The ACLU reports that the IRS claims in an internal document that it has the authority to access citizens' online communications without a warrant. The IRS claimed in a 2009 document that "the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications." It still retains that position even after the 2010 case of US v Warshak which determined that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications. [more inside]
In December 1974, New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh's front-page account (paywall) of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program documented their illegal domestic intelligence operations against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States. The article eventually prompted investigations by the Rockefeller Commission and the Church and Pike committees. "There have been other reports on the CIA's doping of civilians, but they have mostly dished about activities in New York City. Accounts of what actually occurred in San Francisco have been sparse and sporadic. But newly declassified CIA records, recent interviews, and a personal diary of [George H. White,] an operative at Stanford Special Collections shed more light on the breadth of the San Francisco operation." SF Weekly: "Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA doped San Francisco citizens with LSD." MK-ULTRA: Previously on Metafilter. (Via)
The FBI has released their extensive files on US Senator Edward M. Kennedy to the public, covering their relationship with him between 1961 and 1985. The seven files, totaling more than 2,200 pages of documents reveal (among other things,) the perhaps unsurprising news that the late Senator received "scores" of death threats from radical groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, “Minutemen” organizations, and the National Socialist White People’s Party. The release was initiated by a Freedom of Information Act Request from Judicial Watch on May 3, 2010, (Complaint pdf) but the FBI gave the Senator's family the "rare opportunity" to raise objections before releasing the file.
Secrecy no more? The first major overhaul of the Freedom of Information act in years is awaiting President Bush's signature. It will finally create an "independent" government agency to handle to disputes between records holders and information requesters. The passage of the act comes after, ironically, after an Arizona senator used a "secret hold" to block the bill. He was ferreted out by a group of journalists.
So it's Sunshine Week. That's not a weather forecast, but a creation of the press to focus attention on the need for more open government. Some sites have posted How-To Guides on filing a FOIA request, a skill without which sites like this wouldn't be able to publish entertaining mugshots and court documents. My local paper has a package of articles on Sunshine Week. Anything happening in your town?
Department of Homeland Security to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act?
Department of Homeland Security to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act? The last episode of NOW ran a piece on the FOIA which described how back in 1974 President Ford and his staff, which included Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, opposed Congress' strengthening of the FOIA, and Ford tried unsuccessfully to veto it. Now this new exemption looks like the continuation of a 28 year-old feud. Ridge says it is in order to not "draw a road map of critical infrastructure vulnerabilities," but are complete exemptions really necessary for that? The potential for abuse seems quite dangerous. (Some previous discussions of FOIA revelations here and here).