~ sunshine week reports – news stories on public records ~

Even as the Congress is about to revisit and hear proposals to expand the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) come these reports about governments narrowly interpreting FOI.

Since 1998, many federal departments have been reducing the amount of information they release to the public – even as the government fields and answers more requests for information than ever, an Associated Press review has found.

The locations of stores and restaurants that have received recalled meat, the names of detainees held by the U.S. overseas and details about Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2001 energy policy task force are all among the records that the government isn’t sharing with the public.

The tightening began even before the Sept. 11 attacks, and now government defenders say the nation needs protection from its enemies in the war on terror. But open government advocates worry that U.S. citizens’ freedom is eroding with every file they can’t access.

“This is an immensely troubling clampdown,” said Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy Project. “The law itself is unchanged, but it’s being interpreted more broadly to withhold more information.”

And from New York

Freedom of Information laws can unlock the door to government records. But opening the door may require filling out a formal request and being not only patient but persistent in a search for documents, local sources said last week.

And more from New York on access to police records.

Idaho journalists with the FOI in hand uncover flaws in a court record keeping system.

A file that was sealed by agreement of parties and a file that had never been sealed both somehow entirely disappeared from the public access computer system, apparently as a result of a less than optimal computer program.

The public has benefited greatly from the intervention of the Post Register into these matters. But for their efforts, we could have gone years before discovering that vast amounts of what should have been public information (not just the Scout cases, but many others) was being mistakenly hidden from your view.

Louisiana uses September 11 as a excuse for withholding public record information.

Citing a need for protection from terrorists, Louisiana’s lawmakers are allowing public agencies to hide a much wider array of documents from public view since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Here’s an article that lists Sunshine events and guides to getting government information in Hawaii.

The media rely on the open government laws in Michigan to uncover the day-to-day workings of local governments but legislators are weakening the access laws..

Wisconsin has a subjective balancing test for release of records.

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