How the Trump administration is putting public records under threat, so history may never know the awful things they did

Many abuses of the Trump administration are sadly nothing out of the ordinary — rather, they're just continuations of the snowballing precedent of presidential power abuses set forth by their predecessors. But there are still some ways in which Trump's real estate legal bullying tactics have made for a uniquely terrible and dangerous situation. Consider his liberal use of non-disclosure agreements that trap public servants — people whose should be part of the public record to which they should be held accountable — in a catch-22 between legal transparency and legal retaliation.

But it goes further than that, too.

The National Archives have already been struggling to keep up with the paper records that the President has destroyed — a clear violation of the Presidential Records Act. Archivists have allegedly been fired when trying to piece together those little scraps of paperwork. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the administration has now made it an official policy that records of ICE abuses be treated as temporary documents, immune from the eye of history. From the New York Times:

In 2017, a normally routine document released by the archives, a records retention schedule, revealed that archivists had agreed that officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement could delete or destroy documents detailing the sexual abuse and death of undocumented immigrants. Tens of thousands of people posted critical comments, and dozens of senators and representatives objected. The National Archives made some changes to the plan, but last month it announced that ICE could go ahead and start destroying records from Mr.

Read the rest

The Catholic Church broke its promise to publish a list of "credibly accused" abuser priests, so Propublica did it for them

In 2019 the Pennsylvania Attorney General published a 900-page grand jury report on sexual predators in the Catholic Church and the coverups the church and its official had undertaken; at the time, the church promised to end the coverup and engage in truth and reconciliation with the parishoners who'd been preyed upon by clergy. Read the rest

For the first time, you can search the database of money that publicly funded researchers in Illinois received from pharma companies

Researchers in Illinois who receive federal funding are required to file paperwork disclosing potential conflicts of interest, but these handwritten forms just moulder in the NIH's filing cabinets...until now. 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

Civil rights groups call for a stop to Amazon's doorbell surveillance partnerships with cops

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "More than 30 civil rights organizations, including Fight for the Future, Color of Change, National Immigration Law Center, and CAIR, have signed an open letter calling for elected officials to investigate Amazon Ring’s business practices and put an end to all Amazon-police surveillance partnerships. This is the first major action taken by groups to pressure lawmakers to address these partnerships and the threats they pose to privacy, civil liberties, and democracy. Our elected officials are supposed to protect us, both from abusive policing practices and corporate overreach. These partnerships are a clear case of both. If you're concerned about Amazon's surveillance partnerships, there's a petition you can sign to your local elected officials here." Read the rest

Interactive map of public facial recognition systems in America

Evan Greer from Fight for the Future writes, "Facial recognition might be the most invasive and dangerous form of surveillance tech ever invented. While it's been in the headlines lately, most of us still don't know whether it's happening in our area. My organization Fight for the Future has compiled an interactive map that shows everywhere in the US (that we know of) facial recognition being used -- but also where there are local efforts to ban it, like has already happened in San Francisco, Oakland, and Somerville, MA. We've also got a tool kit for local residents who want to get an ordinance or state legislation passed in their area." Read the rest

Voting machine companies: the names of our parent companies are trade secrets

When the North Carolina State Board of Elections asked the voting machine companies whose products were used in state elections who owned those companies, both Election Systems & Software and Hart Intercivic claimed that the answers to the question were proprietary, confidential trade secrets that would devalue their companies if they were divulged. Read the rest

Why can't we see big companies' tax returns?

As Russell Brandom writes, "before 1976, corporate tax returns were broadly considered part of the public record" and there's been bipartisan support since for mandating that big companies show us how they're structuring their earnings (this was especially urgent after the Enron scandal). Read the rest

Prosecutors and federal judges collaborate with corporations to seal evidence of public safety risks, sentencing hundreds of thousands of Americans to death

When federal prosecutors drag corporations into court for business practices that hurt or even kill people, it's routine for corporate counsel to ask to have the evidence in the case sealed, and for prosecutors to agree, and for judges to rubberstamp the deal, meaning that the public never finds out about the risks around them. 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

Big Tech's addiction to illegal, overreaching NDAs protects wage discrimination, sexual harassment, and other evils by "terrorizing" employees

NDAs were once used exclusively to protect bona fide trade secrets, but today's Big Tech companies force new hires to sign far-ranging NDAs that exceed the law in many ways (for example, by banning employees from discussing illegal workplace conditions), as a means of "terrorizing" employees into keeping their mouths shut, lest they face threats from the company's high-powered lawyers. Read the rest

Chuck Tingle's Muellerporn: "Redacted In The Butt By Redacted Under The Tromp Administration"

Chuck Tingle (previously) has leapt into action with some of the most trenchant analysis of the Mueller Report yet seen: Redacted In The Butt By Redacted Under The Tromp Administration covers all the most significant details through an exquisitely crafted tale of gay pornography. Read the rest

1% of England owns half of England

Guy Shrubsole is the author of Who Owns England? a forthcoming book that reports out a paintstaking researched data-set laying out, for the first time, a comprehensive view of the land ownership in England, finding that half of the country is owned by 1% of its people: a mere 25,000 aristocrats, oligarchs and corporations. 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

Intelligence officials sue to end pre-publication government review of writings

The action was brought in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, against DNI Dan Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, NSA Director Paul Nakasone, and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

List of thousands of criminal cops accidentally released under public records laws, now CA AG threatens 2 reporters with legal action for having a copy

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told two Berkeley-based reporters that it is against the law to even possess a copy of this never-before-publicly-released list of convicted cops.

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

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