Archive for foia

A Bucket of Ice Water

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Nicole Sandler

When Homer Simpson joins in, you know you've gone viral.

Although the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised awareness about the disease and a lot of money, there's so much we still don't know about it - thus the need for a campaign like this one.

Homer challenged Donald Trump who actually dumped water on that thing on his head, proving that his hair really looks like that! I hope that dump also included a hefty donation!

My favorite is still this 2-year old

I'm pretty confident in guessing that most people didn't know what ALS was before this month of ice water dumping. Sadly, I knew. I knew about ALS because someone I knew and admired fought the disease and, eventually, succumbed to it.

I first met Eric Lowen in the early 1990's. He was the "Lowen" half of the duo Lowen & Navarro who wrote amazing songs and sang beautiful harmonies together. Eric was diagnosed with ALS in 2004, and lost his battle in March of 2012. 

For the past few months, I've been running interviews and performances from my music radio days on Friday mornings as a bridge to the weekend. Today, as ALS is in the news and Eric Lowen is on my mind, I reached out to my dear friend Dan Navarro and invited him to join me to talk about all of it, and share in listening to one of our in-studio sessions from December of 1999 too.

Dan Navarro has continued as a solo artist, and has worked to educate others about ALS with the goal of someday helping to eradicate this awful disease. He's also fully immersed himself (figuratively and literally) in the ALS ice bucket challenge. You can see some of his work on his Facebook page. 

It was a busy first hour of the show too. Jim Dean joined me to talk about the great work Democracy for America is doing. They've recently endorse Shenna Bellows in her race for the US Senate against Susan Collins of Maine, Mary Burke for Governor of Wisconsin (vs the evil Scott Walker), and more.

And Jason Leopold, who couldn't get to Guantanamo Bay this week through no fault of his own (damned weather gods) but has landed firmly and deservedly at Vice News, joined me to talk about his reporting on Gitmo, national security issues and the fact that his persistence in filing FOIA requests has put him squarely inside the story about Sen. Dianne Feinstein trying to delay the release of the CIA torture report. 

And with that, it's the end of the week, the month and, sadly, the summer. I'll be taking Monday off for Labor Day, but will return Tuesday to kick off the fall with GottaLaff... cuz we gotta laugh, or else we cry... and whatever else the weekend brings. Talk to you then, Radio or Not.

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President Obama's secrets

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This is one of those posts that I hate writing, because I keep wanting to fall back in love with President Obama without reservation. That won't happen, and this L.A. Times editorial describes one of the main reasons.

By the way, as I said here, I will still vote for him because the alternative is unthinkable, but I have been very concerned about proposals and/or policies like these:

One of the most disappointing attributes of the Obama administration has been its proclivity for secrecy. The president who committed himself to "an unprecedented level of openness in government" has followed the example of his predecessor by invoking the "state secrets" privilege to derail litigation about government misdeeds in the war on terror. He has refused to release the administration's secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, which two senators have described as alarming. He has blocked the dissemination of photographs documenting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. service members. And now his Justice Department has proposed to allow government agencies to lie about the existence of documents being sought under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.

At present, if the government doesn't want to admit the existence of a document it believes to be exempt from FOIA, it may advise the person making the request that it can neither confirm nor deny the document's existence. Under the proposed regulation, an agency that withholds a document "will respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist."

This policy is outrageous. It provides a license for the government to lie to its own people and makes a mockery of FOIA.

As unpleasant as this is to read, it must be acknowledged, and as the president suggested himself, we must hold him accountable when we feel he's on the wrong track.

However, compared to the disturbingly inept, unprofessional bunch of right wing nut job misfits who are running against him, well, 'nuff said.

You can read the whole piece here.

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Palin's office tried to "sell" emails for $15 mil

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Once a grifter, always a grifter. Via Taegan-

As we wait for Sarah Palin's emails to be released by the State of Alaska later today, Politico notes that when media outlets first requested them during her 2008 vice presidential campaign, Palin's office "pegged the price for producing them at $15 million. The fee eventually fell to $725.97."

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Obama Sr’s Immigration File Offers More Evidence Of Obama’s Birthplace

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Heather Smathers, a reporter for the Arizona Independent does actual reporting. Huge kudos to her!! Go to the link to read about the "questions" the INS had about Obama Sr's marital status et al. Bet Trump says the INS faked it. Via Julie Gulden.

By Heather Smathers – Independent Staff Writer

– Documents obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service through a Freedom of Information Act request offer evidence that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

A memo dated Aug. 31, 1961 from William Wood of Immigration and Naturalization Services indicates that Barack Obama, Sr., was attending the University of Hawaii on a student visa and that a son, Barack Obama, II, was born in Honolulu on Aug, 8, 1961.

The memo refers to Obama Sr.’s plans to attend the University of Hawaii for one more year to obtain his bachelor’s degree in economics, and that his spouse, a United States citizen, plans to work at the university.

“They have one child born Honolulu on 8/4/1961 – Barack Obama II, child living with mother (she lives with her parents & subject resides at 1482 Alisteastre St.),” the memo states.

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CREW: Does new SCOTUS decision in FOIA case stop Citizens United in its tracks?

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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has a glimmer of an inkling of a ray of sunshine for us:

Today the Supreme Court issued a decision in Fed. Communications Comm’n v. AT&T, holding the protection the Freedom of Information Act provides for “personal privacy” does not include corporations. AT&T was trying to prevent the disclosure of documents it had submitted to the FCC as part of an investigation, arguing their release would invade the corporation’s personal privacy. According to AT&T, because the word “person” in the FOIA includes corporations, the reference to “personal privacy” must also include corporations. [...]

Fortunately, the Court disagreed with AT&T. Justice John Roberts, writing for a unanimous court, offered the common-sense explanation that adjectives such as “personal” do not always reflect the same meaning as their corresponding noun, here “person.”

The Supreme Court got one right. Let's hope this is a start of a trend. Okay, knowing them, a mini-trend.

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Gates Invokes New Authority to Block Release of Detainee Abuse Photos

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By GottaLaff

http://dawudwalid.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/torture-detainee.jpg
(via)

My dear friend Jason Leopold has an exclusive (which has since made its way into the media) that is making my blood boil:

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has blocked the release of photographs depicting US soldiers abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, using authority just granted to him by Congress to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to keep the images under wraps on national security grounds. [...]

As first reported by truthout, the photographs at issue, include one in which a female solider is pointing a broom at a detainee "as if [she were] sticking the end of a broomstick into [his] rectum."

Other photos are said to show US soldiers pointing guns at the heads of hooded and bound detainees in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army's Criminal Investigation Division investigated the matter and "three of the six investigations led to criminal charges and in two of those cases, the accused were found guilty and punished," according to papers Kagan previously filed with the Supreme Court. [...]

The Obama administration indicated it would abide by the appeals court order and release at least 44 of the photographs in question, but, in May, after he was pilloried by Republicans, President Obama backtracked, saying he had conferred with high-ranking military officials who advised him that releasing the images would stoke anti-American sentiment and would endanger the lives of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As Truthout previously reported, the Obama administration petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear the case at the same time that the president privately told Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) he would work with Congress to help pass a measure to ensure the photographs could be withheld. [...]

"...[T]he fact remains that public disclosure of the photographs could reasonably be expected to endanger the lives and physical safety of individuals engaged in the Nation's military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photographs therefore are exempt from mandatory disclosure under FOIA." [...]

Alex Abdo, a legal fellow with the ACLU's National Security Project, said the Obama administration's argument for continuing to suppres the photos "sets a dangerous precedent – that the government can conceal evidence of its own misconduct precisely because the evidence powerfully documents gross abuses of power and of detainees.

Please read the rest here.

Fayiz al-Kandari could have used some of those photos in his own defense during the military commission hearing that he is currently facing.

******

All my previous posts on this subject matter can be found here; That link includes one specific to only Fayiz al-Kandari's story here. Here are audio and video interviews with Lt. Col. Wingard, one by David Shuster, one by Ana Marie Cox, and more. My guest commentary at BuzzFlash is here.

Lt. Col. Barry Wingard is a military attorney who represents Fayiz Al-Kandari in the Military Commission process and in no way represents the opinions of his home state. When not on active duty, Colonel Wingard is a public defender in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

If you are inclined to help rectify these injustices: Twitterers, use the hashtag #FreeFayiz. We have organized a team to get these stories out. If you are interested in helping Fayiz out, e-mail me at The Political Carnival, address in sidebar to the right; or tweet me at @GottaLaff.

If you'd like to see other ways you can take action, go here and scroll down to the end of the article.

Then read Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side. You'll have a much greater understanding of why I post endlessly about this, and why I'm all over the CIA deception issues, too.

More of Fayiz's story here, at Answers.com.

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"No democracy has ever been made stronger by concealing evidence of its wrongdoing"

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By GottaLaff

This piece by Jameel Jaffer opened my eyes to some new arguments against suppressing the release of photos of detainees being tortured... and to my surprise, even more:

Absent an unexpected groundswell of opposition, Congress this week will pass legislation that gives the Defense Department the authority to suppress evidence of its own misconduct.

Again, guess who originally came up with this amendment: Everyone's favorite, Traitor Joe Lieberman!

The amendment is aimed at a 2008 appeals court decision requiring the Defense Department to release photographs showing Afghan and Iraqi prisoners being abused and in some cases tortured by U.S. military personnel. Its ramifications will be sweeping and will extend far beyond the specific lawsuit it is meant to quash.

The ramifications alert was new to me. Read on for more:

The legislation is meant to substitute Congress' judgment for that of the courts. [...]

The basic purpose of the FOIA, the Supreme Court has previously recognized, is "to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed." As the appeals court in the current case observed, the photos "place government accountability at the center of the dispute."

Please read the article to get more details. I'm trying to abide by the rules and not copy over too much here, but the info is so important.

I got into it with my family about this. They stood by the government argument that releasing the photos would enrage our enemies, cause more hostility, and create more violence. I see our rights and the rule of law as the priority, so their argument didn't sway me, although I see their point.

Suppressing such records might deprive the country's enemies of propaganda, but it would also deprive the American public of information that is crucial to the democratic process.

Here comes the part about ramifications:

The legislation would suppress many more photos in government custody than the ones at issue in the ACLU case. It covers images taken between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 22, 2009, that relate to the treatment of individuals "engaged, captured or detained" by the armed forces. It would cover photos depicting the abuse of prisoners, but it could also cover, for example, video footage of aerial attacks that resulted in civilian casualties or photos showing the conditions of confinement at the Bagram detention center in Afghanistan. The legislation establishes a regime of censorship that would extend to many images of the military's activities abroad.

Again, there's a lot more to this than I'm posting here.

Supporters of the legislation have said that the bill is motivated by concerns about security, but no democracy has ever been made stronger by concealing evidence of its wrongdoing. The last administration's decision to endorse torture undermined the United States' moral authority and compromised its security. The failure of the country's current leadership to fully confront the abuses of the last administration -- a failure embodied by the legislation that Congress is preparing to enact -- will only compound these harms.

Here is the rest.

*****
All my previous posts on this subject matter can be found here; That link includes audio and video interviews with Lt. Col. Wingard, one by David Shuster, one by Ana Marie Cox, and more. My guest commentary at BuzzFlash is here.

Lt. Col. Barry Wingard is a military attorney who represents Fayiz Al-Kandari in the Military Commission process and in no way represents the opinions of his home state. When not on active duty, Colonel Wingard is a public defender in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

If you are inclined to help rectify these injustices: Twitterers, use the hashtag #FreeFayiz. We have organized a team to get these stories out. If you are interested in helping Fayiz out, e-mail me at The Political Carnival, address in sidebar to the right; or tweet me at @GottaLaff.

If you'd like to see other ways you can take action, go here and scroll down to the end of the article.

Then read Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side. You'll have a much greater understanding of why I post endlessly about this, and why I'm all over the CIA deception issues, too.

More of Fayiz's story here, at Answers.com.

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