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DoJ Answers FOIA Request After Six Years With No Real Information 107

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the proof-aliens-exist dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In response to a Freedom of Information Act request about Google's 2007 complaint against Windows Vista search interference, the Department of Justice has after six years released 114 partially redacted pages and 60 full pages of material. Yet these 'responsive documents' consist of public news articles and email boilerplate. All the substantive information has been blacked out."
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DoJ Answers FOIA Request After Six Years With No Real Information

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  • by Freddybear (1805256) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @07:55AM (#43411167)

    You can see right through them.

    • by Whalou (721698) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:04AM (#43411247)
      From TFA:

      I wanted to get back to you on some of the more pressing issues...probably the most important of which is REDACTED."
      This goes on for an entire page. It's a gray box of nothing.

      They are a bit more transparent than before, they are using gray boxes instead of black to redact text.

    • by telchine (719345)

      Well, it's quite obvious really, it's been REDACTED

    • Great Black Hope (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In my family, there are a few die hard Baby Boomer ex-hippie Democrats. They live in Berkeley, BTW.

      They were so exited about Obama and I admit, I was too because the old rich White guys haven't done anything for me either so I thought. "Maybe this guy will shake things up."

      My Gen X cynicism has kicked in and it's the same old same old.

      My Baby Boomer Berkley relatives? They think Obama sucks. now - But STILL better than ANY Republican.

      They are searching for the next Great Liberal Hope.

      Of course, the Dems w

      • by Dishevel (1105119)

        While I do not believe in laws forcing "Social Values".
        Social Values in and of themselves are not "Horse shit".
        The lack of Social Values in our culture has cost us dearly. It will continue to cost us.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rickb928 (945187)

          All legislation is someone's morality.

          if you don't get that yet. you're losing.

      • Look, you won't find that because by-and-large the United States is a conservative nation, at least as far as regular voters go. Democrats skew conservative, and republicans skew crazy. This is amplified by a mixture of natural(your self-reported cynicism probably won't let you believe that) and intentional gerrymandering. I would take something like a 65% democrat voting country to make real progress on social and economic issues from a liberal perspective. You will never find your "great liberal hope"

    • by Thruen (753567) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:35AM (#43411985)
      Considering the delay was six years, the request took place during the Bush administration, and under his administration it was never answered. So what exactly is your point? It's high time we stopped making these into republican-democrat issues when it's really much broader than that. One guys points out Obama lies, another points out Bush lies, and we all just point fingers claiming the other party is worse instead of realizing they're both pulling the same shit. Wrong is wrong, it's not any worse because the guy you didn't vote for did it this time, especially when the guy you DID vote for was doing the exact same thing right before him.
      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        It is also more than the President. Sure, each one gets to appoint his cabinet, and the cabinet heads might put in some new upper level folks, but the rest of the departments are still the same drones as before. It's not the Pres or the department heads that are taking forever, it's the drones that just don't give a fuck. I wouldn't be surprised if it was one guy/gal's only job to redact this one document, and did so at a pace of 1 page per day. Then spent 7 hours having monkey sex in various broom clos

        • by qwak23 (1862090)

          In this day and age it was probably youtube videos as opposed to monkey sex in the broom closets. But yeah, same deal.

      • If Mr. Thomas "Editor-at-Large" Claburn wants to claim he's doing investigative journalism, he has a long way to go before he's in the same league as Edward R. Murrow, I.F. Stone (The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist) [ifstone.org] I.F. Stone, or Si Hersh. Granted, the issues here don't seem like they have the same importance, but he does have a point.

        If states see fit to argue successfully in federal court that their citizen's rights are impinged upon by a multi-national corporation, you might be tempted to believe

    • So how many signatures will we need on this petition in order to get another bullshit response? 10 million?
    • I'm killing my mod point because I gave you the wrong one, accidentally.. it's late and I'm tired, but you're definitely underrated with a 5. http://boingboing.net/2013/04/08/obamas-regressive-record-mak.html [boingboing.net] I can't believe I believed in this guy (back on 2008). I'm beginning to believe that you really can't trust the system, at any level.
  • by preflex (1840068) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:04AM (#43411249)
    Yossarian's working for the DOJ now?

    All the officer patients in the ward were forced to censor letters written by all the enlisted-men patients, who were kept in residence in wards of their own. It was a monotonous job, and Yossarian was disappointed to learn that the lives of enlisted men were only slightly more interesting than the lives of officers. After the first day he had no curiosity at all. To break the monotony he invented games. Death to all modifiers, he declared one day, and out of every letter that passed through his hands went every adverb and every adjective. The next day he made war on articles. He reached a much higher plane of creativity the following day when he blacked out everything in the letters but a, an and the. That erected more dynamic intralinear tensions, he felt, and in just about every case left a message far more universal. Soon he was proscribing parts of salutations and signatures and leaving the text untouched. One time he blacked out all but the salutation "Dear Mary" from a letter, and at the bottom he wrote, "I yearn for you tragically. A. T. Tappman, Chaplain, U.S. Army." A. T. Tappman was the group chaplain's name.

    When he had exhausted all possibilities in the letters, he began attacking the names and addresses on the envelopes, obliterating whole homes and streets, annihilating entire metropolises with careless flicks of his wrist as though he were God. Catch-22 required that each censored letter bear the censoring officer's name. Most letters he didn't read at all. On those he didn't read at all he wrote his own name. On those he did read he wrote, "Washington Irving." When that grew monotonous he wrote, "Irving Washington." Censoring the envelopes had serious repercussions, produced a ripple of anxiety on some ethereal military echelon that floated a C.I.D. man back into the ward posing as a patient. They all knew he was a C.I.D. man because he kept inquiring about an officer named Irving or Washington and because after his first day there he wouldn't censor letters. He found them too monotonous.

    --Joseph Heller, Catch-22*

    It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta' do it.

    • by Sun (104778)

      It's a dirty job, but somebody said we had to do it.

    • Re:Give 'em a break. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:28AM (#43411421) Homepage

      Pretty much. FOIA itself is a joke. The government is a big enough beurocracy that a six-year delay seems pretty quick to me, so I don't expect the purported transparency actually changed behavior at all. However, since some information might eventually come out, nobody with concerns can voice them to anybody else without risking a big scandal (and their career) later. That undermines any internal oversight, since nothing can be handled discreetly in an official capacity. Sure, we can ask for information now, but there won't be anything there to find, and the result is that nothing will improve. Mistakes, bad judgement, and outright evil will still happen, and now it's even less likely to stop.

      Then, of course, there's the redaction. By allowing any redaction, FOIA releases are little more than publicity stunts. because the public will always question what's redacted - even if it's just all the adverbs. When the redactions are substantial, but justified, there's no real way to communicate to the public that they've stumbled on something important. In all courses, FOIA responses cast more doubt on the government, whether it's legitimate concern or not.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        I think the better question is Why does the DOJ ever need to have secrecy in a civil matter after the case has been settled.

        I can see for some criminal matters, I can see it for stuff that pertains to a current inquiry or a case that is currently working thru the court system. I can't see what possible legitimacy could exist for secrecy around a closed civil matter in our "free society." Its really hard to imagine any reasons other than covering for missdeeds.

        • Re:Give 'em a break. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Dishevel (1105119) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:40AM (#43412033)

          I think the better question is Why does the DOJ ever need to have secrecy in a civil matter after the case has been settled.

          Because you can not see the deal that was struck.
          The DOJ found that Microsoft was "Really Fucking Guilty" on this one. (Legal term)
          So they made Microsoft promise to give massive back doors to all their software then agreed to enter the mobile market so that could be back doored as well.
          Then to keep Googles mouth shut about it they gave Google complete ownership of Kansas City and Austin.

          • by DarkOx (621550)

            I would have characterized that as "covering for misdeeds" but yes perfectly plausible. So I come back to why should this be considered tolerable behavior. Why is okay for the government to have a domestic surveillance program? Why are supposed to be perfectly okay sitting by and letting the "Justice" department trade legal favors to strong arm private companies to help them spy?

            Seems like another government department doing things it was never supposed to be doing in the first place. Guess we need to

      • Re:Give 'em a break. (Score:5, Informative)

        by khallow (566160) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:09AM (#43411751)

        That undermines any internal oversight, since nothing can be handled discreetly in an official capacity.

        Internal oversight is a bad joke. There's the huge, obvious conflict of interest - foxes are in charge of watching the henhouse. And there are no repercussions when it fails.

        Let's give a particularly notorious example using the current administration. Back in 2010 and 2011, in the "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scheme, the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, a US federal law enforcement bureau) enabled the smuggling of about 2,000 high quality firearms into Mexico without any sort of precaution, either a plan to prevent their use in crime or passing on a warning to Mexican law enforcement so that they could deal with the problem. I say "enabled" because among other things, they encouraged legitimate gun dealers to sell those firearms to the smugglers in question and then allowed those firearms to cross the border into Mexico unchecked (and who knows what else the smugglers carried at that time!).

        By the summer of 2011, it was apparent that these firearms were turning up at crime scenes, including murder, because they had a report to that effect which indicated several hundred of these weapons had already turned up at crime scenes. This includes murders and probably includes US crime scenes. Yet the program was continued (that is, criminals were allowed to continue to smuggle firearms into Mexico that the US had a really good idea would be used in crimes in the US and Mexico) till a US law enforcement agent was killed in a firefight involving two weapons from this program.

        Here's the problem. In the US and probably in Mexico, if you provide a weapon which is used in a crime, knowing that it'll get used for crime, then you are an accessory to that crime. In particular, a number of those crimes were murders. What we have here is a fairly straightforward case of ATF agents committing (probably a large number of times) the felony of accessory to murder and similar crimes. Or maybe criminal negligence, if you're feeling kind to people who may be partly responsible for a couple hundred deaths.

        So what came of the "internal oversight"? Nobody higher up the food chain remembers anything even though there's evidence that they were informed of the progress of the program on occasion. Similarly, the people directly involved work somewhere in DC now. The head of the ATF had to resign without any other consequence. There's no indication that the Department of Justice will ever investigate the activities of Fast and Furious much less prosecute anyone for the crimes committed.

        That's the reality of "internal oversight". It doesn't get done unless the people with external oversight apply enough pressure. That's where FOIA comes in. It allows you to learn enough about what happened that you can apply that pressure.

        • There is one consequence: For a few months, every right-wing blog and news site carried articles blaming Obama personally for the whole fiasco.

          • by Dishevel (1105119) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:45AM (#43412087)

            To be fair once he cited "Executive Privilege" over the information pertaining to "Fast and Furious" he proved one of two things.
            Either ...
            A: He was deeply involved and there were documents involving "Fast and Furious" and the White House.

            or

            B: The White House had nothing to do with "Fast and Furious" and he lied to Congress to protect Holder.

            So either way he is just another scumbag politician that should have very bad things happen to him.

          • by Bartles (1198017)
            It's pretty hard for a President to claim credit for anything, when everything is someone else's fault.
          • by khallow (566160)

            For a few months, every right-wing blog and news site carried articles blaming Obama personally for the whole fiasco.

            Given he is the Commander in Chief, what is the problem? Did he resolve this scandal? No. Therefore, he is personally responsible. That's how responsibility works.

            • The 'commander in chief' thing only applies to the military. This was a law enforcement operation. It was managed by a rather large number of officials, some federal and some state, including a few appointed by Obama (I'm not going to look up names, too tired right now). So he may have some responsibility, but only by proxy and by inaction. By the same logic you use, you could say he is responsible whenever the post office loses a letter.

              • by khallow (566160)

                The 'commander in chief' thing only applies to the military.

                It only applies to the entire executive branch of government. Obama can fire anyone working under him.

                So he may have some responsibility, but only by proxy and by inaction.

                When did I say otherwise? That is enough to damn him. A lot of people died here, and he's fucking around by proxy and by inaction.

                By the same logic you use, you could say he is responsible whenever the post office loses a letter.

                The post office has a policy it follows when it loses a letter. It's also not actually part of the executive branch, but let's ignore that (especially, since the executive branch does have some power over the USPS). If they were consistently not following policy and losing letter

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          Nobody higher up the food chain remembers anything even though there's evidence that they were informed of the progress of the program on occasion. Similarly, the people directly involved work somewhere in DC now. The head of the ATF had to resign without any other consequence. There's no indication that the Department of Justice will ever investigate the activities of Fast and Furious much less prosecute anyone for the crimes committed.

          And that's exactly the problem. Being "informed of the progress" isn't the same as actually knowing what's happening. Rather than a general attitude of "let me think about this", the standing order is "don't let me know about this". Rather than increasing transparency in government, wrongdoing is just forcibly hidden.

          I say we ditch FOIA and submit every report to an ethics oversight department, whose members are (re)elected by the public, not affiliated with any political party, and must by barred from rela

          • by khallow (566160)

            I say we ditch FOIA and submit every report to an ethics oversight department,

            Why? What do we get for this aside from more lack of oversight. The ethics oversight department would just become another ineffective layer of internal oversight.

            You need people who are completely independent of government. They're not paid by government. They're not appointed by government or elected by the public. There's no way to subvert the process by choosing who gets to have oversight and who doesn't. FOIA gives you that, but only if government is forced to honor FOIA requests.

        • Internal oversight is a bad joke. There's the huge, obvious conflict of interest - foxes are in charge of watching the henhouse. And there are no repercussions when it fails.

          Oh, you mean like FINRA, the financial industry regulatory authority, Inc., which bills itself as, "the largest independent securities regulator in the U.S." Whose chief mission is to protect (investors by maintaining the fairness of) the U.S. capital markets." It's actually private corporation, itself. And if you know anything about the nature of law and ownership, the implication is clear. Their responsibility is to their shareholders. How do they do this? By "acting" like a "self-regulatory organization,

          • by khallow (566160)

            Internal oversight is only a joke if you let it be.

            Hence, the reason for FOIA. So you can know enough to not let that happen. I might add that in the Fast and Furious case, external oversight was blocked. This is precisely the situation where internal oversight breaks down.

  • No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by john82 (68332) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:20AM (#43411355)

    News Flash:

    "A recent study has determined that Democrat administrations in Washington are just as bad as their Republican counterparts. There's just as much lying, corruption, scandal, debt, malfeasance and general stupidity. In fact, other than their respective logos, there appears to be no difference at all.

    Film at 11."

    • But the other team has a different colour banner, so they must be worse!
    • Under no circumstanses is that true. The Democrats want to protect Social Security and Medicare, keep education and jobs a priority. The Repubs only want to stall and stall and filabuster and pillage (keep subsidies, Haliburton, oil .. etc)

      So fundimentally the parties are different, in real ways that effect real people. Well the Repubs positively effect only a percent or two and the Democrates maybe the remaining 98-99%.

      There is a difference. They are both in politics and that is a dirty game but I think th

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      News Flash: "A recent study has determined that Democrat administrations in Washington

      Apparently it was a Fox News Flash

    • by Sloppy (14984)

      But if I vote third party, instead of supporting a Republican or a Democrat, then the danger is that Democrat or a Republican might win! Surely, that would be an even worse disaster, than the lesser evil of a Republican or Democrat winning.

      Laugh it up, but that really is most peoples' excuse for voting for those parties.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:28AM (#43411419) Homepage

    The only thing worst than government secrets is badly regulated government transparency so you can no longer legitimately complain about a lack of transparency but only about quality of service.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is anyone surprised at the amount that was redacted? There are two things to keep in mind.

    1) Anything pertaining to the explicit monitoring of Microsoft's compliance would be considered "on-going" and would be redacted by the DOJ

    2) Anything related to Google (i.e. the so called innocent party) can be redacted at Google's request prior to release of a document, provided that Google lawyers can come up with a potential harm scenario.

    3) Anything related to Microsoft (i.e. the guilty party) can be redacted

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:33AM (#43411465)

    "My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." - Barack Obama

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment [whitehouse.gov]

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by kelemvor4 (1980226)
      He already has been. The result here is that the federal government is more transparent than it has ever been before. It's not as open as some of us would like. Still, it's definitely a huge improvement over previous administrations.
    • by Thruen (753567)
      Well, considering Bush in his first year issued an executive order limiting the FOIA (first time it was limited since Reagan) and Obama repealed that executive order in his first month in office, I think we're still doing better. Is it perfect? No. But to say it isn't any better is just showing how unfairly biased you are. Things should be and could be better, but there's no one guy to blame here. I pointed out Bush's limiting of the FOIA but he wasn't the first guy to lie to the American people either, it'
      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @10:49AM (#43412711)
        Except that the facts say that fewer FOIA requests have actually been responded to under Obama than under Bush. Obama has said all the right things about transparency, but the people who work for him haven't actually done anything. Perhaps you remember that days after taking office Obama issued and executive order closing Guantanamo within a year. It is still open. What you talked about in your post is the same thing. Obama issued a high profile order and then no one followed through (actually the people responsible for following through in the case you mentioned did the exact opposite of the high profile order).
        • by Thruen (753567)
          I'm curious as to your sourcing. A quick browse through the last eleven years of FOIA reports shows the backlog at the end of every year under the Obama administration has been lower then the the lowest year under the Bush administration, unless they're lying on their reports. It might also be worth noting the highest backlog under Obama was his first year in office, where Bush's first year was his lowest, indicating the trend is the opposite of what you imply. If fewer requests are being answered, then it
          • by Thruen (753567)
            Wish I could edit. Twelve years of reports, not eleven.
          • I'm curious as to your sourcing. A quick browse through the last eleven years of FOIA reports shows the backlog at the end of every year under the Obama administration has been lower then the the lowest year under the Bush administration, unless they're lying on their reports. It might also be worth noting the highest backlog under Obama was his first year in office, where Bush's first year was his lowest, indicating the trend is the opposite of what you imply. If fewer requests are being answered, then it must mean fewer have been made, because a smaller number are going unanswered. I do remember Guantanamo, and I understand the difference between a giving an order and having it followed (not that it excuses Obama entirely) but that's not the same thing I was talking about, the order I referred to seems to have been obeyed, I'd venture to guess that's one of the reasons the backlog is so much smaller now. So without excusing his administration for their wrongdoings, it seems things have been more transparent under Obama.

            Here's a source [latimes.com], although I'll admit it's old (the article is from 2010).

            You seem to have more updated numbers, so can you clarify the context? If a request is outright denied, does that count as a 'response' and is cleared from the backlog? Because, if so, the backlog is just a measure of how fast the replies happen, not of the actual government transparency.

  • It must have been a National Security issue.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:37AM (#43411495) Homepage
    a pittance for the common man. much as cloistered monks of the dark ages, we the peasants arent meant to understand their knowledge. We merely consume their decrees and avoid asking questions.

    in reality actual freedom of real information is virtually patented by the wikileaks group. the knowledge they provide is indispensable in tracking and understanding the policies and procedures of how our government works. this knowledge has sparked revolution, incited protest, and called for real policy and leadership change. it has become consequently forbidden and persecuted.
  • There are a lot of checks and balances to make sure that all those that donate money to one cause or another, are taken care of. And that takes time.
    • by Xest (935314)

      When you say "checks and balances" are you sure you don't mean "cheques and bank balances"?

  • by alexo (9335) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:20AM (#43411833) Journal

    Any law that does not prescribe personal sanctions for non-compliance isn't worth the paper it is written on.

  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:37AM (#43411999)
    Unfortunately for us citizens of the U.S.A., the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) serves exactly the same purpose that the White House Petitions page "We the People" serves: no purpose other than to coddle the masses and trick them into believing that they are being listened to...
    .
    Then they respond to us with "cute little children, we promise not to build any death stars,... really..." rather than even bother to answer substantively to any questions about real matters. It's just another bureaucratic layer they can point to and say: "look, the process is this, why don't you just follow the outlined process, and wait your time, and we'll get back to you. don't call us, we'll call you."
    .
    It's a damn shame that people really believe this is supposed to work rather than just to mollify, pacify, and distract while government's business as usual continues to happen away from our eyes and our heart's wishes.
    • by Alsee (515537)

      I certainly agree that the responses to the White House Petitions pages are laughably empty. However I strongly suspect that the petition system has been significantly influential in indirect ways. I think the subjects of some of those petitions have been seeping into Washington-insider chatter. I believe they have been raising public awareness and motivation and organization on a number of subjects. Occasionally some of the petitions are directly raised in media coverage, and I believe in some cases create

  • Serious question here: Why is anything redacted? These are things like emails between Microsoft and government anti-trust lawyers. There is no possible issue of National Security here. So what's the excuse for blacking anything out?

    Here's an example from TFA:

    "Skip: your Thursday email stated:"

    REDACTED

    "To which GeneB replied:"

    REDACTED

    "Skip Stritter wrote:"

    REDACTED

    That's not information. It's routing data

    • The answer is easy. They are afraid there is something in there that someone could use to understand what they are doing in some other area. They don't know what, so to be safe they redacted everything that might possibly shed light on why they did what they did. They figure if they can stall long enough when people finally start to figure out what they did wrong they can just say "Well, what does it matter now?" and brush the whole matter under the rug.
  • The FOIA is all just smoke and mirrors. There is no "freedom of information" as long as they continue to redact anything. The gubment only will tell you what they want and nothing more. It is no longer of, by or for the people unless you are a "corporation person" with lots of campaign contributions. Lies and deceit are all I see coming from DC, both parties and the POTUS.
    • The two parties are a good cop/bad cop act. They both must please their bosses by screwing you. The difference is that one is the bad cop and sadly some people are Stockholm Syndrome types and mistake them for the good cop; these people are Republicans. The people who are aware can feel SMUG and secure (and even smarter) knowing they are not being fooled, as they "help out" the good cop so he can help them...

      My question is, which one is more stupid? the masochist one or the gullible one?
      The good cop can

  • ... this is why we need them, to combat the ever increasing secrecy of governments around the world..
  • Hmmm. I suppose I should redact all of the relevant information if the IRS ever audits me, due to security concerns of course....

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