK governments to launch open data sites. See EPIC - Open Government. (Sep. 28, 2010)
  • Public Interest Groups Urge Supreme Court to Curtail Government Secrecy: Public Citizen filed a "friend of the court" brief in Milner v. Navy, a Freedom of Information Act case that will be heard by the Supreme Court. Seven groups signed the brief, which urges the Court to abolish the "High 2 Exemption" - a legal claim used by federal agencies to prevent disclosure of public records. The case will determine whether federal agencies can continue to assert "High 2" to block disclosure of records that could otherwise be made available to the public. EPIC is currently challenging the Department of Homeland Security's use of "High 2" in EPIC v. DHS, a FOIA lawsuit concerning airport body scanners. For more, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC: Milner v. Navy. (Sep. 15, 2010)
  • EPIC Files Suit For Documents Regarding Google/NSA Partnership: Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the National Security Agency in the United States District Court in the District of Columbia. The agency failed to respond to EPIC's FOIA request for documents about an "Information Assurance" partnership with Google. EPIC previously appealed to the agency to comply with its legal duty to produce the documents, but he agency failed to respond. EPIC is also seeking the Presidential Directive that grants the NSA authority to conduct electronic surveillance in the United States. For more information, see EPIC: Open Government. (Sep. 13, 2010)
  • Supreme Court to Review Freedom of Information Act Case Exempting Agency Documents from Public Disclosure: Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Milner v. Department of the Navy a case in which a federal appeals court allowed the Navy to withhold records sought under the Freedom of Information Act. At issue in the case is the scope of Exemption 2 of the FOIA, which permits agencies, in some circumstances, to withhold information requested pursuant to FOIA. The exemption at issue exempts information “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.” Writing in dissent, Judge Fletcher said that the FOIA exemptions "must be narrowly construed." For more information see EPIC: Open Government; EPIC FOIA Manual. (Jun. 28, 2010)
  • FOIA Update - EPIC Forces Disclosure of Report on Obama Passport Breach : EPIC's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department, EPIC v. State, has produced a report detailing security breaches of passport data for several Presidential candidates. Federal investigators prepared the report in the wake of March 2008 breaches that exposed Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain's personal information. Previously secret sections state "the Department was ineffective at detecting possible incidents of unauthorized access," and criticized the agency's failure to "provide adequate control or oversight." Portions of the report remain secret - the agency hasn't fully implemented investigators' recommendations. EPIC testified before the Senate in 2008 concerning the security breaches, urging lawmakers to limit employee and contractor access to personal data. For more, see EPIC Passport Privacy and EPIC Open Government. (Jun. 23, 2010)
  • EPIC v. Homeland Security: Government has Over 2,000 Photos from Airport Body Scanners: As a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained hundreds of pages of documents from the Department of Homeland Security about the plan to deploy full body scanners in US airports. A letter to EPIC reveals that the government agency possesses about 2,000 body scanner photos from devices that the DHS said earlier "could not store or record images." EPIC has also obtained the most recent device procurement specifications, and several hundred new pages of traveler complaints. For more information, see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging and EPIC: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security.  (Apr. 16, 2010)
  • Congressional Leaders Press Obama on Privacy Board: Chairman Bennie Thompson and twenty members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Obama seeking the immediate nomination of members to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The Privacy Board was active during the Bush Administration, but the Obama administration has moved slowly to reconstitute the advisory body. No hearings have been held and no reports have been issued. The board is intended to provide advice on the civil liberty implications of programs that effect the rights of citizens, such as the use of Whole Body Scanners by the TSA, biometic identifiers, and cyber security policy. (Mar. 30, 2010)
  • Senators Leahy and Cornyn Introduce Bill to Reduce FOIA Delays: Senators Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn introduced the Faster FOIA Act, which would establish a panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests. Government reports reveal substantial agency delays in disclosing FOIA records. The bill comes at the beginning of Sunshine Week, a national observance of the importance of open government. EPIC makes frequent use of the FOIA to obtain information about privacy issues. EPIC celebrated Sunshine Week by publishing the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2010. For more, see EPIC: Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA. (Mar. 16, 2010)
  • EPIC Publishes 2010 FOIA Gallery: In celebration of Sunshine Week, EPIC published the EPIC FOIA Gallery: 2010. The gallery highlights key documents obtained by EPIC in the past year, including records detailing the privacy risks posed by airport body scanners, fraudulent "parental control" software, and federal agencies' contracts with social networking web sites. EPIC regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests and pursues lawsuits to force disclosure of critical documents that impact privacy. EPIC also publishes the authoritative FOIA litigation manual. For more, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC Bookstore: FOIA. (Mar. 16, 2010)
  • Independent Open Government Audit Finds Mixed Results for Obama Administration: The National Security Archive at George Washington University has released the results of its annual government-wide FOIA audit. The audit tested agency responsiveness to President Obama's new directives on government transparency and openness. The Archive report concluded that less than half of federal agencies have responded to the new open government directives with concrete changes, and only four agencies "show both increases in releases and decreases in denials under the FOIA." Attorney General Eric Holder spoke today about the administration's FOIA record. For more information, see EPIC Open Government. (Mar. 15, 2010)
  • UPDATE - EPIC Sues Dept. of Homeland Security, Demands Additional Documents About Airport Body Scanners: EPIC has filed a second FOIA lawsuit, demanding the release of the full resolution images captured by airport "digital strip search" machines. EPIC's suit against the Department of Homeland Security also seeks records detailing air traveler complaints and security breaches that may have exposed data to unauthorized individuals. The TSA  has called for mandatory use of the body scanners in all US airports. A prior EPIC lawsuit forced the disclosure of documents that reveal that TSA officials can disable privacy filters and export raw image files. For more information, see EPIC Whole Body Imaging Technology and EPIC Open Government. (Jan. 13, 2010)
  • UPDATE - EPIC Posts TSA Documents on Body Scanners: EPIC has posted more than 250 pages of documents it obtained in  a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit concerning body scanners. The documents, released by the Department of Homeland Security, reveal that Whole Body Imaging machines can record, store, and transmit digital strip search images of Americans. This contradicts assurances made by the TSA. The documents include TSA Procurement Specifications, TSA Operational Requirements, TSA contract with L3, TSA contract with Rapiscan (1), and TSA contract with Rapiscan (2). The DHS has withheld other documents that EPIC is seeking. For more information, see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology and EPIC: Open Government. (Jan. 11, 2010)
  • President Obama Issues Order Regarding Classification Practices: President Obama has issued a new executive order regarding Classified National Security Information. President Obama's classified information order establishes a National Declassification Center to streamline the declassification process and sets timetables for declassification. The order states that "No information may remain classified indefinitely." The order also reverses an order by President George W. Bush that had allowed the intelligence community to block the release of a specific document, even if an interagency panel decided the information wouldn't harm national security. The new order prohibits agencies from classifying documents after the fact and also prohibits the withholding of documents that were created by one agency but are being held by another, which should assist EPIC's pending Freedom of Information Act request to the National Security Agency regarding NSPD 54, a classified Directive that describes a NSA program to monitor American computer networks. EPIC's request was previously denied by the NSA because NSPD 54 “did not originate with” the NSA. For more information see EPIC: Open Government. (Dec. 29, 2009)
  • EPIC Files Lawsuit for Information about "Digital Strip Search" Devices: On December 17, 2009, EPIC filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice concerning the use of devices that capture images of individuals stripped naked. The Transportation Security Administration has confirmed the Whole Body Imaging machines are being used in at least one Virginia federal court by the US Marshal Service. EPIC submitted a FOIA request for information about these devices including the contracts with the manufacturer of the machines, and information about technical specifications and training materials. The Marshal Service failed to respond adequately to the request. EPIC filed suit, said that the agency had not performed a sufficient search and should disclose the documents requested. For more information, see EPIC's Open Government Page and Whole Body Imaging Page. (Dec. 18, 2009)
  • White House Releases Open Government Directive: The White House announced a new Directive to promote transparency, collaboration, and accountability across the federal government. The Directive builds on President Obama's Open Government Memo, issued in January 2009. The Directive will establish benchmarks, and require agencies to create new websites and plans to promote transparency. Competitions are also planned. EPIC submitted comments on the Directive, calling for both stronger privacy safeguards and greater transparency. For more information, see EPIC Open Government. (Dec. 9, 2009)
  • EPIC Files Appeal for NSA Policy on Network Surveillance: Today, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act appeal, seeking disclosure of NPSD 54, the classified Directive that describes a National Security Agency program to monitor American computer networks. EPIC submitted the original request to shed light on the extent of the federal government's surveillance of civilian computer systems, but the agency refused to disclose the document. EPIC's appeal warns that the NSA’s improper withholding of the Directive "flatly contravenes" the President's policy on open government and "explicit FOIA guidance promulgated by the Attorney General." EPIC further stated, without public disclosure of the Directive, "the government cannot meaningfully make assurances about the adequacy of privacy and civil liberties safeguards." For more information, see EPIC Open Government. (Nov. 24, 2009)
  • EPIC Celebrates International Right to Know Day: Today, EPIC celebrates International Right to Know Day, which was established to raise awareness of every individual's right of access to government-held information. EPIC is speaking at American University's Third Annual International Right-To-Know Day Celebration concerning opportunities to restore US leadership in government transparency. Recently, the Obama Administration announced revisions to the "state secrets" privilege and increased access to White House visitor records. Both initiatives aim to expand disclosure of information. Last week, EPIC filed papers to force the Department of Homeland Security to comply with federal open government law, citing the President's commitment to transparency. For more information, see EPIC Open Government and EPIC FOIA Litigation Manual 2008. (Sep. 28, 2009)
  • Department of Justice Limits Use of State Secrets Privilege: Today, the Department of Justice announced a new policy that limits the government’s use of the state secrets privilege. The state secrets privilege is a rule of evidence intended to prevent genuine matters of national security from being disclosed in open court. However, recently it has been misused by both the Bush and Obama administrations in order to derail litigation completely. For instance, in 2007 EPIC filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in a warrantless wiretapping case, Hepting v. United States, in which the government argued that the case should be dismissed because it would reveal “state secrets.” Under the new policy, the privilege will be invoked only "to the extent necessary to protect against the risk of significant harm to national security." The Attorney General will also have to approve each determination. The State Secret Protection Act of 2009,  legislation with a similar purpose, is now pending in Congress. For more information, see EPIC Open Government. (Sep. 23, 2009)
  • EPIC Pursues DHS Official's Public Calendar: EPIC has filed a FOIA appeal with the Department of Homeland Security for the calendar of the Chief Privacy Officer. EPIC submitted the original request to find out why the DHS Privacy Officer could not meet with privacy groups in Washington, DC. The agency turned over many pages from the calendar, but the entries were all blacked out. In the appeal, EPIC said the agency has failed to comply with the open government law and also cited the President's commitment to government transparency concerning the activities of public officials. For more information, see EPIC Open Government. (Sep. 18, 2009)
  • New Report on Government Secrecy Released: The 2009 Secrecy Report Card, from Openthegovernment.org, chronicles slight decreases in government secrecy during the last year of the Bush-Cheney Administration. The report, released by a coalition of more than 70 open government advocates, also provides an overview of the Obama Administration’s proposed transparency policies. Among the issues discussed are the Open Government Directive, Classified Information, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) memo, signing statements, and the state secrets doctrine. For more on open government and transparency, see EPIC Open Government. (Sep. 11, 2009)
  • White House Announces New Transparency Policy for Visitor Logs: Today the White House announced a new policy to release the records of White House visitors, an initiative that is intended to promote open government. The White House will release information on all individuals who come to the White House for an appointment, a tour, or to conduct official business, with certain exceptions for confidential or particularly sensitive meetings. The White House agreed not to release visitors' personal information, such as dates of birth, social security numbers, or contact phone numbers. However, the White House will release the names of tourists and other visitors who are not meeting with government officials, which raises privacy questions. For more information, see EPIC's Open Government page. (Sep. 4, 2009)
  • Inspector Generals Release Report on President's Surveillance Program: The Inspector Generals of the Intelligence Community released a report on the President's Surveillance Program. The report summarizes the unclassified collective results of the reviews. The Program involved the massive, warrantless surveillance of Americans in the United States. The IG Report finds that the absence of effective oversight contributed to the ineffectiveness of the program. In December 2005, EPIC had requested the legal opinions that were prepared to justify the program. The government has refused to produce many key documents, and EPIC sued under the Freedom of Information Act. In March this year, the Attorney General released several related memos, which previously were secret, following President Obama's statement on government transparency. See EPIC FISA, EPIC Surveillance FOIA, EPIC Wiretapping, and EPIC National Security Letters. (Jul. 10, 2009)
  • Administration Moves to Second Phase of Open Government Directive: Last week, the White House received public comments in the First Phase of its open government proposal, "Brainstorming." The next phase, "Discussion," invites comments focusing on several transparency themes: principles, governance, access, data, and operations, to be followed by a series of posts on participation and collaboration. In the first phase, EPIC made five recommendations to promote government transparency and accountability. See EPIC's page on Open Government. (Jun. 3, 2009)
  • EPIC Endorses Better Approaches on Government Transparency: In response to President Obama's plan to develop a new open government policy, EPIC submitted comments recommending that users are not tracked on government sites; promoting open government; allowing meaningful public participation in government decisions; stopping commercialization of personal data; and the application of Privacy Act to all data collected by the Government. See also EPIC's page on Open Government and consider purchasing EPIC's FOIA litigation manual. (Jun. 3, 2009)
  • EPIC Urges Privacy Protections for Government's Use of Social Media: The DHS Privacy Office is seeking public comments on developing best practices on the government's use of social media. EPIC submitted comments on the benefits, issues and privacy best practices. EPIC recommended Privacy Act protections to the data collected, prohibit commercialization and sharing, and the use of a model certification system. See also EPIC's page on Social Networking Privacy, Network Advertising Initiative, and Deep Packet Inspection and Privacy.. (Jun. 3, 2009)
  • Senators Introduce Open Government Bill, Celebrate Sunshine Week: Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced legislation to improve government transparency and strengthen the Freedom of Information Act. The proposal comes during Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of open government. The OPEN FOIA Act of 2009 would reduce government secrecy by limiting the circumstances in which government records can be exempted from disclosure. "Excessive government secrecy is a constant temptation and the enemy of a vibrant democracy," Senator Leahy said. In 2007, Senators Leahy and Cornyn co-sponsored the OPEN Government Act, a law that imposed meaningful deadlines on federal agencies, created a FOIA Ombudsman, and provided "news media" standing for freelance journalists and bloggers. For more information, see EPIC's Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws. (Mar. 19, 2009)
  • Attorney General Issues New FOIA Guidelines: The Attorney General today set out new Freedom of Information guidelines pursuant to President Obama's memorandum directing all executive branch departments and agencies to maintain a presumption of openness in releasing information requested from them. In the memorandum, the Attorney General strongly encouraged agencies to make discretionary disclosures of information to the fullest extent possible. Rescinding the FOIA Memorandum of October 12, 2001, the Attorney General stated that the Justice Department will defend a FOIA request only if the disclosure would harm an interest protected by a statutory exemption or its disclosure is prohibited by law. The memorandum also directs that each agency is fully accountable for its administration of FOIA and should be mindful of their obligation to work "in a spirit of cooperation." For more information, see EPIC's Open Government page. (Mar. 19, 2009)
  • EPIC Celebrates Sunshine Week: Open government and media organizations throughout the country are celebrating Sunshine Week by highlighting the importance of government transparency. EPIC publishes the most comprehensive up-to-date manual on federal open government law. EPIC is pursuing Freedom of Information Act litigation to obtain government memos describing the legal basis for the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens by the Bush Administration. To learn more about your right to access government information, see EPIC's Open Government page and Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2008. (Mar. 17, 2009)
  • Justice Department Releases Domestic Surveillance Memos and Opinions: Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will make public memos and opinions concerning warrantless surveillance, and other controversial claims of Presidential authority, that were prepared in the wake of 9/11. The documents describe the legal basis for President Bush's domestic surveillance program. After learning of the warrantless wiretap program, EPIC sued the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act to compel disclosure of legal memos concerning the program. Government lawyers subsequently disavowed the justifications for the warrantless surveillance. For more, see EPIC's "National Security Agency's Warrantless Surveillance Program" page. (Mar. 3, 2009)
  • EPIC, Freedom of Information Advocates Endorse President : EPIC joined Freedom of Information advocates from around the world in an Open Letter welcoming "President Obama's Initiative on Transparency." The organizations also supported the President's call for a "clear presumption in favor of disclosure of information." They called on "governments around the world to take similar action to promote transparency and respect for the right of access to information." For more information about open government, see EPIC's Open Government manual. (Jan. 29, 2009)
  • EPIC Publishes Open Government Litigation Manual. Today, EPIC published the 2008 edition of "Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws." It is the most comprehensive, authoritative discussion of the federal open access laws. The 24th edition of this standard reference work features updated content and a foreword by Senator Patrick Leahy, co-sponsor of the OPEN Government Act of 2007. The book contains the texts of the US open government laws, including the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Government in the Sunshine Act, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Today's publication date celebrates International Right to Know Day, which was established to raise awareness of every individual's right of access to government-held information. For more, see EPIC's 2008 FOIA Litigation Manual. (September 26, 2008)
  • Supreme Court Rejects Limits on FOIA Requests. In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court upheld the right of individuals to request documents under the Freedom of Information Act, even if similar documents were previously requested by others. The Court rejected the Federal Aviation Administration's contention that it may ignore requests if the agency previously received identical requests from different requesters. The Court also rejected the agency's "virtual representation" claim, that a FOIA requester can be "virtually represented" by a previous requester who sought similar records. The Court based its decision on America's "deep-rooted historic tradition that everyone should have his own day in court." For more information, see EPIC's FOIA Litigation Manual and FOIA Litigation Docket. (June 13, 2008)
  • EPIC Prevails in Virginia Fusion Center FOIA Case. Yesterday, Richmond General District Court held that EPIC "substantially prevailed" on the merits of its freedom of information lawsuit against the Virginia State Police. EPIC filed the case after the State Police refused to disclose documents describing the federal government's involvement in efforts to limit Virginia's transparency and privacy laws. Through the litigation, EPIC uncovered a secret contract between the State Police and the FBI that limits the rights of Virginia citizens to learn what information the State Police collect about them. The court's letter opinion requires the State Police to pay EPIC's litigation costs, but not its attorneys' fees. For more information, see EPIC's web page EPIC v. Virginia Department of State Police: Fusion Center Secrecy Bill. For more information about fusion centers, see EPIC's Fusion Center Page (May 9, 2008)
  • EPIC Seeks Documents About Federal Role in Effort to Limit Accountability of State "Fusion Centers". EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request (pdf) with the Virginia State Police today. EPIC's request seeks documents about a plan that would shroud the Virginia Fusion Center, a database that collects detailed information on ordinary citizens, in secrecy. The Virginia legislature is considering a bill that would limit Virginia's open government and privacy statutes, as well as Virginia's common law right of privacy, for Virginia agencies connected to the Fusion Center. Press Groups have criticized the proposed law, and warned that, if passed, Virginia citizens can "say hello to Big Brother." EPIC's FOIA request focuses on the possible role of the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Homeland Security in the development of the Virginia legislation. For more information, see EPIC's page Information Fusion Centers and Privacy. (Feb. 12)
  • President Bush Signs into Law OPEN Government Act. On Monday, December 31, 2007, the President signed into law S. 2488, the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007, which amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by: (1) establishing a definition of "a representative of the news media;" (2) directing that required attorney fees be paid from an agency's own appropriation rather than from the Judgment Fund; (3) prohibiting an agency from assessing certain fees if it fails to comply with FOIA deadlines; and (4) establishing an Office of Government Information Services in the National Archives and Records Administration to review agency compliance with FOIA. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) led the effort in Congress to enact the new open government law with the support of the Open the Government coalition. EPIC publishes Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws. (December 31, 2007)
  • Congress Passes OPEN Government Act. Congress has passed legislation that would amend the Freedom of Information Act for the first time in a decade. The OPEN Government Act would impose meaningful deadlines on agencies handling information requests, establish a FOIA hotline, bring government records held by private contractors into full public view, create a FOIA Ombudsman, and allow agencies to waive FOIA fees for freelance journalists and bloggers. The bill also reverses a presumption against disclosure that was created by an order of former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Senator Patrick Leahy led the efforts to enact the new open government law. For more information, see EPIC's FOIA Notes and Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws. (December 19, 2007)
  • FTC Chair Dismisses Recusal Petition in Jones Day-Doubleclick Conflict of Interest Case, EPIC Files Expedited Open Government Request. FTC Chairman Deborah Majoras has refused to step down in the Commission's review of the Google-Doubleclick merger even though it was revealed this week that her husband's law firm is representing Doubleclick. EPIC and the Center for Digital Democracy have issued a statement. EPIC has also submitted a detailed Freedom of Information Act request seeking the expedited release of all documents concerning the participation of Jones Day in the Commission's review of Doubleclick as well as other matters involving consumer privacy. (December 15, 2007)
  • EPIC Publishes 2006 FOIA Manual. Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws, published by EPIC in cooperation with Access Reports and the James Madison Project, is a comprehensive guide to FOIA and open government, essential for anyone interested in open access laws. The book draws upon the expertise of practicing attorneys who are recognized experts in the field. The twenty-third edition includes a new chapter on searching for records, international open government resources, a glossary of key terms, and is updated with new significant cases. (October 4, 2007)
  • EPIC Introduces 2006 FOIA Gallery. In celebration of Freedom of Information Day, EPIC is proud to introduce its 2006 FOIA Gallery, which contains highlights and scanned images of some of EPIC's most interesting FOIA disclosures from the past year. For more information about the Freedom of Information Act, see EPIC's Open Government page. (March 16, 2006)
  • Open Government Advocates Honored. EPIC General Counsel David Sobel and Advisory Board member David Burnham are among the twenty-one individuals to be inducted today into the National FOIA Hall of Fame. Inductees are chosen for their "unique roles in helping to establish, defend, and utilize the legal basis for the right to know." (March 16, 2006)
  • EPIC, Archive File Brief Supporting Release of Abu Ghraib Photos. EPIC and the National Security Archive have filed an amicus brief (pdf) urging an appeals court to permit the disclosure of photos and digital movies showing American troops abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The Pentagon has refused to release the information to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, claiming that it would "endanger the life or physical safety" of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. EPIC and the Archive argue that the government is turning FOIA on its head by claiming that information likely to expose government misconduct should be withheld to prevent public outrage. (March 13, 2006)
  • Court Orders Justice Department to Release NSA Surveillance Documents in EPIC Lawsuit. In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (pdf) filed by EPIC, a federal judge has ordered (pdf) the Department of Justice to process and release documents related to the Bush Administration's warrantless surveillance program by March 8. It is the first court opinion addressing the controversial domestic spying operation. "President Bush has invited meaningful debate about the warrantless surveillance program," U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy wrote. "That can only occur if DOJ processes [EPIC's] FOIA requests in a timely fashion and releases the information sought." For more information, see EPIC's press release and Domestic Surveillance FOIA page. (February 16, 2006)
  • EPIC Files Second Lawsuit for NSA Surveillance Documents. In a Freedom of Information Act complaint (pdf) filed today in federal court, EPIC is seeking the release of National Security Agency documents detailing the Administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program. EPIC filed a similar lawsuit (pdf) last month against the Department of Justice, which has played a key role in authorizing, implementing and overseeing the NSA's warrantless surveillance activities. A hearing in that case is scheduled for February 10. For more information, see EPIC's Domestic Surveillance FOIA page. (February 6, 2006)
  • EPIC Sues Justice Department for Domestic Surveillance Documents. Today EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (pdf) against the Department of Justice, asking a federal court to order the disclosure of information about the Administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program within 20 days. The Justice Department has played a key role in authorizing, implementing and overseeing the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance activities. EPIC argues in its court papers (pdf) that the debate surrounding the program "cannot be based solely upon information that the Administration voluntarily chooses to disseminate." For more information, see EPIC's press release and Domestic Surveillance FOIA page. (January 19, 2006)
  • EPIC Sues Justice Department for Misconduct Reports. EPIC filed suit (pdf) in federal court yesterday against the Department of Justice for reports of possible misconduct submitted by the FBI to the Intelligence Oversight Board. EPIC is also seeking documents from the Attorney General about possible misconduct within the intelligence community. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, has been assigned to the case. EPIC has already obtained about twenty reports to the Intelligence Oversight Board through another Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that raise questions about compliance with federal law. For more information, see EPIC's Patriot Act FOIA page. (January 11, 2006)
  • EPIC Introduces EPIC FOIA Notes, 2005 FOIA Gallery. In celebration of Freedom of Information Day, EPIC has launched EPIC FOIA Notes, a newsletter that will deliver the latest revelations EPIC obtains through the FOIA. You can view the first EPIC FOIA Note-which reports formerly classified documents showing that Choicepoint assured the FBI it could verify legitimate businesses-and subscribe to the newsletter here. EPIC is also proud to introduce its 2005 FOIA Gallery, which contains highlights and scanned images of some of EPIC's FOIA disclosures from the past year. (March 16, 2005)
  • Senators Propose Bipartisan Bill to Study FOIA Processing Delays. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced the Faster FOIA Act, legislation that will create a sixteen-member advisory commission tasked with suggesting ways to decrease delays in the processing of Freedom of Information Act requests. The bill is the second proposed by the Senators in three weeks to improve the Freedom of Information Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security will hold a hearing on the OPEN Government Act on March 15. (March 11, 2005)
  • Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Enhance Open Government. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Pat Leahy (D-VT) have introduced the OPEN Government Act, a bill that will improve government accountability by strengthening federal laws such as the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC is among the many groups supporting this legislation to encourage access to the federal government. (February 16, 2005)

Legal Documents on FOIA and Access to Government Information

Guides to Using FOIA

Other Open Government Resources

Suggestions

If you have suggestions for a FOIA request that EPIC should pursue, send us a message. Indicate the information you think we should ask for, the reason that the request is important, and the name of the federal agency (or agencies) most likely to have the documents. Anonymous suggestions are always welcome.