Transparency News 2/25/14

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
State and Local Stories


In celebration of Sunshine Week 2014, SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter members and friends are invited to learn a new tool for uncovering government secrets. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press recently launched iFOIA, a new FOIA letter generator and project management system for handling local, state and federal freedom of information requests. On Monday, March 17 RCFP Freedom of Information Fellow Emily Grannis will make a presentation on taking advantage of this new system. During the event, we would love to hear about a FOIA-driven project that helped you uncover something in your community. Also, SPJ Secretary-Treasurer Paul Fletcher will offer a recap of action related to FOIA, public notice and other issues during the General Assembly session.  Our Sunshine Week event will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 17 in the second-floor conference room at 707 E. Main St. in Richmond. We hope to see you there! Please RSVP with an e-mail to so we have a head count for snacks.

Police and federal investigators have so far not uncovered evidence that a hacker gained access to secure areas of the city's computer system, city officials say.  Newport News City Manager Jim Bourey says there's no evidence yet that a man who recently claimed to have hacked into areas behind the city's firewall had actually done so. "The investigation is still ongoing, but from what we have been able to get a hold of at this point, I do want to make it clear that we have no evidence to date that our firewall or security system was breached," Bourey said in a recent interview. In an email to city employees Monday afternoon, Bourey added: "Likewise, there is no indication that any personal information of citizens or employees was compromised." According to court documents, a man who was arrested on Feb. 11 on a separate misdemeanor fraud charge — that he had stiffed a cab driver out of his $45 bill — told police after his arrest that he had been behind the city's firewall.
Daily Press

It’s not often you see some of the most conservative lawmakers in Virginia standing arm in arm with the American Civil Liberties Union. But the frequent adversaries were allies Monday in their support of House Bill 17. It would add real-time location information broadcast by devices such as cellphones to the list of telecommunications records for which law enforcement officials must first obtain a warrant before collecting. After being put off several times so all sides could figure out a compromise, the bill cleared the Senate Courts of Justice committee on a 14-1 vote and now heads to the full chamber.

An internal federal probe has concluded that Maurice Jones, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s new commerce secretary, improperly lobbied Congress while he was in the Obama administration last year. Mr. Jones, who was a deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, sent an email to more than 1,000 recipients — including 46 people at HUD — asking them to contact senators to “defend against efforts by some Republicans” to prevent a housing bill to come up for a vote, according to the internal probe. The message also asked “friends and supporters” to tell senators to vote “no” on another amendment.
Washington Times

National Stories

In the heat of the 2010 Wisconsin overnor's race, Scott Walker urged both county employees and campaign aides to go to news websites and post comments promoting him and his record, newly unsealed documents show. It was just such anonymous posts by a county worker on campaign issues that prompted prosecutors to expand a secret "John Doe" investigation -- launched to probe into missing money in a veterans fund -- to also examine whether taxpayer dollars were being used illegally to finance political operations. In one instance in May 2010, for example, a close ally posted online a portion of a Walker email almost verbatim on a Journal Sentinel story just minutes after receiving the directive. Walker had sent the note to an inner circle that included county administrators as well as campaign operatives.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has turned up the heat on Congress to pass legislation to create a national standard for notifying customers of data breaches, saying: "It is time." Citing last year's massive data breaches at Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus Group Ltd., Holder said in a video message on Monday that lawmakers should make "a strong, national standard for quickly alerting consumers whose information may be compromised." At present, 46 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands enforce differing standards for data breach notifications, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Corporate Counsel

The Justice Department announced Friday it is revising its rules for obtaining records from the news media in leak investigations, promising that in most instances the government will notify news organizations beforehand of its intention to do so. The revised procedures are designed to give news organizations an opportunity to challenge any subpoenas or search warrants in federal court. News organizations are to be informed of an impending document demand unless the attorney general determines that notice would pose "a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation, risk grave harm to national security or present an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm," the new rule says.
Huffington Post

A Senate candidate from Kansas is under fire for adding insult to injury — literally.
Dr. Milton Wolf, a practicing radiologist and Republican hopeful looking to unseat incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, reportedly posted a series of grisly X-ray images of injured patients online, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. Many of the images, which Wolf posted to his Facebook page and on his political blog, were allegedly accompanied by sarcastic, and in many cases, mocking, commentary from Wolf himself.
New York Daily News


It’s not the most important installment in the sordid saga of the National Security Agency’s spying. But it’s one that’s both irritating and ironic. The NSA has gone to court to try to stop a Minnesota man from mocking it. Dan McCall operates, selling T-shirts that make fun of the NSA and its spying scandal. One shirt says it all, and says it well. It shows the NSA’s official seal and comments, "The only part of the government that actually listens." But the NSA and Homeland Security Department both issued cease-and-desist orders, attempting to stop Mr. McCall from making this political commentary and selling his T-shirts.
Daily Progress