GovernmentAttic has published the FBI "dead list" as of 2011. The list allows for FBI FOIA analysts to release names in historical documents of those known to be deceased to the FBI. It contains a number of people associated with organized crime, and former special agents among others and is an interesting read.
CBS has this story concerning a brief filed with the Second Circuit by a bi-partisan group of Senators urging the court to order the release of memos concerning drone attacks on U.S. citizens who have chosen to fight against their country.
This may also be a sign that the Senators will support pending FOIA legislation that is working its way through both houses of Congress.
FOIA Legislation: The Senate's FOIA bill flew through the Senate Judiciary Committee according to ABC News. This is good and bad news. The good news is that the legislation is much more likely to be brought before the full Senate much earlier during its session than the last attempt at FOIA legislation. The bad news is the committee could have used the opportunity to have a hearing and press those that tried to put the kibosh on legislation last December. It could have made agencies testify under oath about what it believed were problems with the legislation rather than the passive-aggressive method used to put holds on the legislation before the full Senate.
Sunshine Week: The Department of Justice is holding a "Celebration of FOIA Professionals" on March 16, 2015. More details can be found here. Of course, many know that the best way to celebrate FOIA professionals is to assist them in getting better funding for FOIA Operations, working with agency higher ups to recognize the importance of a strong FOIA program in their agencies, and making sure agencies FOIA programs follow FOIA law.
FOIA Advisory Committee: The January 27, 2015 FOIA advisory committee transcript and meeting video have been posted. For those interested, the link is here.
The recently introduced FOIA Amendments have been placed on today's Senate Judiciary Committee calendar, which is an extremely strong sign that the Senate is behind passage of the bill (it should be recalled that the same bill passed the Senate on the last day of its session in the last Congress - this time its leading off the committee's legislation).
And Nate Jones of the National Security Archive has this detailed analysis of both the Senate and House bills.
The only thing I would add is a provision to allow FOIA Offices to have access to any electronic record system an agency maintains. This would cut down on the time FOIA personnel and requesters are required to wait on agency program offices, that have no rationale for making the FOIA process move faster or smoother.
FOIA legislation was last heard from in December, versions had passed both Congressional chambers but neither made it through to law for various reasons, some known and some clearly unknown. However, just like the groundhog, FOIA legislation has made its annual appearance in both floors of Congress. Yesterday, as Politico reports, versions very similar to those passed but not enacted during the previous session of Congress were introduced in a bi-partisan manner.
This is a good sign for FOIA legislation being passed during this Congress. First, it is being introduced very early during the session - last year the Senate version didn't even get introduced until the Summer. This legislation has 23 months to work its way through. Secondly, most of the legislation has already been approved by a majority of Congress, those opposing now will likely have to poke their heads up and come forward with their opposition rather than doing it anonymously, especially if hearings are held and they have to testify.
While this is no sure thing victory for those in favor of the legislation (ask Pete Carroll about that), it is more than likely that FOIA legislation gets passed prior to 2017.
Courthouse News Service has this report on the Department of Justice's dropping of the appeal in the Ninth Circuit on a decision concerning a Justice memo written about census information and the Patriot act. A district court judge had previously ruled that the memo did not qualify for exemption 5 protection because the government had adopted it, and therefore it was "working law." The requester in this case was the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
A federal judge in Minnesota has ruled against industrial farm groups in their attempt to block the EPA's release of information, including the identity of farms in FOIA requests relating to the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulations. More can be found here at Bovinevetonline.com (my favorite web site name in some time!).
For those following the story, you may recall that certain members of congress tried to pass legislation blocking the release - attempting to make the release a great national security threat. It should be noted that the judge in the FOIA case found that the information was already publicly available and no harm had come to any of the farms named in that information.
The FOIA Fees Subcommittee of the FOIA Advisory group met on December 3 and the notes of the meeting have been published here.
FOIA fees are an important issue -- one that balances the need to collect some revenue, provide waivers to certain requesters and make sure that information can still be released. The notes make interesting reading.