Let the Freedom (of information) Summer begin!
Today, Michael C. Cook of the Census Bureau’s public information office wrote the following in the comments section of this post:
The Census Bureau publicly discloses on our website a status log of all FOIA requests to assist organizations like My Two Census and individuals to track the status of formal public records inquiries. In addition we have routinely provided My Two Census with status reports on your many requests.
On February 14, 2010 you requested records on the translation services contract with Diplomatic Language Services and we provided a response in 31 days.
On February 19 and again on the 26th you submitted a modified request for correspondence with various public officials and emails which contained your itemized list of 26 profanities. We have partially complied with this request.
On February 25, 2010, you requested travel records on all Census employee hotel stays for a 14 month period. As of today, we have not received from you the legally required fee to cover the cost of this substantial request.
On April 20, 2010, you requested all records relating to technology systems at the Census Bureau covering a three and a half year period beginning in 2006. As of today, we have not received from you the legally required fee to cover the cost of this substantial request.
On April 25, 2010, you requested copies of all emails between four Census employees during a one week period in February. As of today, we have not received from you the legally required fee to cover the cost of this request.
On June 14, 2010 you requested a log of all your requests.
Last night you requested information on an employee in our Chicago Region.
What you don’t see here is the exorbitant prices — in the range of $30,000 — that the Census Bureau tries to charge me to fill these requests. However, journalism organizations, like MyTwoCensus.com, are exempt from these fees. Nonetheless, though in 2009 the Census Bureau forced me to create appeals to claim my status as a journalism organization and then waived the fees, in 2010 the Census Bureau has not recognized MyTwoCensus.com (currently getting more daily hits than ever) as a journalism organization. Here’s what I wrote back to Mr. Cook:
How in god’s name do you expect me to pay these fees? I am working for myself and this site is no longer funded. Journalism organizations are excluded from paying fees, and I only request electronic copies as I don’t believe in wasting paper. It is an insult to have to have $30,000 on hand every time I want to make a request. What do you think?
In light of this information and the Census Bureau’s continuous effort to shield itself from damaging information being released to the public through MyTwoCensus.com, I will be starting the Freedom (of Information) Summer initiative, whereby I will make FOIA requests five times per week throughout the summer. As you already read in a previous post, the Census Bureau’s FOIA staff doesn’t get all that many requests, so I’m going to make them work a bit harder to encourage more government transparency.
My voice will not be silenced, and yours shouldn’t be either. If you would like me to request information on your behalf, please be as specific as possible (dates, terms, people, etc.) and I will do my best to file FOIAs that have legitimacy for you. Here is some more info for you to check out: