Transparency News 7/5/19



July 5, 2019


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state & local news stories


The state of Maury High School, built in 1910, isn’t really a secret. District officials took state legislators on a tour of the building last fall and begged for more funding, showing where parts of the auditorium ceiling collapsed and where a classroom floor caved in like a sinkhole. The issues may be well-known, but they still persist. That’s why Deutsch and a friend in his broadcast news class decided to highlight the school’s conditions. For the last Commodore News broadcast of the school year, Deutsch and Jalen Rogers filmed areas of the school in disrepair, giving outsiders an inside look at the conditions.  The report was posted in late May. Within days, administrators ordered the removal of the video from Commodore News’ YouTube channel. Their segment on the facility and the entire broadcast, which featured other news stories, was deleted; a broken URL is all that remains.
The Virginian-Pilot


stories of national interest

Hackers have infected computers at a Georgia courts agency, demanding a ransom payment and causing officials to shut down court websites. The Administrative Office of the Courts was offline Monday as the state government tried to contain the hack. The agency maintains court documents, provides computer applications to some local courts and publishes guidance on court operations. All websites were inaccessible. It's unclear how many computers and court services were affected. Personal information wasn't compromised because the agency doesn't keep that information, said Michelle Barclay, a division director for the Administrative Office of the Courts. "Everything is shut down until they tell us to turn it on," Barclay said. "We're definitely inconveniencing folks who rely on our applications."

The Central Intelligence Agency can selectively disclose classified information to reporters while withholding that very same information from a requester under the Freedom of Information Act, a federal court ruled last month. The ruling came in a FOIA lawsuit brought by reporter Adam Johnson who sought a copy of emails sent to reporters Siobhan Gorman of the Wall Street Journal, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, and Scott Shane of the New York Times that the CIA said were classified and exempt from disclosure.
Federation of American Scientists

A New York federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of judicial documents that are expected to show evidence relating to whether New York financier Jeffrey Epstein and his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, were recruiting underage girls and young women as part of an international sex trafficking operation. The decision comes two days after the Miami Herald urged the court to issue a ruling in the civil case in the wake of last week’s Justice Department announcement in the federal criminal case that it would not void Epstein’s controversial 2008 non-prosecution agreement. Using others as recruiters, Epstein lured underage girls to his waterfront estate in Palm Beach from 1997 to 2006 under the guise that he was hiring them to give him massages. He sexually abused them, the girls told authorities, then paid them to recruit other girls, mostly 13 to 16 years old. Epstein, now 66, was never federally prosecuted, having received immunity in exchange for pleading guilty to lesser charges in state court in 2008.

A government transparency group cannot have access to Trump transition team emails under access to public records laws, even though they are being held by the federal General Services Administration, federal Judge Amit Mehta ruled on Tuesday. Even with the emails in its possession, the GSA argued in court that the records weren't the agency's to make available. Presidential transition teams' records are not covered under the Freedom of Information Act. "The GSA did not create the records. Nor did it review, search or consult them. It did not use them in any way," Mehta wrote in his opinion. "In short, there is nothing about the documents' contents that would shed any light about GSA's operations or decision-making. Therefore, the transition team's emails are not 'agency records' subject to disclosure under FOIA."


quote_2.jpg"The GSA did not create the records. Nor did it review, search or consult them. It did not use them in any way."


editorials & columns

quote_3.jpg"The center’s role in First Amendment education was crucial. Who will pick up this function with the center’s closing?"

Have you ever engaged with the free speech wall, one of the Charlottesville Downtown Mall’s most iconic features? That wall is the result of work by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression as an innovative way to encourage people to actually use their freedom. Now the center has announced that it is closing. That’s disappointing news. The center educated people about free expression values. The free speech wall was just one way it did so. Rather than just telling people about this foundational liberty, the center provided an interactive venue for people to actually exercise that freedom. In deciding to close, it opted to transfer assets to the First Amendment Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law. Fighting free speech cases in the courts is a vital service. However, the center’s role in First Amendment education was crucial. Who will pick up this function with the center’s closing?
The Daily Progress