Transparency News 5/13/14

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

State and Local Stories

A Circuit Court judge on Monday dialed back significantly on her prior decision to seal police and court records in a decades-old Newport News murder case — keeping nearly all the records open for now. In 1991, David W. Boyce was convicted of capital murder and robbery in the killing of Timothy Kurt Askew, who was found stabbed to death at an Oyster Point motel in May 1990. But after years of litigation, the conviction was reversed last year by U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer. Under the deal, Boyce's criminal history with the state's Central Criminal Records Exchange is to be wiped away, on the basis that the "continued existence and possible dissemination of CCRE information" relating to Boyce's 1990 arrest is a "manifest injustice," the order said.
Daily Press

The state’s ongoing computer system problems have the governor’s attention. Eight state agencies and Virginia’s IT contractor, Virginia Information Technologies Agency, were still wrestling Monday with the effects of last week’s computer system failure. “The governor is dismayed by this outage and the impact on these agencies’ ability to do their work,” said Brian Coy, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s spokesman. “He has directed VITA to get systems back online as quickly as possible.” Virginia’s chief information officer, Samuel A. Nixon Jr., did not have an estimated time Monday for when all the problems would be resolved, “but steady progress is being made,” he said.

Keely Byars was appointed Monday as publisher of The Daily Progress and regional publisher for a group of two other dailies and nine weeklies in a group of BH Media newspapers in Central and Northern Virginia. Byars succeeds Lawrence McConnell, 64, who was appointed executive editor of The Roanoke Times in an announcement made at that newspaper later in the day by Jamerson, who’s also publisher there. Jamerson said that she convinced McConnell to become top editor at The Roanoke Times, although he initially had intended to retire from the publisher role he’s had in Charlottesville since 1995.
Daily Progress

National Stories

A Wisconsin appeals court has ruled that state agencies may consider a requester's intent before releasing public records under the state's freedom of information law. Previously, Wisconsin, like most states, did not require a public record requester to provide their name or the reason for seeking information. The court last week was considering a case in which a man requested the employment records of a public school employee he was suspected of abusing. The Milwaukee School Board refused to release the information to that requester, citing a previous restraining order against the man and concerns for the employee's safety. The man's lawyer told the Associated Press that the appeals court's decision sets a precedent in which the government could withhold documents from citizens or news organizations who might use public information to criticize the government.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Uncle Sam needs someone to make poop — or, at least, a poop-like smell. He also needs someone to recreate the smells of a wide range of icky items, including blood, vomit and burnt flesh. The smells would be used by a type of teaching classroom for Army medical personnel called a Transport Medical Trainer Laboratory. The Department of the Army put out a soliciation for the new labs in March. The solicitation says the new labs need "scent generators" or "combat stressors" — disposable containers that would be mounted on walls and last for about a month, putting out their foul scents for about 8 hours for day. During World War II, a government research project dubbed "Who Me" had "fecal odor" packaged into tubes and then given to the resistance in France for use against German occupiers. According to government documents released to the website under a federal Freedom of Information Act request, the Who Me plan backfired, as it was later discovered that "people in many areas of the world do not find 'fecal odor' to be offense, since they smell it on a regular basis," the FOIA reveals.
Washington Examiner

A bill in the Delaware General Assembly would bring the University of Delaware and Delaware State University under the state's open-records law by eliminating a special exemption allowing both institutions to conduct the bulk of their operations in secret. House Bill 331 would add UD and DSU to the list of public bodies listed in the Delaware Freedom of Information Act and require them to comply with all provisions of the law.
The News Journal

For two hours a day, a General Services Administration employee visited dating websites, scoured the Internet for pornography and even maintained a user account at an X-rated social networking site. Ultimately, a computer virus from a porn site infected the employee’s email, sending a mass message to everyone in the account’s GSA address book titled “check out my pictures,” according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The case shows how porn in the federal workplace poses a security risk, giving computer viruses inroads to attack government servers. Records obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act show that the Environmental Protection Agency is hardly the only agency with a porn problem.
Washington Times

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that corporations – and not just individuals – may recover for reputational damage in defamation lawsuits. Typically, defendants have to prove specific financial damage resulting from the defamatory statements, unless the type of defamation is considered “defamation per se,” in which case damages are presumed. One category of statements that are often considered defamatory per se are statements attacking a person’s job-related abilities or professional stature. In Waste Management of Texas, Inc. v. Texas Disposal Systems Landfill, Inc., two companies competed for waste-disposal and landfill contracts with city governments. One company allegedly distributed an anonymous communication claiming the other company engaged in environmentally harmful behavior. Corporations can, and regularly do, sue for defamation. But the question before the court was whether corporations can suffer damage to their reputation. The defendant argued reputational injury is inherently human, as it is typically based on mental anguish, sleeplessness, and embarrassment. The court disagreed.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Police have charged a Massachusetts woman with unlawful wiretapping after accusing her of secretly recording her arrest on disorderly conduct charges. The Springfield Republican reported that Karen Dziewit, 24, was arrested early Sunday in Springfield, accused of drinking outside a building and yelling and disturbing residents and refusing to quiet down. When the Dziewit was about to be arrested, police say she activated her smart phone recording feature, hid it in her purse and recorded her arrest. During the booking process, police found the phone with its recording feature on.  Dziewit was charged with unlawful wiretapping, disorderly conduct and an open container violation. She denied the charges during an arraignment hearing on Monday in Springfield District Court, according to the Republican. 
Fox News

The National Security Agency has been allegedly accessing routers, servers, and other computer network devices to plant backdoors and other spyware before they're shippedoverseas, according to the Guardian. The news about the NSA's alleged interception of hardware comes via journalist Glenn Greenwald's new book about Edward Snowden's NSA leaks titled "No Place to Hide." Greenwald apparently obtained documents from Snowden that detailed the NSA receiving or intercepting various devices in the US before export. Ironically, this type of activity is exactly what the US government accused Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei of doing in 2012 on behalf of the Chinese government.

Social scientists around the world received a jolt in recent days when they were informed that one of the most popular cloud collaboration services not only crashed, but also may not be able to restore data added over the last three weeks.  It's unclear how many users are affected by the problems experienced at Dedoose, a company based in Manhattan Beach. But on Monday, the company sent an email to users indicating that it suffered a major meltdown a week ago and may not be able to recover recently added files. 
Los Angeles Times