Archive for May 18th, 2009

Open to Interpretation

They say that facts don’t lie, and by and large, that’s true. (If facts are untruthful… they’re not facts.) The problem is, facts are kind of useless in and of themselves – they need to be “interpreted” to have significance. This is true where intelligence analysis is concerned, but it’s just as true for news reporting, as well.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the recent study which found that most people can’t tell dog food from Spam from pork liver pate from duck liver mousse. That’s the fact, which everyone is talking about… the raw information, if you will. What few people seem to be considering is what this means. What’s the significance of this?
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on May 18th, 2009 | Comments Off on Open to Interpretation

Good FOIA News, For a Change

This may be old news to some of you, but it doesn’t seem to have gotten much if any coverage among the “usual suspects” in the blogosphere that cover Freedom of Information matters, and was news to me…

Apparently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has repaired its long-crippled FOIA search process wherein the Bureau, essentially, decided where and how they were going to search for records, rather than the requester. This is potentially fantastic news, because it theoretically makes all the Field Office records available to requesters once more, something that has not been true for several years. (Recently, according to some well-respected experts, the – literally – only way to get records from a FBI Field Office was to file a lawsuit, and even then your chances were iffy.)

On the other hand, it suggests that everyone who has filed a FOIA request with the Bureau since, oh, 2002, let’s say, should file new requests for the same material. Sure, that’s a pain in the posterior, and it would cripple the FBI’s FOIA processing… but it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for them since they created the whole problem in the first place.

I can’t speak from personal experience about the new processing by the Bureau. I will say this, though: in the last month, they did accept and apparently begin processing a (very specific and “perfected”) request for a “non-investigative” document not in the “Central Records System”, which I consider pretty encouraging.

On the other hand, they also withheld entirely an unclassified document on domestic extremism, citing (b)(2) – material “related solely to internal personnel rules and practices”. Make of that what you will. 🙂

Oh, and if anyone is keeping track, their online FOIA request form still doesn’t work. Still!. Maybe next year…

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on May 18th, 2009 | Comments Off on Good FOIA News, For a Change