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Wild Horse Freedom Federation finds out the truth about America’s wild horses & burros

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Source: Wild Horse Freedom Federation

   

Letter from USDA’s Forest Service informing us that they had no records of the Devil’s Garden wild horses for almost a 4 month period of time (Click on each page to enlarge or print)

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Wild Horse Freedom Federation has been working diligently, over many years, trying to find out the truth about what is happening to America’s wild horses & burros.

We currently have 9 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed for violations of FOIA law by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). More

Top Dem Puts Hold On Trump Interior Nominee, Requests DOJ Perjury Probe

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Source:  Huffington Post

Daniel Jorjani, the nominee to serve as the Interior Department’s top lawyer, appears before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 2.

Sen. Ron Wyden said Daniel Jorjani, who has been nominated to be the agency’s top lawyer, may have lied to Congress.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday announced that he has placed a hold on the nomination of Daniel Jorjani to serve as the Interior Department’s top lawyer, citing concerns that the political appointee possibly lied to lawmakers about his role in reviewing public information requests submitted to the agency.

Wyden also called on the Department of Justice to investigate whether Jorjani perjured himself during his May confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Interior’s FOIA policy is already the subject of an inquiry by the department’s internal ethics watchdog, the Office of Inspector General, The New York Times reported last week.

“I believe Department documents made public through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show Mr. Jorjani may have knowingly misled members of the Committee about the Department’s adherence to laws meant to ensure transparency and accountability in government,” Wyden wrote Tuesday in a letter to the acting head of the DOJ’s public integrity division.

Jorjani, a former adviser for fossil fuel moguls Charles and David Koch, has served as Interior’s principal deputy solicitor since May 2017. Late last year, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order that put Jorjani in charge of overseeing the agency’s FOIA program. The move stripped transparency authority from the agency’s chief information officer and handed it over to a political appointee who once told colleagues that “at the end of the day, our job is to protect the Secretary” from ethics probes and bad press. READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

Amid Government Shutdown, Trump’s Interior Department Rolls Back Transparency

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Source:  Wildearthguardians.org

Rule Changes Meant to Stymie Public Interest Groups, Undermine Right to Know, Condone Government Secrecy

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UPDATE (12/28/2018):  Interior’s proposed rule was published in today’s Federal Register, you can access it here >>

Although Interior is asking for public comment until January 28, 2019, the agency is not actually capable of receiving and processing comments due to the government shutdown.

Despite a government shutdown, the U.S. Department of the Interior is proposing changes to its transparency regulations that threaten to make it more difficult for Americans to request and obtain records from the federal government.

In a proposed rule slated to be published tomorrow, Interior is calling for sweeping rule changes in order to, in its words, respond to “the unprecedented surge in FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests and litigation.”

Click here to view our annotated version of the most insidious provisions of the proposed rollbacks and how they completely undermine our federal transparency laws.

The proposal is a blatant attack on our democratic right to know.  The Freedom of Information Act is our nation’s bedrock transparency law and it’s meant to ensure Americans have the ability to know what their government is up to.

WildEarth Guardians uses the Freedom of Information Act extensively as we watchdog the Interior Department and other government agencies.  In fact, we post all records we obtain on our website so all Americans have access to information that would otherwise be unavailable.

It’s undeniable there has been a surge in Freedom of Information Act requests and litigation in response to the Trump Administration’s assault on transparency and the public interest.  In fact, the number of lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information Act has hit record highs under Trump….

Yet Interior’s claim that this is a problem is belied by the fact that the Department utterly flouts the Freedom of Information Act and actively promotes a culture of secrecy, opaqueness, and unaccountability to the American public.

In our experience in dealing with the Interior Department under the Freedom of Information Act, we’ve found the agency regularly ignores deadlines, consistently finds ways to deny access to government records, purposefully drags its feet in responding to requests for information, and refuses to provide the resources and staffing needed to meet its legal obligations under federal transparency law.

To boot, among federal agencies, Interior is one of the worst in terms of making information available online.

It’s no wonder the Department gets sued. Yet rather than truly address the underlying lack of legal compliance and disrespect for transparency, Interior is instead proposing to change the rules.

Without a doubt, the proposed regulatory changes are an assault on transparency. Among the more insidious changes:

Currently, agencies have to honor all records requests, regardless of the amount of times and resources required to search for records. This reflects the fact that the Freedom of Information Act mandates full transparency and does not allow agencies to selectively censor information simply because they believe it would be “hard” to provide records.

This proposal would effectively condone footdragging and deny access to government information. The change would allow agencies to impose baseless “quotas” on information requests.

The Freedom of Information Act requires agencies provide records at no cost to organizations intending to use information to advance the public interest. Although the law requires fee waivers be granted liberally, Interior’s proposed changes would effectively turn the tables on public interest groups.

The new wording would set higher and nearly unattainable criteria, provide more discretion to deny fee waivers, and allow the Department to second-guess claims that information would serve a public interest.

For example, the proposal would allow Interior to deny fee waivers if it deems a request does not “concern discrete, identifiable agency activities, operations, or programs with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated.”

This essentially lets the federal government deny fee waivers simply because it believes the requested information isn’t relevant.

Overall, the proposed rule aims to add more subjectivity into the Interior Department’s transparency regulations, clearly intending to give agencies more discretion to deny access to information and to deny fee waivers.

Overall, the changes appear to be blatantly contrary to the Freedom of Information Act. Click here to see our annotated version of the Department’s proposed rule with our comments on how it runs afoul of federal law.

Read the entire article HERE.

 

James Kleinert and co-writer Kurt Brungardt on their new wild horse documentary (Wed., 8/22/18, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio)

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Bureau of Land Management looks to limit the number of FOIA requests organizations can file with the agency

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If the BLM would raise the livestock grazing fees, even just a little bit, they’d have plenty of money to be transparent. Also, there is little that can possibly “slow down the agency’s decision-making process” since it remains in the dark ages.

Source: muckrock.com

“Media requests only make up a fraction of the total requests agencies receive, but the new policy setting an organizational “cap” on requests could severely hamper the work of journalists – and concerned citizens – trying to use FOIA for its intended purpose.”

Recommendations appear to target media requests, and raise the cost of already prohibitive processing fees

Written by JPat Brown
Edited by Michael Morisy

According to records obtained by the Washington Post, the Bureau of Land Management is recommending new legislation that would limit the number of FOIA requests individuals and agencies could file with the agency, create stricter criteria for fee waivers, as well as increased fees for “search and redaction.”

For justification, BLM cites the agency’s limited resources, which in turn causes requests to “slow down the agency’s decision-making process.” In Financial Year 2016, the report states, the agency’s FOIA work cost $2.8 million, which was approximately .2 percent of the agency’s total budget of $1.3 billion that year.

As has been written about before, the vast majority of FOIA requests are by commercial entities. For some agencies, the percentage of commercial requests are as high as 95 percent.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

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