VICE: It Took a FOIA Lawsuit to Uncover How the Obama Administration Killed FOIA Reform

The Freedom of Information Act/Law has to do with the public’s right to know.  While the government has said one thing, it appears that they are doing another:

he Obama administration has long called itself the most transparent administration in history. But newly released Department of Justice (DOJ) documents show that the White House has actually worked aggressively behind the scenes to scuttle congressional reforms designed to give the public better access to information possessed by the federal government.

The documents were obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports journalism in the public interest, which in turn shared them exclusively with VICE News. They were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — the same law Congress was attempting to reform. The group sued the DOJ last December after its FOIA requests went unanswered for more than a year.

The documents confirm longstanding suspicions about the administration’s meddling, and lay bare for the first time how it worked to undermine FOIA reform bills that received overwhelming bipartisan support and were unanimously passed by both the House and Senate in 2014 — yet were never put up for a final vote.

Moreover, a separate set of documents obtained by VICE News in response to a nearly two-year-old FOIA request provides new insight into how the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also tried to disrupt Congress’s FOIA reform efforts, which would have required those agencies to be far more transparent when responding to records requests…..

In one email VICE News obtained, the SEC’s chief FOIA officer, John Livornese, remarked to a colleague after the Senate memorialized its position in a report, “Just when you thought exemption 8 couldn’t get any stronger,” meaning the SEC could continue to withhold information under that exemption.

Chaffetz, who co-sponsored the latest FOIA reform bill passed by the House in January, told VICE News in a statement that the Obama administration’s promises of transparency have never materialized.

“President Obama promised the ‘most transparent’ administration in history. I see no evidence to support that statement,” Chaffetz said. “Time and time again this administration has aggressively thwarted efforts for a more open and transparent government.”

 

The Daily Signal: Inside the Push to Make It Harder for Government to ‘Steal’ Property, Cash in America’s Heartland

Michelle Alexander discusses the problems with forfeiture laws or, in other words, when the police take property from the public. Indeed, “A report from the Institute for Justice found that from 2000 to 2014, state law enforcement agencies reported nearly $99 million in forfeiture proceeds, of which 72 percent came from cash seizures. Current state law allows agencies to keep up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds.” Melissa Quinn published this beautifully written article about ‘policing for profit’ to which I share with you but can be viewed in its entirety here. Enjoy. Continue reading

WP: Judge weighs delaying Bland wrongful-death lawsuit trial

The Texas state trooper who pulled over Sandra Bland and now faces a perjury charge in the case remains on the payroll even as a federal judge heard arguments Thursday on whether a wrongful death lawsuit should be delayed until he’s tried in criminal court.

Brian Encinia deserves a fair criminal trial on the misdemeanor, said Seth Dennis, an assistant Texas attorney general.

“Let the criminal case play out,” Dennis urged the judge….

This and other cases are highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement. Time magazine covered a story where “[t]he nation’s first African American president convened a group of activists, both young and old, for a discussion on how he can spend his final year in office tackling issues that impact the black community—from criminal justice reform to police-community relations.” Although some say the movement is decentralized, certainly the case of Sandra Bland is not falling through the cracks as the officer was indicated for perjury:

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NYT: Settlement Reached in Samuel DeBose Shooting

The NY Times reports that  the University of Cincinnati will settle with the family of, yet another unarmed black man killed b y police, Samuel DuBose:

The University of Cincinnati has agreed to pay $4.85 million to the family of an unarmed black man who was shot to death in July by one of its police officers, a settlement that also requires the college to provide an undergraduate education to his 12 children, create a memorial to him on campus and include his family in discussions on police reform.

The family of Samuel DuBose, who was killed by a white officer during a routine traffic stop in what a prosecutor called a “senseless, asinine shooting,” reached the settlement after two days of mediation, the university said Monday in announcing the deal. It estimated the total cost to the university, which is publicly funded, to be $5.3 million.

Mr. DuBose, 43, was shot and killed on July 19 by Officer Ray Tensing, who pulled him over in a Cincinnati neighborhood adjacent to the campus because his car lacked a front license plate. The shooting was captured on a body camera, and Officer Tensing, who was fired from the department, faces trial on a charge of murder….

The university has since created a community advisory council, led by a prominent African-American judge, and the settlement calls for a DuBose family member to participate in the panel. Mr. DuBose’s sister, Terina DuBose Allen, an educational consultant in Columbus, said the provision “brings us peace with the fact that they are going to make some reforms.”

The deal, mediated by Billy Martin, a Washington lawyer whose clients have included basketball stars and other prominent figures, appears in line with other recent settlements of cases involving police officers. The City of Baltimore agreed in September to pay $6.4 million to the family of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody….

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NPR: Judge Tosses Case Against Alabama Officer Accused Of Injuring Indian Man

 

NPR news reported this account of police misconduct, the video which clearly shows someone not resisting in any way….

A federal judge in Alabama has thrown out a civil rights case against a former Madison, Ala., police officer accused of using excessive force on an unarmed Indian man last February. Sureshbhai Patel, who was 57 years old at the time, suffered serious injuries.

Patel had been walking around his son’s neighborhood during a family visit to the United States. Police received a call about a “skinny black man” in the neighborhood. Parker said that Patel, who does not understand English, did not obey his commands. The confrontation, in which Parker is seen slamming Patel to the ground and falling on top of him, was caught on video.

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Wash. Post: Prosecutors will seek murder charges against Georgia officer who shot an unarmed, naked black man

The  Washington Post reported that a Police Officer killed a “Anthony Hill, an Afghanistan war veteran who was naked and unarmed when he was killed.” The article continued on stating that…

Prosecutors in DeKalb County, Ga., will seek a criminal indictment of the police officer who in March 2015 fatally shot Anthony Hill, an Afghanistan war veteran who was naked and unarmed when he was killed.

DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said Thursday that he will recommend a criminal grand jury indict Officer Robert Olsen on two counts of felony murder, two counts of violation of an officer’s oath, aggravated assault and making a false statement.

“Our decision is that we’re going forward on an indictment,” James said. “Ultimately it is going to be up to a grand jury as to whether or not Officer Robert Olsen is charged with felony murder.”….

//www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/7ccb1df6-9c7f-11e5-9ad2-568d814bbf3b

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Chicago Tribune: Family of woman accidentally shot by Chicago police files lawsuit

The  Chicago Tribune recently reported that a lawsuit has been filed by a women who was shot and killed by police fire in Chicago. The article reports that:

The lawsuit says Bettie Jones was inside the building in the 4700 block of West Erie Street when she was fatally struck. The officer’s response to a domestic dispute involving her neighbors, Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and his father, Antonio, was “an excessive use of force,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit contradicts a law enforcement source who told the Tribune last week that the officer said he had gotten to the second-to-top step of the two-flat’s front porch when LeGrier came running out of the building, swinging a bat, before the officer opened fire. LeGrier also was killed.

Larry Rogers Jr., who is representing the Jones family, said the officer was about 20 feet away when he opened fire.

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