Today is Aaron Swartz Day

Lisa Rein writes, "Today, Saturday November 9th is Aaron Swartz Day all over the world. We have events going on all over the world here - with a Zoom channel and Gitters set up for questions that will be monitored from San Francisco all day (The San Francisco event details are here for FOIAPALOOZA). Read the rest

Suppressed internal emails reveal that the IRS actively helped tax-prep giants suppress Free File

America is one of the only wealthy countries where you have to pay someone to prepare your tax return; in most other countries, the national tax office prepares a return for you and if it looks right to you, you just sign it and return it (you can always prepare your own return, too, or pay someone else to do it). Read the rest

Amazon's secret deals with cops gave corporate PR a veto over everything the cops said about their products

Last week, Motherboard broke a story revealing that Amazon had entered into secret agreements with local law enforcement agencies that had the cops pushing Ring surveillance doorbells to the people they were sworn to protect, in exchange for freebies and access to a system that let them request access to footage recorded by the Amazon's industry-leading internet-of-shit home surveillance tools. Read the rest

Crowdfunding public access to the Social Security death index

The Social Security Administration has a tool for looking up deaths in the USA that took place within the past three years, but older deaths are in the Social Security Death Master File (aka Death Index); you can buy a limited version of that from the SSA for $2.3k + $3.4k/yr; the SSA has quoted access to the full version at $5.2k. Read the rest

Axon makes false statements to town that bought its police bodycams, threatens to tase their credit-rating if they cancel the contract

Axon -- formerly Taser International -- makes police bodycams that they sell to towns on the cheap, betting that they'll make it up by gouging the towns for cloud-based storage for footage from the cameras (what could possibly go wrong?!). Read the rest

New Mueller Report version released after BuzzFeed News and EPIC sued for it

A new version of Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections has just been made public in response to a BuzzFeed News lawsuit. Read the rest

The #ShellPapers: crowdsourcing analysis of all correspondence between Shell and the Dutch government

The Dutch activist/journalists Follow the Money and Platform Authentieke Journalistiek -- last seen revealing the dark money funding thinktanks that backed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- have a new project: the #ShellPapers, a deep, crowdsourced investigation into Shell oil, its sweetheart relationship to the Dutch government, its corruption and violence throughout the world, its role in climate change and environmental devastation. Read the rest

Internal files reveal how US law enforcement classes anti-fascists as fascists, and actual fascists as "anti-anti-fascists"

The Property of the People transparency group (previously) has published another damning US intelligence file, this one a report circulated by the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (RICOC, a joint state/federal intelligence body), revealing how the US intelligence bodies advised local law enforcement after the Charlottesville white supremacist march. Read the rest

The strangest FOIA redactions (and FOIA releases) MuckRock has seen over the years

[Editor's note: We're happy to help our public record ninja friends at Muckrock celebrate Sunshine Week with this tribute to the censor's heavy hand -Cory]

After nine years and over 60,000 requests, MuckRock has been witness to some pretty impressive efforts to keep public information from the public. In the spirit of Sunshine Week, we’ve compiled some of the weirdest, wildest, and downright hilarious redactions we’ve received. Read the rest

How the payday loan industry laundered policy by paying academics to write papers that supported its positions

When Elizabeth Warren inaugurated the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of her prime targets was subprime/payday/predatory lenders; and the lenders' lobbyists went on an all-out blitz, eventually prevailing under Trump's CFPB boss Mick Mulvaney. Read the rest

Public records requests reveal the elaborate shell-company secrecy that Google uses when seeking subsidies for data-centers

It's not just Amazon and Apple that expect massive taxpayer subsidies in exchange for locating physical plant in your town: when Google builds a new data-center, it does so on condition of multimillion-dollar "incentives" from local governments -- but Google also demands extraordinary secrecy from local officials regarding these deals, secrecy so complete that city attorneys have instructed town councillors to refuse to answer questions about it during public meetings. Read the rest

Chasing down that list of potential Predpol customers reveals dozens of cities that have secretly experimented with "predictive policing"

Last October, I published a list of cities that appeared to have contracted with Predpol, a "predictive policing" company, based on research provided to me by an anonymous source who used clever methods to uncover the customer list. Read the rest

More FBI follies: civil rights groups are "terrorists" and their victims are the KKK

Following protests against a neo-Nazi rally, the FBI opened a terrorism investigation into By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a civil rights group, conducting surveillance and citing the fact that a BAMN member had been stabbed by a neo-Nazi to justify it. Read the rest

The FBI invented a fictitious "abortion extremist" movement, then warned local cops about potential acts of domestic terror from it

Anti-abortion extremists are among the most violent domestic terrorists in America, having murdered and attempted to murder dozens of people using firearms, firebombs and traditional explosives. Read the rest

In DHS tests, prototypes of Trump's chosen barrier posts were easily defeated by hacksaws

Trump isn't America's most anti-immigrant president; that honor goes to Obama, the great deporter, who also extensively tested border wall technologies while deporting 2MM undocumented people. Read the rest

The ACLU made the Border Patrol reveal its terrifying legal theories

After four years of Freedom of Information Act litigation, the ACLU has prevailed and forced the Customs and Border Patrol to release 1,000 pages' worth of training documents in which new agents learn when they can stop people and what they can do after they stop them. Read the rest

Freedom of Information Access ninjas force Gavin McInnis out of the Proud Boys

After Property of the People (previously) used clever Freedom of Information Act requests to learn that the FBI classed the Proud Boys as 'an Extremist Group with Ties to White Nationalism', the organization's founder, Gavin McInnis (the Canadian who co-founded Vice Magazine) resigned from the organization he founded. Read the rest

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