By Rebecca Daugherty
What does the government tell you when you file a Freedom of Information Act request? Does it claim that exemptions apply? Does it refuse to expedite your request? Does it charge you exorbitant fees? Does it ignore your request and send you something else? Does it respond at all?
SEJ’s First Amendment Task Force is gathering FOIA responses, nonresponses and other horror stories that plague reporters who had hoped to write stories based at least in part on federal government records. We hope the collection will help target what goes wrong and what needs changing. Please let us know if and how federal FOIA requests are not working for you.
Making farfetched claims of “privacy,” federal agencies have kept reporters from getting neighborhood information relevant to endangered species protection or Superfund sites.
Denials of records showing misuse of grazing permits protects privacy at the expense of accurate reporting on public land management. For “national security” reasons, the government is invoking exemptions to keep terrorists-and reporters too-from learning about environmental hazards.
Please send your stories and/or copies of correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Elizabeth Bluemink, c/o Juneau Empire, 1304 Abby Court, Juneau, AK 99801.
If they are not patently obvious, nonprofane suggestions for improvement are welcome.
More information on SEJ’s efforts to combat government secrecy is available at www.sej.org/foia/index5.htm.
This report first appeared in the SEJournal.