I'm not sure if we should be celebrating or mourning Sunshine Week. The cartoons are always great and will hopefully cheer you up, but there's nothing cheerful about the facts. Thanks to NSA mass surveillance abuses, Reporters without Border even listed the United States as an enemy of the Internet.
98% of the time - that's how often the NSA censored records or fully denied Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests last year. That was the case, according to the Associated Press, in 4,246 out of 4,328 FOIA requests.
The AP could not determine whether the administration was abusing the national security exception or whether the public asked for more documents about sensitive subjects. The NSA said its 138 percent surge in records requests were from people asking whether it had collected their phone or email records, which it generally refuses to confirm or deny. To do otherwise, the NSA said, would pose "an unacceptable risk" because terrorists could check to see whether the U.S. had detected their activities.
Of course it's not just the NSA, but a special thanks to that agency for making our democratic country an enemy of the Internet!
The Obama administration obviously forgot its promise to be the "most transparent" ever. After analyzing FOIA-related data from 2013, AP found that the "Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access." Of the "record 704,394 requests," the government responded to 678,391. Yet 36%, or 244,675 FOIA requests, were censored or "fully denied."
The government cited "national security" 8,496 times so it could withhold info; that's up 57% from 2012. Who invoked national security in response to FOIA requests? "The Defense Department, including the NSA, and the CIA accounted for nearly all those. The Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency cited national security six times, the Environmental Protection Agency did twice and the National Park Service once."
Seeing NPS cite "national security" reminded me of when journalist Ryan Gallagher was threatened and warned not to write about facial recognition being used at the Statue of Liberty. I'm not keen on journalists being threatened, and he wasn't the one. The Justice Department went so far as to invoke the Espionage Act and call Fox News reporter James Rosen a 'co-conspirator' in a leak.
While the media has to try, it's practically a waste of time for journalists to submit FOIA requests when they need records due to "breaking news." Those records are often blocked or delayed until the public is no longer interested in that story. AP reported, "Last year, the government denied 6,689 out of 7,818 requests for so-called expedited processing." Other times, agencies claim they could find no records, or worse, find no records while accusing reporters of being "accomplices" to Snowden, "who is charged under the U.S. Espionage Act and faces up to 30 years in prison."
This week, March 16-22, is Sunshine Week, and the only time these cartoons can be republished without express permission. There's a bunch of great ones that you should check out, but here are two more about privacy.
Hopefully next year there will be better Sunshine Week news about government transparency. While I'm wishing...hopefully next year the U.S. can place higher than 13th on the list of the world's fastest Internet connections. Hopefully next year the United States of America will not be on the enemies of the Internet list.
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