and federal Freedom of Information acts were mentioned in over 6000
news stories in the last 12 months and over 1000 headlines, based
on the Archive's review of online databases such as Lexis-Nexis and
Factiva/Dow Jones Interactive.
total number of Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act access requests
received by all federal departments and agencies during fiscal year
2001, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available,
- In fiscal
year 2001, the most recent year for which complete statistics are
available, the total cost of all FOIA-related activities for all federal
departments and agencies, as reported in their annual FOIA reports,
was $287,792,041.08, just over $1 per citizen, based on U.S. Census
Bureau population estimates for 2003.
The following lists are based on searches of Lexis-Nexis and Factiva
"Eating well: Second Thoughts on Mercury in Fish"
By Marian Burros, The New York Times, 13 March 2002, p. F5
FOIA documents from the Food and Drug Administration revealed intense
pressure from the commercial tuna industry when the FDA recommended
that pregnant women avoid shark, swordfish, tilefish and mackerel
because of high levels of mercury contamination that could cause brain
defects or delays in mental development in their children. After three
meetings with tuna industry representatives, the FDA said nothing
in its fish guidance about one of the most significant sources of
mercury in the American diet, tuna, the best-selling fish in the U.S.
accounting for more than a third of seafood sales. The documents were
obtained by the NGO, Environmental Working Group; now FDA is revising
its guidance to include tuna.
"Veep Tried to Aid Firm: Key role in India debt row"
By Timothy J. Burger, (New York) Daily News, 18 January 2002,
FOIA documents from the Energy Department showed Vice President Dick
Cheney tried to help the Texas-based energy giant Enron collect a
$64 million debt from the Dabhol energy project in India, by raising
the subject with the leader of the Indian opposition party during
a Washington D.C. meeting. The White House had maintained that the
now-bankrupt Enron, involved in multiple fraud investigations, enjoyed
no special favors from the President or Vice-President. Enron's founder
had contributed more than $600,000 to President Bush's political campaigns
over the years; and the top White House economic adviser had been
on the Enron payroll as a $50,000 a year consultant. The documents
noted that "President Bush cannot talk about Dabhol" and
that the economic adviser "was advised that he could not discuss
Dabhol." But top White House staff described Cheney's intervention
as "good news" in internal e-mail released through FOIA.
"Reagan, Hoover, and the UC Red Scare"
By Seth Rosenfeld, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 June 2002, p.
"Feinstein demands answers from FBI: Report on UC activities generates
By Seth Rosenfeld, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 June 2002, p. A1
FOIA documents obtained after a 17-year legal battle showed the FBI
had conducted unlawful intelligence activities at the University of
California, the nation's largest public university, in the 1950s and
1960s, including covert support for movie star Ronald Reagan's first
successful campaign for state governor pledging to suppress student
protests. The FBI also secretly campaigned to get UC President Clark
Kerr fired, conspired with the director of the CIA to pressure the
university's Board of Regents to "eliminate" liberal professors,
and mounted a covert operation to manipulate public opinion and infiltrate
agents provocateurs into non-violent student dissent groups. California's
senior U.S. Senator followed up the story with Congressional queries
about the current state of FBI political surveillance activities.
"Sailors exposed to deadly agents"
By Lee Davidson, The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 24
May 2002, p. A1
Seven years after The Deseret News published FOIA documents
showing Utah-based U.S. Army scientists had exposed hundreds of sailors
to germ and chemical warfare tests in the 1960s, the Pentagon finally
and officially acknowledged using actual chemical and biological warfare
agents in the tests, including the nerve agents VX and sarin and deadly
staphylococcal enterotoxin. The admission will allow the hundreds
of affected veterans to receive disability and health benefits previously
"Suit targets mercury-laced vaccinations"
By Margaret Cronin Fisk, The Recorder (American Lawyer Media),
26 March 2002, p. 1
FOIA documents obtained from the Centers for Disease Control by a
group of parents of autistic children showed that the amount of mercury
contained in a standard preservative (thimerosol) for vaccines given
in the first three months of life would dramatically increase the
risk of autism in children who received those vaccinations. Dozens
of lawsuits are now being filed across the U.S. against vaccine and
"I-PASS has a new role: I-Spy"
By Robert C. Herguth, Chicago Sun-Times, 7 October 2002, p.
Illinois' electronic highway toll paying system has turned over information
on drivers' dates, times, locations, and amounts of toll transactions
in response to at least 10 subpoenas in crime probes, administrative
proceedings and even a divorce, according to documents obtained through
the Illinois state FOIA. Drivers deposit money in a highway department
account and get a transponder for their windshields that allows for
automatic deduction of tolls without even stopping at tollbooths,
thus reducing congestion. But now criminal investigators and even
divorce lawyers have discovered the database and more subpoenas are
"NIH to Give Hormone Maker Data; Researchers Are Worried Wyeth
Will Manipulate Findings"
By Susan Okie, The Washington Post, 19 October 2002, p. A10
Under the FOIA, the drug company (Wyeth Pharmaceuticals) that makes
the most widely used hormone products obtained from the National Institutes
of Health the still-unpublished data from a massive government study
of hormone therapy. The researchers had halted part of the study in
July 2002, announcing that for healthy post-menopausal women, combination
therapy with the hormones estrogen and progestin did more harm than
good, with small but statistically significant increases in heart
disease, breast cancer, stroke and blood clots. In September, Wyeth
released new labeling reflecting the new findings, and says it requested
the data for evaluation purposes. Wyeth had supplied the researchers
with $20 million worth of the drugs for testing.
"History recorded from the messages of victims"
By Alain Delaqueriere and Tom Torok, The New York Times, 26
May 2002, p. 25
The New York state and city FOIAs allowed reporters to obtain the
emergency dispatch logs, transcripts of 911 calls, and audio tapes
made by the New York Police and Fire Departments on September 11,
2001, and then to find more than 140 people who communicated with
individuals on the upper floors of the twin towers of the World Trade
Center before they collapsed. New York Times reporters documented
406 instances in which people on the top floors communicated with
the world outside after the first plane struck, including cell phone,
fax and e-mail messages. One victim's widow called the scrutiny invaluable:
"There are so many issues that need to be looked at to understand
what went wrong, what happened and what could be done differently."
"Embassy documents say Hastert belittled rights concerns in Colombia"
By Ken Guggenheim, Associated Press, 4 May 2002.
State Department documents obtained through the FOIA show that current
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert of Illinois,
told Colombian military officers during a May 1997 visit to Colombia
that he was 'sick and tired' of human rights considerations controlling
U.S. anti-drug aid, and that the military should bypass the Clinton
White House and come directly to Congress for aid. The documents,
obtained by the National Security Archive, also show that a key U.S.-trained
counternarcotics unit was "bedding down" with a Colombian
brigade linked to right-wing paramilitaries and major human rights
"Some fear stronger FBI will return to old abuses"
By Tom Brazaitis, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7 July 2002.
The FBI's COINTELPRO (COunterINTELligencePROgram), which targeted
civil-rights and anti-war activists in the 1960s and early 1970s and
caused thousands of civil-rights abuses, is again the focus of discussion
as Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that he was loosening
restrictions on the FBI's ability to conduct domestic surveillance.
Stories of the FBI's COINTELPRO are disturbing. For three years, the
FBI kept a file on Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes and tried to stop him
from granting $20,000 to a "black extremist" group, the
Afro Set, which ran community outreach and anti-drug programs. The
leader of the Afro Set, Harlell Jones was convicted and sentenced
to life in prison for second-degree murder in 1972, but the conviction
was reversed and Jones was released in 1978, partly on the basis of
FBI documents released by the Freedom of Information Act that outlined
an attempt to frame him for the killing. Jones said if it weren't
for the Freedom of Information Act, he would still be in prison.
"Widespread Water Violations Decried"
By Eric Pianin, The Washington Post, 7 August 2002.
Using documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act,
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released a report finding
that nearly one-third of major industrial facilities and government-operated
sewage treatment plants have significantly violated pollution discharge
regulations during the past two years, but relatively few are being
prosecuted. Using the Freedom of Information Act, PIRG analyzed the
behavior of industrial facilities, municipal treatment works and federal
installations by reviewing violations between January 2000 and March
2001, as recorded in the EPA's permit compliance system database.
"Feds: Morris Brown Misused Student Aid"
By Kelly Simmons, The Atlantic Journal and Constitution,29
As federal investigators look into whether or not Morris Brown College
illegally used $8 million in student financial aid to pay overdue
bills, The Atlantic Journal and Constitution, using U.S.
Department of Education records obtained through the Freedom of Information
Act document how Morris Brown administrators obtained grants and loans
on behalf of students who were ineligible for the money. Many of the
students had dropped out or never even attended the school. School
officials may have knowingly kept money they received for students
who were no longer enrolled. Federal authorities have asked Morris
Brown to repay $5.4 million of the aid because the school has not
been able to prove that the money went to qualified students.
"Former Army Scientist Forged Ph.D. Certificate, School Says"
By Scott Shane, The Baltimore Sun, 9 October 2002
As the media broke the story that Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a former
Army bioweapons scientist had been claiming to have a Ph.D. he never
received, Dr. Hatfill defended himself by claiming he had completed
the work for the degree at Rhodes University in South Africa and assumed
the degree had been granted. When applying for a research job in 1995,
Hatfill provided the National Institutes of Health with a handsome
Rhodes University Ph.D. certificate in molecular cell biology with
his name on it, signed by the university vice chancellor and other
officials. A copy of the Ph.D. certificate was obtained by The Baltimore
Sun from the NIH under the Freedom of Information Act. Rhodes University
officials say the certificate is a forgery. The university seal is
not in the right place, the vice chancellor's signature has the wrong
middle initial and other names are made up.
"The Not-So-Crackpot Autism Theory"
By Arthur Allen, The New York Times, 10 November 2002
New scientific research and documents recently released under the
Freedom of Information Act are questioning the safety of thimerosal,
a mercury-containing preservative that is found in small amounts in
several vaccines commonly administered to American children. Safe
Minds, an advocacy group of parents who believe that their autistic
children were damaged by thimerosal, used FOIA to obtain records showing
that as early as December 1999 the C.D.C. had reason to believe that
thimerosal caused developmental delays in some children. An FDA study
found that vaccines administered over the past decade have tripled
the dose of mercury that infants got in their first few months of
life. As many as 30 million American children may have been exposed
to mercury in excess of Environmental Protection Agency guidelines
-- levels of mercury that, in theory, could have killed enough brain
cells to alter brain functioning. Autism is being diagnosed in numbers
far higher than ever before, suggesting that a nongenetic cause may
be partly to blame.
"The Vertical Vision/ Part I: The Widow-Maker"
By Alan C. Miller and Kevin Sack, The Los Angeles Times, 15
Military documents obtained using the Freedom of Information Act
chronicled the troubled history of the most dangerous airplane flying
in the U.S. military today -- the Marine Corps' Harrier attack jet.
The Harrier has suffered the highest major accident rate of any Air
Force, Army, Navy or Marine plane currently in service, having killed
45 Marines in 143 non-combat accidents since the Marines began using
the jet in 1971. More than a third of the fleet of jets has been lost
to accidents. The Marines released documents through FOIA that provided
information on Harrier safety, maintenance and combat records, including
a breakdown of accidents and fatalities. The Los Angeles Times
ran a four-part story on the plane, which some Marine aviators call
"Doomed plane's gaming system exposes holes in FAA oversight"
By Gary Stoller, USA Today, 17 February 2003
Reviewing tens of thousands of pages of government documents, including
more than 1,000 pages obtained under the Freedom of Information Act,
USA Today connected the Sept. 2, 1998, crash of Swissair
Flight 111 with the flight's entertainment system. The system, which
allowed passengers to select and watch movies on personal consoles,
shop and use credit cards to play computer casino games, was made
by Interactive Flight Technologies (IFT), a Las Vegas company that
was formed only four years before the crash. The Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) banned all use of IFT technologies a year after
the crash, but received heavy criticism for not catching the problems
sooner. Documents obtained under FOIA revealed that no one directly
employed by the FAA had ever reviewed IFT system's design or installation
plans, supervised the installation or signed off on any work. All
of that was done by a company that the FAA authorized to approve plane
modifications on its behalf. After the Swissair crash, the FAA tightened
oversight of private companies and individuals authorized to act on
its behalf, but problems remain.
"Study details MTA woes; Buses average breakdown every 976 miles
of service; Peer agencies more reliable; Report details problems with
By Stephen Kiehl, The Baltimore Sun, 21 April 2003
Freedom of Information Act requests to the Maryland State Department
of Transportation yielded documents revealing that buses operated
by the Maryland Transit Administration are less reliable and more
prone to breakdowns than buses in comparable transit agencies. MTA
buses break down in the middle of a run once every 976 miles - largely
due to poor maintenance and management. Buses in eight peer agencies
average 2,700 miles between breakdowns. MTA bus drivers are supposed
to inspect their vehicles before each run and fill out a pre-inspection
report noting problems. But documents showed that some drivers are
known to fill out a week's worth of reports in advance.
"'Do Not Call' List Operator AT&T Leads in Complaints"
By Caroline E. Mayer, The Washington Post, 23 April 2003
According to Federal Communications Commission data obtained through
FOIA, 5,714 complaints were lodged against AT&T's telemarketing
practices in 2001, 2002 and the first three months of this year. It
is 22 percent more than the number of complaints received about MCI,
which generated the second-highest number of complaints, and more
than three times the number received about third-ranked Sprint Communications
Co. This fact is notable when placed alongside the news that AT&T
recently won a 10-year, multimillion-dollar contract bid put forth
by the federal government to set up a nationwide "do not call"
to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls.
"Wandering weapons: America's lax arsenal"
By Sydney P. Freedberg and Connie Humburg, St. Petersburg Times,
11 May 2003
Documents made public by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of
Information Act request from the St. Petersburg Times, indicate that
since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, thousands of pounds of explosives,
hundreds of mines, mortars, grenades and firearms and dozens of rockets
and artillery rounds have been lost or stolen from U.S. stockpiles
and have possibly been misused. In many of the documented 242 cases
the lost or stolen munitions were safely recovered, however some remain
unaccounted for. And at least four devices have blown up, injuring
15 people. The Army was the most responsive branch of the military,
releasing 223 incident reports. The Navy and Marines made public 15
reports of lost munitions, and the Department of Defense released
four. The Air Force did not release any reports. Army documents obtained
through FOIA indicated that oversight was so lax at a few bases that
it was easy to steal almost anything designed to cause death or serious
battlefield injuries and elaborated that one case, classified guidance
systems for three Stinger missiles disappeared somewhere between Fort
Bliss, Texas, and Tucson, Ariz., in 1998 or 1999.
"Number of missing DCFS Wards Doubles"
By Chris Fusco, Chicago Sun-Times, 29 April 2003, p. 18.
Prompted by a Freedom of Information Act request from the Chicago
Sun-Times, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
acknowledged that 460 children had been "lost" in the foster
care system. The announcement was made by the Governor of Illinois
in conjunction with the appointment of a new director for the Department
and the release of a taskforce report outlining an ambitious program
of reforms. It was further revealed that Department officials and
staff had sought to cover-up the large number of missing children
by altering their recordkeeping.