Archive for January 15th, 2010
Judicial Watch – January 15, 2010
The federal government’s new Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) hosted a briefing on Thursday, January 14, to discuss the agency’s responsibilities and priorities. OGIS is a new outfit tasked to deal with government-wide transparency and openness issues. At Thursday’s briefing, OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet, and Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero answered questions regarding the agency’s operations and its role in improving government compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
Specifically, OGIS is charged with:
• Providing services to mediate disputes between FOIA requesters and Federal agencies;
• Reviewing policies and procedures of administrative agencies under FOIA;
• Reviewing agency compliance with FOIA; and,
• Recommending policy changes to the Congress and President to improve the administration of FOIA.
OGIS opened its doors in September of 2009 — two years after it was officially established through the OPEN Government Act of 2007. The lengthy delay resulted from a battle between Congress and President Bush over the funding and location of the new agency. Congress originally placed OGIS within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), finding that the relatively apolitical NARA would limit the amount of political interference in OGIS activities. However, in President Bush’s 2009 FY budget proposal, there was no funding for OGIS within the NARA. Instead, the President’s budget proposed that OGIS be established in the Department of Justice.
Critics decried the prospect of moving OGIS into the Department of Justice, asserting such a move could undercut the agency’s mission of non-partisan transparency. The Justice Department defends the government’s position in FOIA actions — a role that struck many as conflicting with the mission of OGIS. Because of these potential problems, OGIS was an agency only on paper until last June, when President Obama appointed OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet, and located OGIS in the National Archives. Congress also funded OGIS with a $1 million budget for establishment, provided by the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriation Act. For 2010 the agency’s budget will grow to $1.4 million.
OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet explained on Thursday that the agency, with a total staff of 6, has a threefold mission. First, the agency will review government-wide compliance with FOIA and recommend policy and procedural changes to Congress and the President. Nisbet said OGIS is working on the development of an Electronic Case Tracking System for FOIA requests. Like tracking a package in the mail, requesters would be able to track the status of their FOIA requests online — a system Nisbet foresees as the “next step” for FOIA.
OGIS’ second mission is to facilitate mediation in order to prevent costly lawsuits. Nisbet declared that the agency is “committed to avoiding litigation” and will explore various Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs. However, Nisbet spoke only vaguely about what types of mediation OGIS would consider. These include both formal mediation procedures and informal discussion, and would utilize both government officials and mediators from outside the government. Nisbet also suggested the idea of online dispute resolution as a possibility for the future, but did not offer any specifics
OGIS’ third task is to be a “FOIA Ombudsman” serving as a place people could turn to for “anything related to FOIA.” The OGIS website has posted its case log for public review, and the Office is soliciting comments and questions from the public regarding the administration of FOIA.
OGIS has laudable goals, but it is yet to be seen if the agency will prove effective and useful, or whether it will simply be an extra level of bureaucracy in the FOIA process. Both Miriam Nisbet and David Ferriero declared that the agency’s staff would have to grow beyond 6 if it is going to really perform the government-wide functions stated as its mission. Also, review of FOIA policy and procedures is long overdue, but OGIS may have limited effectiveness as an “ombudsman” when the agency has no legal authority to compel document production. The agency needs to elaborate further what specific shape its mediation efforts will take and who will be doing the mediation. As an agency committed to avoiding litigation, it would be devastating if the agency became just another cog delaying serious and effective FOIA litigation – which is often the only means of achieving document production.
Documents: OGIS Handouts
Link to original article below…
Judicial Watch – January 14, 2010
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained internal documents from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) related to a controversy that erupted in 2007 when Canadian blogger Stephen McIntyre exposed an error in NASA’s handling of raw temperature data from 2000-2006 that exaggerated the reported rise in temperature readings in the United States. According to multiple press reports, when NASA corrected the error, the new data apparently caused a reshuffling of NASA’s rankings for the hottest years on record in the United States, with 1934 replacing 1998 at the top of the list.
These new documents, obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), include internal GISS email correspondence as NASA scientists attempted to deal with the media firestorm resulting from the controversy. In one exchange GISS head James Hansen tells a reporter from Bloomberg that NASA had not previously published rankings with 1998 atop the list as the hottest year on record in the 20th century.
Email from Demian McLean, Bloomberg to Jim Hansen, August 14, 2007: “The U.S. figures showed 1998 as the warmest year. Nevertheless, NASA has indeed newly ranked 1934 as the warmest year…”
Email Response from James Hansen to Demian McLean, August 14, 2007: “…We have not changed ranking of warmest year in the U.S. As you will see in our 2001 paper we found 1934 slightly warmer, by an insignificant hair over 1998. We still find that result. The flaw affected temperatures only after 2000, not 1998 and 1934.”
Email from NASA Scientist Makiko Sato to James Hansen, August 14, 2007: “I am sure I had 1998 warmer at least once on my own temperature web page…” (Email includes temperature chart dated January 1, 2007.)
(This issue also crops up in email communications with New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin a little over a week later.)
According to the NASA email, NASA’s incorrect temperature readings resulted from a “flaw” in a computer program used to update annual temperature data.
Hansen, clearly frustrated by the attention paid to the NASA error, labeled McIntyre a “pest” and suggests those who disagree with his global warming theories “should be ready to crawl under a rock by now.” Hansen also suggests that those calling attention to the climate data error did not have a “light on upstairs.”
“This email traffic ought to be embarrassing for NASA. Given the recent Climategate scandal, NASA has an obligation to be completely transparent with its handling of temperature data. Instead of insulting those who point out their mistakes, NASA scientists should engage the public in an open, professional and honest manner,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Link to original article below…
Chuck Baldwin / Infowars – January 15, 2010
Former Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, and Minnesota governor, Jesse Ventura, recently launched a new television show on the truTV (formerly known as Court TV) cable channel. The first episode debuted on Wednesday, December 2, 2009. And the final episode of this season aired this past Wednesday, January 13, 2010.
According to press reports, 1.6 million viewers watched the premiere episode on December 2, which set a record for the network. I was one of those viewers. And I’ve seen each of this first season’s 7 episodes.
Predictably, mainstream critics have universally condemned the series. Linda Stasi of The Washington Times said the show is “Mindless, good fun and a hoot to watch aging action stars still taking action.” Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times said, “Whatever truth is out there, it’s filtered here through what is arranged more as an adventure series than a documentary.”
First of all, let me state up front that I typically disdain “reality” shows. The only ones that are any good are Les Stroud’s Survivorman and Bear Grylls’ Man vs. Wild (and I really enjoy both of those programs). The rest of the so-called “reality” shows are junk, as far as I’m concerned (okay, I did enjoy watching a few episodes of Ice Road Truckers).
Contrary to the rants of modern critics, however, Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory is not “reality” television or “mindless, good fun.” It is better investigative reporting than anything I’ve seen on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN or FOX NEWS in a long, long time.
Here is the official web site for truTV’s Conspiracy Theory:
For the most part, the mainstream media have become lackeys and lap dogs for the established political order and the powerful potentates that control it. Yes, I’m saying it: we have a tightly controlled mainstream media in America today (especially at the national level). Reporters are told what to report (or more fittingly, what NOT to report) and how to report it; and any reporter or journalist who dares to step outside the box will quickly be unemployed. And for those of you journalists and reporters who are reading this right now, if you smirk at what I just said, why don’t you try it and see what happens? Anything that challenges the establishment’s order is totally off-limits. Every reporter and journalist working for the establishment media knows where the “third rail” is–and they avoid it at all costs. And the cost is TRUTH.
No wonder the critics hate Ventura’s show: here was the first season episode lineup (taken from its web site):
Link to entire article below…