Transparency News 6/6/19



June 6, 2019


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state & local news stories


Search warrant documents on file in Martinsville Circuit Court reveal some details about the shooting incident Sunday in the parking lot of a convenience store in Martinsville about which the Martinsville Police Department has released little information.
Martinsville Bulletin

State Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance launched an attack on her opponent attack Wednesday, criticizing Joseph D. Morrissey for not being transparent about his political expenditures and choosing to “thumb his nose” at the voters of the 16th Senate District over reporting of those expenses. In her statement, Dance railed against Morrissey for not reporting the cost of 10 billboards his campaign put up in late April highlighting reported blight in Petersburg. Morrissey campaign manager Whitney Spears said that the billboard expense was reported, but a review of the online records from the state Department of Elections showed no specific mention of billboards.
The Progress-Index


stories of national interest

CNN sued the FBI for access to case files and other documents related to interviews with about 500 witnesses questioned during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to respond to CNN’s Freedom of Information Act request for the documents, known as "302s," the news organization said in a suit filed Tuesday in Washington. CNN is seeking a court order forcing the FBI to hand the documents over. "Despite numerous citations to 302s and other underlying documentation throughout the publicly-released version of the Special Counsel’s Report –- including many direct quotes from documents themselves –- the FBI has failed to respond to CNN’s request for the report’s underlying evidence and factual findings within the time required by the FOIA."

San Francisco spent almost $58,000 in the past year reimbursing city employees for rides on Uber and Lyft, public records show. Records obtained from the Controller’s Office and the Mayor’s Office under the Sunshine Ordinance show public employees took 1,664 rides with the two “transportation network companies.” Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who heads the county Transportation Authority, said that paying for Uber and Lyft rides is “counter to the policy that has been set by the Board of Supervisors and the TA.”

Newly released emails signal that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pushed to speed up work on Texas' efforts to cull its voter rolls of noncitizens, a claim his office strongly denies. "This is patently false," said John Wittman, an Abbott spokesman. "Neither the Governor, nor the Governor's office gave a directive to initiate this process as the emails show. No one speaks for the Governor's office, but the Governor's office." The emails were obtained as part of a lawsuit against the state by the League of United Latin American Citizens and other civil rights groups that alleged the state's citizenship review discriminated against naturalized citizens. The lawsuit -- one of of three filed against the state -- was settled in April.

Several cities have launched investigations into the online conduct of their police officers after a database revealed thousands of racist and otherwise offensive social media posts by current or former members of law enforcement. The Plain View Project has since 2017 examined the public profiles of police officers from eight jurisdictions. Its findings were detailed in an investigative feature published jointly by Injustice Watch and BuzzFeed News on Saturday.

Back in the days of bell bottoms, the FBI was willing to entertain the notion that Bigfoot, the mythical giant furry humanoid, might be more than a flight of fancy.  The FBI Records Vault is an online Freedom of Information Act Library stocked with thousands of scanned documents covering fascinating and bizarre topics ranging from the Roswell UFO incident to a background investigation of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. On Wednesday, the FBI Records Vault Twitter account brought our attention to an intriguing set of documents involving the agency's role in a Bigfoot investigation in 1976 and 1977.  The collection spans 22 pages of correspondence and newspaper clippings starting with a letter the FBI sent in response to Peter Byrne, director of The Bigfoot Information Center in Oregon. 

A federal appeals court announced Tuesday that its full, 12-judge bench plans to revisit whether judges have the authority to disclose usually secret grand jury information in exceptional cases. The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said it plans to take up, en banc, a case involving a historian’s request for access to records of a federal grand jury investigation into the 1946 lynching of two African-American couples in Walton County, Ga.




editorials & columns


Around the world, governments are hitting on a modish new idea: Turn the internet off. Sometimes they mean it literally. Methods vary, but the trend is clear enough. Countries are increasingly ordering telecoms and other companies to block network access, shut down messaging services, or otherwise restrict digital applications or websites, usually citing public order or national-security concerns. In extreme cases, internet access can be “blacked out” entirely. Worldwide, such shutdowns rose to 188 last year, up from 75 in 2016. Expect that regrettable figure to rise. For autocrats, the appeal is obvious. They can use such restrictions to suppress inconvenient news or unwanted opinions, censor political rivals, prevent activists from organizing and stifle talk of government misdeeds. 
The News & Advance