home | about | documents | news | publications | FOIA | research | internships | search | donate | mailing list
FOIA Introduction

FOIA Basics

NEW - Effective FOIA Requesting for Everyone - A National Security Archive Guide
Making the FOIA Work for You
Follow a Request Through the FOIA Process (pdf)
Classification of Government Information
Archive's Audits of FOIA Administration
Noteworthy News Stories Made Possible by FOIA Documents
Government Guidance, Directives and Statistics on FOIA
Legislative History of FOIA
Archive's Litigation (coming soon)
International FOIA
FOIA Links
Declassification, Reclassification, and Redeclassification (PowerPoint - 14 MB)

 

FOIA in the News - 2004-2006

[NOTE: The following lists are based on searches of Lexis-Nexis and Factiva online databases.]

More FOIA News Stories - 2001 | 2002-2003 | 2003-2004

40 NOTEWORTHY HEADLINES MADE POSSIBLE BY FOIA, 2004-2006

1. "Salmonella rates high at state plants; Tests at turkey processors in Minnesota have found levels close to failing federal standards," Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), April 14, 2006, at 1A, by David Shaffer.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reviewed safety testing results for 22 plants where the Jennie-O Turkey Store produces ground turkey. At the largest Jennie-O plant, in Willmar, MN, federal inspectors found that half of the ground turkey contained salmonella bacteria-more than twice the national average for all samples. This level, dangerously close to the permissible federal maximum of 55 percent, has led food safety advocates to challenge federal oversight of ground turkey processing. Although no illnesses have been reported from the Jennie-O plants, more than 40,000 Americans are infected each year and as many as 500 die from salmonella infection.

2. "Illegal crops growing at Prime Hook, lawsuit says; Genetically modified strains at refuge are harmful, three nature groups contend," The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware), April 6, 2006, at 1B, by Molly Murray.

The non-profit organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility obtained documents under the Freedom of Information act which revealed that as many as 100,000 acres of federal refuge lands have been cultivated with genetically-modified crops. Using this information, the non-profit, along with the Center for Food Safety and the Delaware Chapter of the Audubon Society, filed a lawsuit alleging that farming practices at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Sussex County, DE violate federal law and threaten the well-being of wildlife in the refuge.

3. "FBI Keeps Watch on Activists; Antiwar, other groups are monitored to curb violence, not because of ideology, agency says," Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2006, at A1, by Nicholas Riccardi.

The American Civil Liberties Union obtained hundreds of pages of documents under the Freedom of Information Act, exposing FBI efforts to gather information about antiwar and environmental protestors and other activists in Colorado and elsewhere. The ACLU pursued the documents after FBI agents visited several activists who protested at political conventions; however, the internal FBI memos show a broad net encompassing a wide range of different types of activist groups. In one case, the FBI had opened an inquiry into a lumber industry protest held by an environmental group in 2002 because the group was planning a training camp on "nonviolent methods of forest defense . . . security culture, street theater and banner making." Since the documents were released, members of the activist community in Denver have reported a chill in protest participation, as some fear the consequences of FBI surveillance of their activities.

4. "Planted Articles May Be Violation; A 2003 Pentagon directive appears to bar a military program that pays Iraqi media to print favorable stories," Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2006, at A3, by Mark Mazzetti.

According to a newly declassified document, obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, a secret U.S. military campaign to fund publication of favorable articles in Iraqi media may violate Pentagon policy. A preliminary investigation into the program in December 2005 concluded that it did not violate U.S. law or Department of Defense regulations. However, the newly-released document, a secret directive on information operations policy dated October 30, 2003 and signed by Secretary Rumsfeld, states that "Psy-op is restricted by both DoD [Department of Defense] policy and executive order from targeting American audiences, our military personnel and news agencies or outlets."

5. "Study: Many Incorrectly Identified As Immigration Law Violators," The New York Sun, December 9, 2005, at 2, by Daniela Gerson.

The Migration Policy Institute at New York University Law School conducted a study of federal immigration law enforcement based on data disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, following a lawsuit filed by the Institute against the Department of Homeland Security. The study found that thousands of people have been wrongly identified as immigration violators, and concluded that 42% of the people identified as violators were later determined to be "false-positives," meaning that DHS was subsequently unable to confirm that they had broken immigration laws. The study suggests that the problem of improper immigration arrests may stem from a recent policy change at the Department of Justice that shifts substantial responsibility for immigration enforcement to local law enforcement authorities.

6. "Vietnam War Intelligence 'Deliberately Skewed,' Secret Study Says," The New York Times, December 2, 2005, December 2, 2005, at A11, by Scott Shane.

In 2001, a historian at the National Security Agency concluded that NSA intelligence officers "deliberately skewed" the evidence given to policy makers and the public, falsely suggesting that North Vietnamese ships had attacked Americans destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. On the basis of these erroneous intelligence reports, President Johnson ordered air strikes on North Vietnam and Congress broadly authorized military action supporting the South Vietnamese. The key documents were released by the NSA after press coverage publicizing the agency's reluctance to declassify the information and several Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the National Security Archive and others put significant pressure on the Agency to give the public access to the information. The documents were released along with hundreds of others from secret files about the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the beginning of formal involvement by the United States in Vietnam.

7. "Investigation raises questions about birth-control patch," Ventura County Star (California), July 17, 2005, at 1, by Martha Mendoza.

At least a dozen women died during 2004 from blood clots apparently caused by use of a new birth control patch, Ortho Evra, according to federal drug safety reports released to the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act. Dozens more women, most in their late teens and early 20s, suffered strokes and other clot-related problems after using the patch. Several of the victims' families have filed lawsuits since the documents were released, alleging that both the Food and Drug Administration and the company that makes the patch, Ortho McNeil, knew of possible problems with the patch before it came on the market. Despite claims by the FDA and Ortho McNeil that the patch was as safe as using birth control pills, the reports appear to indicate that the risk of dying or suffering a blood clot was about three times higher than with birth control pills.

8. "Many who got Sept. 11 loans didn't need them; some loan recipients had no idea their funds came from terror-relief program," Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), September 9, 2005, at A-1.

Analyzing loan records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the Associated Press found that a significant portion of the $5 billion designated for a post-September 11 recovery program to help small businesses was used to give low-interest loans to companies that did not need terrorism relief; in fact, only 11 percent of the 19,000 loans were to companies in New York City and Washington. Some of the companies that received the funds-including a South Dakota country radio station, a dog boutique in Utah, an Oregon winery, and a variety of Dunkin' Donuts and Subway franchises-did not even know that they were receiving funds supposedly dedicated to terrorism recovery when they were awarded loans by the Small Business Administration.

9. "On Range, deadly illness went unreported; Mesothelioma strikes years after victims' exposure to asbestos," Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), August 21, 2005, at 9B, by Greg Gordon.

Because of a loophole in report requirements, the LTV Steel Mining Company did not report a trend of mesothelioma and other debilitating asbestos-related illnesses among workers in its Minnesota taconite mines dating from1980, according to records obtained from the Mine Safety and Health Administration under the Freedom of Information Act. A 1977 agency rule requires companies to report work-related illnesses among active workers, but because mesothelioma usually does not appear for more than 20 years after exposure to asbestos, LTV did not report illnesses and deaths among its retirees, and so no action was taken to improve safety of other workers at the mine. The gross failure of companies to report lung disease cases among mine workers was evident from the documents, after reporters spoke with families of dozens of affected workers in the Iron Range region alone. According to MSHA, the maximum penalty for companies that fail to report an illness is $60.

10. "Prewar Memo Warned of Gaps in Iraq Plans; State Dept. Officials Voiced Concerns About Post-Invasion Security, Humanitarian Aid," The Washington Post, August 18, 2005, at A13, by Bradley Graham.

In a formerly secret memo released to the National Security Archive in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, three senior State Department officials warned of "serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance" in Iraq before the U.S. invasion. The memo, written February 7, 2003 to Paula J. Dobriansky, undersecretary for democracy and global affairs, challenged increasing Pentagon control over planning for the post-invasion occupation and argued that lack of attention to security and humanitarian concerns in Iraq could undermine the military campaign and harm the U.S. reputation in the world.

11. "Fighter jet's brake failures elicit urgent safety alerts," The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), August 5, 2005, at A14, by Ted Bridis.

Brake problems with a front-line fighter jet used by the Navy and the Marines poses "a severe hazard to Naval aviation" and has prompted urgent warnings from military commanders, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act. The brake problem in the F/A-18 Hornet jet, apparently related to a $535 electrical cable, has caused a significant number of accidents since 1990 but went unnoticed until a series of failures last year drew attention to the trend. In 20 years of flight of this model of jet, military documents show, there have been 17 malfunctions of the anti-skid braking system.

12. "Inefficient Spending Plagues Medicare; Quality Often Loses Out as 40-Year-Old Program Struggles to Monitor Hospitals, Oversee Payments," The Washington Post, July 24, 2005, at A1, by Gilbert M. Gaul.

As part of a large-scale investigation into the quality and monitoring of Medicare services, the Washington Post obtained records of hospital visits by Medicare patients under the Freedom of Information Act. The records, along with further investigatory work, revealed that Medicare officials knew of a number of health care facilities that were out of compliance and that conditions at some facilities put patients in jeopardy. At one Florida hospital that handles many Medicare patients, a high rate of recurring infections in heart patients actually served to benefit the hospital, which is reimbursed equally for new cases and for patients readmitted with complications from medical errors or poor care. Critics of Medicare cite as problems the incentive for health care providers to charge for additional services and to focus on receiving greater payments rather than on patient needs and prevention.

13. "Jail's Broken Locks are Widespread; Reports Detail Incidents of City Inmates Regularly Breaking Out of Their Cells," Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), June 7, 2005, at A-1, by Jim Nolan, David Ress and Jeremy Redmon.

According to reports released under the Freedom of Information Act, up to 75 percent of the cells in the Richmond City Jail may have faulty locks. The Times-Dispatch obtained disciplinary reports for at least 15 incidents of inmates breaking out of their cells in 2004 and more than two dozen other reports of inmates found wandering in unauthorized areas of the jail. Jail officials acknowledge that inmates may be able to jam paper and other debris into the locks on their cell doors, and then later simply shake the jammed locks to release them. The ongoing problem came to light last year, when one young inmate got out of his cell in the felony lockdown area of the jail and attacked and beat to death another inmate, who had been arrested on charges of sexually assaulting the young man's mother. After the reports were published, the Richmond Sheriff's office announced that it would hire a locksmith to repair inoperable locks in the jail, at an estimated cost of $120,000. City officials claim that the sorely needed full renovations to the jail will cost upwards of $25 million.

14. "Broader definition of terror; The U.S. Justice Department's silence regarding specific cases has sparked a controversy," Des Moines Register (Iowa), May 16, 2005, at 1B, by Dalmer Bert.

Department of Justice documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Justice Department has greatly broadened the definition of terrorism since 2001 for purposes of counting terrorism-related cases and seeking congressional funding and authorization for greater police power, as under the Patriot Act. Justice Department memoranda show that officials broadened record-keeping practices so that they could increase the reported number of "terrorism-related cases." Under the new practices, the Department of Justice could count an investigation into drug charges against several American contractors working at airport runway jobs as well as cases in which terrorism-related tips were received and immediately disregarded before investigations were opened. In the year prior to September 11, 2001, only 29 terrorism-related convictions were reported; in the two years after the new policy changes took effect, the Justice Department claims that it has won convictions in 1,065 terrorism-related cases, in addition to hundreds of arrests and investigations. Few of the defendants in the reported cases have been identified, however, even at the request of Congress.

15. "City rarely prosecutes civil rights complaints; A report shows officers seldom are taken to court over alleged offenses, here or elsewhere," The Houston Chronicle, December 1, 2004, at A1, by John Frank.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) analyzed hundreds of Department of Justice records it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and concluded that federal prosecutors around the country decline to prosecute about 98 percent of all civil rights violations alleged against police officers, prison guards, and other government officials. According to the report, the prosecution rates are among the lowest in Houston, with less than 1 percent of all cases actually being pursued by the U.S. Attorney's Office there, although the Southern District of Texas has the highest number of FBI investigations of police abuse and civil rights violations. One co-author of the report suggests that one contributing factor may by the FBI's failure to follow through fully with civil rights investigations.

16. "Amid Strife, Abramoff Had Pal at White House," Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2006, by Peter Wallsten, James Gerstenzang, and Tom Hamburger.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has recently pled guilty to fraud and tax evasion in connection with secret kickbacks from Indian tribe activities, had regular contact with a high-ranking official at the White House, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. The Office of Management and Budget released a series of friendly e-mails between Abramoff and David H. Safavian, the former White House chief of federal procurement policy who was charged with perjury in conjunction with the federal investigation into Abramoff's lobbying activities last year. Safavian offered sympathy to Abramoff after the scandal over his improper lobbying tactics broke, and at one point offered to help Abramoff with "damage control" and told him that "you're in our thoughts." It appears, however, that Safavian was not Abramoff's only connection in the White House. Documents released by the Secret Service recently show that Abramoff made at least two official visits to the White House, and it is believed that he was there on a number of other occasions, including when he is shown in a photo with President Bush.

17. "Did Daley make him the fall guy? Water department's boss OK'd probe of scam, then lost job," Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2006, by Gary Washburn.

Chicago Water Management Commissioner Richard Rice was fired after a probe uncovered a timesheet scam by nine employees in Rice's department. According to a confidential document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, however, it was Rice himself who approved the probe, tracking payroll irregularities involving nine workers. Some have suggested that Rice may have served as a scapegoat, who was fired to demonstrate that the mayor is living up to his promises of being tough on corruption.

18. "Yellowstone considers wireless tower expansion," Centre Daily Times (State College, PA), May 4, 2006, by Rita Beamish, The Associated Press.

Officials of Yellowstone National Park are preparing to expand the availability of cellular phone service inside the park, according to records of a meeting last year with telecommunications companies who would like to operate in the park, which were released under the Freedom of Information Act. The AP, which obtained the documents pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, said that park officials asked them to identify sites where wireless towers or other equipment would have the least visible impact on visitors after vigilant watchdog groups alleged that cell phone service in the park would mar the quiet of the landscape there. Because the park attracts more than 2.8 million visitors annually, the companies have pressured park officials to allow them to provide service there in order to get an edge in the competitive market.

19. "Few Punished in Abuse Cases," The New York Times, April 27, 2006, by Eric Schmitt.

A report compiled by several human rights groups, based on tens of thousands of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, finds significant failures in government efforts to investigate and punish military and civilian personnel engaged in abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. According to the documents reviewed for the report, 410 individuals have been investigated, but only about one-third have faced any disciplinary action. The report recommends, among other actions, that the Senate should deny promotion to any officer who has been implicated in an abuse case.

20. "Washington owed billions of dollars: Fraction of fines actually get paid; Penalties get axed, ignored, forgotten," Kansas City Star, March 19, 2006, by Martha Mendoza and Christopher Sullivan, the Associated Press.

An investigation by the Associated Press using records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act uncovered a huge increase in the amount of unpaid federal fines owed by individuals and corporations. In some cases, large penalty fines have been avoided or reduced through negotiations, because companies go bankrupt before the fines are paid, or because federal officials often fail to keep track of who owes what in the highly-decentralized collection system. According to the AP analysis of financial penalty enforcement figures across the federal government, the government is owed billions of dollars including, for instance, more than $35 billion in fines owed to the Justice Department from criminal and civil cases as well as billions of dollars in penalties charged against energy and mining companies for safety and environmental violations. In addition to unpaid fines, AP found countless fines that were paid, but in a significantly reduced amount. For example, the government sought to assess a fine in the amount of $60 million for "commercial fraud" against one large corporation, but the case ended with only a $15,000 collection by Customs after the company challenged the government's claim.

21. "IRS audited group after criticism," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 27, 2006, by R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post.

The Internal Revenue Service conducted an audit of the nonprofit group Texans for Public Justice, which had openly criticized the campaign spending of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The audit was requested by Rep. Sam Johnson, a member of the Ways and Means Committee and an ally of DeLay. The group's founder, Craig McDonald, used the Freedom of Information Act to determine the circumstances that prompted the audit; the released materials included a letter from Johnson to IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, asking him to report the results of the audit directly to the congressman. The IRS auditors, however, found no tax violations by the group.

22. "Report Slams UCI's Kidney Transplant Care," Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2006, by Charles Ornstein.

An investigation into the kidney transplant program at UCI Medical Center in Orange County in December 2005 aided by documents released under the Freedom of Information Act found that the hospital failed to ensure that all staff completed required training, and did not institute federally-mandated patient care reviews and oversight, including monitoring the diets of organ donor recipients. UCI hospital shut down its liver transplant program last year, after an investigation by The Times revealed that more than 30 patients had died waiting for organs, although the hospital turned down numerous donors.

23. "Pentagon accused of ignoring waste allegations; At issue is a program that lets vendors set their own prices; Defense said the program worked," Philadelphia Inquirer, January 24, 2006, by Seth Borenstein.

Documents acquired by Knight Ridder under the Freedom of Information Act show that a retired Army Reserve officer, Paul Fellencer Sr., tried to expose as much as $200 million in wasteful spending, but Pentagon officials casually dismissed his claim and claims of several others. The whistleblower alleged that a multibillion-dollar Pentagon prime vendor program used middlemen who set their own prices to purchase certain equipment for use by the Defense Department. DOD apparently bought kitchen equipment through the program, spending as much as $20 each for ice cube trays that retail for less than a dollar, $1000 for toasters and popcorn-makers, and $5,500 for a deep-fryer (which other government agencies bought for only $1,919). Fellencer documented the prime vendor program spending in detailed spreadsheets, and provided the data to officials at a Pentagon fraud hotline. After an eight-hour investigation, officials declared the tip "unsubstantiated," and dismissed it, according to the recently released documents.

24. "Data: Navy tried to tilt Vieques vote," Orlando Sentinel, July 23, 2005, by John J. Lumpkin, the Associated Press.

According to records obtained by Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act, the Navy paid $1.6 million to a communications firm in 2001 for a public relations campaign seeking to influence the results of a referendum on whether the military could continue to use the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a bombing range for training. The Rendon Group was under contract to "conduct public outreach to build grass-roots support" in favor of continued Navy training at Vieques. The vote never took place, however, because in January 2002 President Bush announced that the Navy would stop conducting bombing practice on the island, and the range closed in 2003.

25. "A breach of the truth," Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee), March 4, 2006, at B6.

Despite President Bush's statement after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans last August, claiming, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," new video released to the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act shows Bush being briefed about potential weaknesses in the levees. The tape shows FEMA director Michael Brown giving a briefing, including that the storm was "a big one" and that experts, including Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, feared that it could submerge New Orleans and result in a high death toll. On the tape, however, President Bush appears unconcerned; he asked no questions and replied only that "We are fully prepared."

26. "That Wild Taxi Ride Is Safer Than You Think, a Study Says," New York Times, April 28, 2006, by Thomas J. Lueck and Janon Fisher.

A study, based on state accident records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, finds that contrary to popular belief New York taxis are relatively safe-in fact, taxi and livery-cab drivers have accident rates overall that are one-third lower than other private vehicle drivers. The study also found, however, that passengers in taxicabs are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries than passengers in private cars, largely because taxi riders rarely wear seatbelts and can be injured by cab partitions. Bruce Schaller, an independent transportation consultant for cities and transit agencies, was not paid by New York City Transit officials or the Taxi and Limousine Commission, but rather conducted the study to satisfy his own curiosity.

27. "PETA urges AF to stop Taser testing on animals," San Antonio Express-News, April 6, 2006.

Video footage obtained by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shows Air Force testing of Taser guns on animals at Brooks City-Base. The video showed animals writhing in apparent pain as they were hit with electric shocks from the guns. PETA called on air force to stop such testing, but an Air Force spokesman said that the research on nonlethal methods of incapacitating individuals is vital to national defense and the military will not comply with the request. PETA says that stun guns have already been tested extensively, and these additional tests, which "cause excruciating pain and suffering to the animals involved," are unnecessary.

28. "System Error: The NSA has spent six years and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to kick-start a program, intended to help protect the United States against terrorism, that many experts say was doomed from the start," Baltimore Sun, January 29, 2006, by Siobhan Gorman.

A classified program, launched in 1999 to help the National Security Agency sift through electronic communications data and enable analysts to pick out the tidbits of information that are most important for national security, is still not fully functional. After more than six years and $1.2 billion in development costs, the project has resulted in only a few technical and analytical tools and suffers from a lack of clearly defined goals and direction. An NSA inspector general report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Baltimore Sun, found "inadequate management and oversight" of private contractors and overpayment for the work on the project.

29. "Librarians would shelve Patriot Act," San Antonio Express-News, January 25, 2006, by Amy Dorsett.

A series of Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the FBI by the Electronic Privacy Information Center uncovered a series of e-mails between agents complaining about public backlash over the Patriot Act, including by "radical, militant librarians." Members of the American Library Association last year debuted a button, one of the biggest sellers at the organization's annual convention, declaring "Radical Militant Librarians." This group's anger over the Patriot Act largely stems from provisions in the law that allow government agents to inspect reading lists and reference materials used at libraries and bookstores by individuals under investigation; librarians are prohibited from telling patrons that material about them has been requested.

30. "U.S. Saw Spread of Nuclear Arms as 'Inevitable'; 1975 CIA Outlook Bleak; Progress has Been Made," Boston Globe, August 6, 2005, by Bryan Bender.

A CIA estimate, sent to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld in 1975, offered a bleak outlook of the spread of nuclear weapons: "The future is likely to be characterized not only by an increased number but also an increased diversity of nuclear actors." The estimate was declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act to the National Security Archive, along with a series of other Cold War nuclear intelligence documents, all of which demonstrate a belief by the U.S. government that significant increases in the number of nuclear actors was "inevitable." In the 30 years since the estimate, however, only one country-Pakistan-is known to have developed nuclear weapons and joined the existing seven nuclear states (U.S.A, Russia, U.K., France, China, India, Israel).

31. "A haven for handouts; Records: Funds for a drug program run by council candidate Thomas White went to him and employees," Newsday, July 18, 2005, by William Murphy.

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Newsday reveal rampant misappropriation of funds by the J-CAP Foundation that were intended to provide money for drug treatment programs, including the Queens Village Committee for Mental Health for Jamaica Community Adolescent Program. Investigative reports show that benefits from the Foundation, run by current City Council candidate Thomas White during the 1990s, went primarily to J-CAP executives and employees. White and other employees used SUVs leased by the foundation and used funds to make personal loans to employees and to pay $4,196 in New York City parking tickets.

32. "Social Security Opened Its Files For 9/11 Inquiry," New York Times, June 22, 2005, by Eric Lichtblau.

The Social Security Administration has relaxed its privacy restrictions since the September 11 attacks and searched thousands of its files at the request of the FBI, according to memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Despite strict privacy policies that prohibit access by other agencies to personal information about individuals, senior officials at the Social Security Administration agreed to an "ad hoc" policy which permitted FBI searches pursuant to claims of a "life-threatening" emergency. The Internal Revenue Service also assisted the FBI, providing income information about individual taxpayers for terrorism inquiries.

33. "State pols jump ahead in line for Illini tickets; For ordinary fans, it's scalpers or TV," Chicago Sun Times, February 27, 2005, by Dave McKinney.

Tickets for the top-ranked Fighting Illini basketball games are difficult to come by, but not for state politicians and others with high-level connections, according to lists of ticket recipients obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request to the University of Illinois. The records show that the university has given more than 2,000 tickets to its trustees as well as state lawmakers, congressmen, and lobbyists, among others. And while the face value of the tickets can be as much as $30, with ticket brokers and scalpers sometimes selling them for up to 13 times face value, the VIPs have all received their tickets for free.

34. "White House paid commentator to promote law; Pundit got $240,000 to pitch education reform," USA Today, January 7, 2005, by Greg Toppo.

The Bush administration paid a well-known political pundit to promote its reform of the No Child Left Behind Act on his television show geared to black audiences, according to documents released to USA Today under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents include a contract between the Education Department and commentator Armstrong Williams, which required Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts" and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige. The government also asked Williams to use his contacts with other black broadcast journalists to encourage wide supportive coverage of President Bush's NCLB reform plan.

35. "Many FDA Scientists had Drug Concerns, 2002 Survey Shows," Washington Post, December 16, 2004, at A1, by Marc Kaufman.

A survey conducted by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services support some critics argument that the FDA is ineffective at keeping unsafe drugs off the market, according to records obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act. Almost one-fifth of the FDA scientists surveyed in 2002 said they had been pressured or intimidated into recommending approval a drug, despite their own misgivings about the drug's safety or effectiveness. Moreover, more than one-third of the scientists were not confident in the FDA's ability to assess the safety of a drug.

36. "Anthrax slip-ups raise fears about planned biolabs," USA Today, October 14, 2004, by Dan Vergano and Steve Sternberg.

A 361-page report by Army investigators, obtained recently under the Freedom of Information Act, described a number of incidents of anthrax contamination at the nation's premiere biodefense laboratory, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, MD. In 2001 and 2002, anthrax spores apparently leaked from secure labs into scientists' office, and 88 people were tested for anthrax exposure but no one was injured and no contamination was found in the residential area surrounding Fort Detrick. Nonetheless, the report alarmed critics who have challenged military plans to build additional biodefense research facilities at some major research institutions across the country, including Boston College, citing the danger of research on live bacteria in populated areas.

37. "Policy on Gays Seen Hurting Military; Others with Same Skills are Recalled," Boston Globe, July 9, 2004, by Bryan Bender.

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prohibits gays from serving openly in the U.S. military, has contributed to serious skills shortfalls, including in intelligence, military police, and infantry operations, according to new military statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act. The statistics suggest that reserve forces are being called up to fulfill gaps in many functions that had previously been performed by soldiers dismissed on the basis of their sexual orientation-nearly 10,000 since 1994. Critics argue that the policy is outdated and undermines military readiness at a time when demands on forces are high.

38. "Feds fault Chiron for lax cleanup of flu shot plant," San Francisco Chronicle, June 21, 2006, by Sabin Russell.

The British pharmaceutical company Chiron Corp.'s Liverpool plant, which produces half of the United States' supply of the influenza vaccine, failed to meet FDA regulations as late as the end of last summer, according to FDA documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. The year before, in 2004, the plant's entire production run-over 48 million doses-was condemned and destroyed by the FDA, causing a severe shortage of the vaccine for the winter. However, despite the company's expectations of resuming production and shipments for the end of 2005, the FDA found that the plant was not doing an adequate job of testing for the presence of the bacteria that had led to the previous year's shutdown. Chiron was only cleared to ship out the vaccine as late at the end of October, 2005, causing a great deal of concern for many awaiting the vaccine and several spot shortages over the fall.

39. "More Army recruits have records: Number allowed in with misdemeanors more than doubles," Chicago Sun-Times, June 19, 2006, by Frank Main.

Documents released by the Army to the Chicago Sun-Times under the Freedom of Information Act show that, even as the Army is screening applicants more carefully than ever, the percentage of recruits entering the Army with waivers for misdemeanors and medical issues have doubled since 2001. Although studies have shown the recruits with so-called "moral waivers," who have been convicted of a misdemeanor in the past, are more likely to be separated from the service, the Army has increased the number of waivers it has granted as recruitments levels continue to fall.

40. "Pentagon videos of 9/11 released; Defense Dept. makes security tapes public after Moussaoui trial, lawsuit," USA Today, May 17, 2006, by Tom Vanden Brook.

Videos of the September 11. 2001 attack on the Pentagon were released for the first time by the Department of Defense in response to a Freedom of Information Act request made by Judicial Watch, a public interest group. The lack of video confirmation of the attack led some to develop a variety of theories about the crash; Judicial Watch hoped that the release of the video would set things straight. The Pentagon withheld the videos until the completion of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, who plead guilty to conspiring with Al-Qaeda to plan the attacks, and was sentenced in early May.

home | about | documents | news | publications | FOIA | research | internships | search | donate | mailing list

Contents of this website Copyright 1995-2009 National Security Archive. All rights reserved.
Terms and conditions for use of materials found on this website.