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Senator Franken Concerned Over Google’s Treatment of Student Privacy - Sun, 17/01/2016 - 03:58

After we filed our complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about Google's unauthorized collection of personal information from school children using Chromebooks and the company's educational apps, we heard from hundreds of parents around the country concerned about K-12 student privacy. This week, an important voice in Washington joined their growing chorus.

On Wednesday, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) wrote a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking for information about the privacy practices of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Several of his questions reflect concern over the issues we raised with the FTC. Sen. Franken is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

Explaining his reasons for writing to Google, Senator Franken wrote:

[A]s schools increasingly rely on technology in the classroom, students and their families have raised legitimate concerns about the privacy and security of students' data. There have been an increasing number of stories of the misuse of student data or poor security practices in schools using EdTech tools. When used appropriately, technology is a valuable tool for teachers and students alike, but we must ensure that students' very sensitive data are protected.

The letter then zeroes in on the core issues at stake in our FTC complaint–how Google tracks and treats student data when children are logged into their GAFE accounts but navigate outside the GAFE suite:

[T]here may be a discrepancy in how Google treats student data obtained through its core Google Apps for Education (GAFE) services—products that are deemed educational—versus how Google treats student data obtained through other services that are not deemed educational, such as Google Search, Google Maps, or YouTube.

As we pointed out in our FTC complaint, as a signer of the Student Privacy Pledge, Google publicly promised it will refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students' personal information except when needed for legitimate education purposes or if parents provide permission.

Yet without parental consent the company tracks and records students’ online activity in certain Google services and feeds it into an ad profile attached to the students’ educational accounts. Is there an educational purpose in that practice? Senator Franken has asked Google to explain why it collects this information, and as we raise in our FTC complaint, whether "Google [has] ever used this kind of data for its own business purposes."

The letter also inquires about the viability of an "opt-in" regime in which students and their families would participate only after granting their affirmative consent.

We're glad that Sen. Franken is examining these issues and look forward to seeing Google's response. Greater transparency by EdTech providers could greatly benefit student online privacy, as well as security.

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Categories: Aggregated News

Israeli and AIPAC Big Lies About Iran's Intended Use of Unfrozen Assets - Sun, 17/01/2016 - 03:37
Israeli and AIPAC Big Lies About Iran’s Intended Use of Unfrozen Assets
by Stephen Lendman
AIPAC devotes a section on its web site to malicious Big Lies about Iran intending use of its unfrozen assets to spread its nonexistent “malign global influence,” once international sanctions are lifted this weekend as expected.
It discusses dozens of countries on six continents, making fraudulent claims - ignoring Israel’s scourge, complicit with Washington and other rogue partners.
An unnamed Israeli source claims Tehran will invest heavily in military, not civilian projects, citing no credible evidence.
Another unnamed Israeli source was quoted, saying “(t)he world powers are mistaken if they see Iran as a solution to regional stability, and not the source of the problem.”
Fact: Iran prioritizes regional peace and stability, free from nuclear weapons.
Fact: Israel and Saudi Arabia complicit with Washington are the region’s leading proliferators of endless wars, violence and chaos.
Netanyahu and other Israeli hardliners duplicitously call Iran an existential threat - not according to departing Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, saying:
“Everyone knows that Israel is a very strong nation. This is no longer a time when (it) is forced to deal with existential threats.” It faces none.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to “finalize” last year’s nuclear deal. IAEA confirmation of Tehran observing agreed on terms is expected Saturday.
Netanyahu continues spreading Big Lies, outrageous claims about Iran’s road to the bomb along with fostering terrorism and instability.
Zarif and John Kerry met on Saturday, Tehran’s foreign minister, saying “(w)e’re trying. We’re working on” lifting international sanctions today or this weekend.
Nuclear talks “proved we can solve important problems through diplomacy, not threats and pressure, and thus today is definitely an important day. (N)aysayers are always wrong.”
Separately on Saturday, Iran freed jailed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former FBI agent Robert Levinson, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and former US marine Amir Hekmati, accused of spying - ahead of imminent lifting of international sanctions.
They were freed “within the framework of exchanging prisoners,” according to Iran’s ISNA news agency. 
In exchange, Washington will release seven Iranian-Americans lawlessly held, “languishing (in) US jails,” according to Tehran’s IRNA news service.
The exchange includes Washington agreeing to stop seeking extradition of 14 Iranians for alleged involvement in purchasing US weapons.
Dubai-based Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi’s case remains unresolved. Iran hasn’t publicly commented on his imprisonment.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

US, Britain and France Intend Undermining Syrian Peace Talks - Sun, 17/01/2016 - 02:01
US, Britain and France Intend Undermining Syrian Peace Talks 
by Stephen Lendman
They want war, not peace, Assad replaced by a pro-Western puppet, Syrian sovereignty destroyed, the country balkanized for easier control.
Iran’s turn awaits, despite last year’s nuclear deal. US-led Western rogue states want total control over vast regional resources, huge oil and gas deposits, giving Big Oil free reign to exploit them.
Russia’s deputy UN envoy Vladimir Safronkov blasted what he called an “unscrupulous (Western) tactic,” saying:
“It looks like that, under the pretext of the deterioration of the situation in besieged cities (the result of Obama’s launched 2011 war), attempts are being made to undermine the launch of inter-Syrian dialogue scheduled for January 25” - even though chances for success are virtually nil.
On Thursday, Washington, Britain and France initiated urgent Security Council talks, regarding dire conditions in Madaya - ISIS holding its residents hostage, stealing humanitarian aid, selling it an unaffordable prices, keeping much of it for themselves.
A media-orchestrated campaign wrongfully blames Assad, continuing vicious anti-government propaganda - ignoring US responsibility for raping another regional country, its imperial wars responsible for the severest refugee crisis since WW II.
Dire conditions exist throughout Syria, human suffering extreme, an entire population threatened. Safronkov blasted Western “double-standard” hypocrisy - wrongfully blaming Assad for dire Madaya conditions, ignoring them in other terrorist-held areas.
“Much is being said about Madaya, but not a word about the villages of Nubul and Az-Zahra in the province of Aleppo. And we are talking about the fate of tens of thousands of people,” Safronkov stressed.
Obama-launched war-ravished Syrians live under nightmarish conditions. Media scoundrels ignore his full responsibility. 
Western nations “politiciz(e) humanitarian issues,” said Safronkov, without naming obvious specific ones - contravening Security Council Resolution 2254, calling for ceasefire and diplomatic settlement to long-running conflict since March 2011.
The measure is as ineffective and meaningless as earlier attempts to resolve things diplomatically. Washington and rogue partners systematically breach inviolable international law with impunity, including binding Security Council resolutions.
Obama didn’t launch war to quit, preventing Putin’s all-out efforts to restore peace and stability, combating ISIS effectively, making a major difference but not enough to keep America from waging endless regional wars - about to be escalated with new US combat troop deployments heading to Iraq and Syria.
Washington and rogue partners are indifferent to Syrian suffering, doing nothing to relieve dire conditions, exacerbating them by endless war without mercy, using ISIS and other terrorist groups as imperial foot soldiers.
Moscow is aiding Damascus deliver vital humanitarian aid, airdropping it to Syrians in need, most sent Deir ez-Zor, besieged longterm by ISIS.
Russian General Staff main operations department head Lt. General Sergey Rudskoy said Moscow will keep providing Syrians with all help possible to liberate their country from (US-supported) terrorists.
Russian air power aiding Syrian ground forces retook 1,000 square km of previously held areas they held.
US imperial policy is responsible for millions of regional deaths, mass destruction and unspeakable human suffering. Nothing in prospect suggests relief.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Message of the Markets: Chickens Coming Home to Roost - Sat, 16/01/2016 - 22:25
Message of the Markets: Chickens Coming Home to Roost
by Stephen Lendman
Black Friday may be signaling big trouble ahead. What can’t go on forever won’t and never will. Eventually day of reckoning time arrives. Whether now is the moment of truth remains to be seen.
Paul Craig Roberts calls the US economy “a house of cards.” Phony government data created “the illusion of recovery.” 
Monied interests never had it better for years, profiting hugely from Wall Street-orchestrated casino capitalism and manipulated markets, creating an unprecedented, unsustainable wealth effect, an open-ended near zero-interest rate climate money grab - doing nothing to create jobs and economic growth.
Wealth transference from ordinary people to super-rich elites and corporate interests was never greater in world history - reflecting government-sanctioned unprecedented greed and grand theft.
The vast majority endures protracted Main Street Depression conditions - getting worse, not better. Poverty, unemployment, underemployment, homelessness, hunger, overall deprivation and human suffering are growth industries - in America and developed economies.
America spends unlimited trillions of dollars for militarism and endless imperial wars. Vital popular needs increasingly go begging. The world’s richest country was thirdworldized, transformed into Guatemala, control maintained by police state harshness.
The misnamed Federal Reserve isn’t federal and has no reserves. It’s wholly owned, controlled and operated by major Wall Street banks, solely for their own self-interest, public welfare be damned.
Money printing madness substituted for stimulative growth policies. Unprecedented, unsustainable, unrepayable debt levels were created.
The greatest ever ill-conceived experiment in monetary policy may produce global economic collapse. Systemic crisis can happen any time.
US equities posted sharp losses Friday, posting the worst 10-day start in US market history, greater than during the depths of the Great Depression - signaling economic weakness at best, looming crisis at worst.
The late Bob Chapman predicted an eventual economic train wreck, only its timing and duration unknown. “Untenable political and financial decisions put US and European economies on a collision course with disaster,” he said. 
“Bailouts and market manipulation delay(ed) the inevitable.” A tipping point approaches. Unprecedented debt accumulated is “unrepayable,” he explained.
“How can anyone have confidence in a broken system? Unsustainable is the operative world.” Political courage to change things responsibly is nonexistent. Corrupt Republicans and Democrats are in bed with Wall Street crooks and other corporate favorites.
An astonishing $15 trillion in global wealth was lost since the Dow closed at 18,312 last May. Whether it’s just the beginning of looming crisis remains to be seen.
Plunging oil and other commodity prices along with China’s equity market collapse signal financial and economic trouble.
The Baltic Dry Index reflecting global trade is lower than during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis. 
On Friday, Zero Hedge headlined “Welcome To The Recession - Industrial Production Crashes Most in 8 Years…the fastest pace of collapse since May 2008 and a level that has never not produced a recession.”
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) advised clients to “sell everything,” saying 2016 will be “cataclysmic…Investors should be afraid.”
The average US equity is down over 20%, reflecting bear market conditions. TV talking head touts downplay things, claiming buying opportunities to get nonexistent bargains, urging mom and pop investors to buy what they want to sell - one of the oldest, dirtiest games in the book.
Investment strategist John Canally explained “(m)arkets rely on confidence and certainty. Right now there is neither.”
Economist Tim Quinlan calls “(t)he probability of going back into recession…higher than at any point” since 2009.
IMF head Christine Lagarde highlighted world economies “entering a dangerous phase.” No credible plans exist to get unsustainable debt levels under control.
Hedge fund manager Uri Landesman said “(c)ounting on the Fed to get us out of this (mess) is a mistake.”
The year’s brutal, chaotic start may signal much worse ahead. The fullness of time will tell.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Economic State of Emergency in Venezuela - Sat, 16/01/2016 - 22:11
Economic State of Emergency in Venezuela
by Stephen Lendman
Right-wing opposition elements winning National Assembly control for the first time in 16 years initiated war on Bolivarian fairness. 
Right-left confrontation along with plunging oil prices got President Nicholas Maduro to declare a 60-day economic state of emergency.
His announced decree came hours ahead of his annual state of the union address, intending a package of proposed reforms.
According to the government’s official gazette, he declared “a state of emergency in the entirety of the national territory, in compliance with the constitution…for a period of 60 days.”
Days earlier, he said new measures would be implemented to increase production, distribution, commercialization and price controls. 
Soaring inflation, shortages of basic goods, and black market exploitation of conditions caused enormous financial and economic hardships for millions.
Maduro’s announcement came two days after Venezuela’s oil price fell to $24 a barrel, its lowest level in 12 years. Up to 96% of the government’s budget depends on oil revenues. Plunging prices created disastrous socio-economic conditions.
Economic war rages. Emergency measures are needed to try restoring order and stability, at best requiring many painful months ahead.
Resources from last fiscal year’s budget will be used for health, education, food subsidies and housing. Tax evasion will be targeted.
Venezuela’s Constitution grants the president “authorization to address the cause of the current situation” and institute corrective measures.
Chavista legislator Hector Rodriguez cited a “new stage of the revolution. We invite all the people of Venezuela to join our president.”
Maduro’s annual address will be his first since right-wing legislators won National Assembly control, intending destabilization policies and repeal of popular social programs to undermine his presidency. 
They want him ousted within six months - by recall election, requiring hard-to-get 20% of registered voter signatures (validated for accuracy) or other means.
They want opposition figures imprisoned for plotting overthrow of the government freed. 
Last month, they published their anti-Bolivarian agenda - intending to reverse 16 years of social justice, including privatization of key state enterprises and services, ending land reform, revoking price controls keeping basic goods affordable, eliminating public media, and other regressive policies.
They want Venezuela returned to its bad old days, benefitting monied interests exclusively. They intend legislation serving their interests.
A measure to privatize vital public housing was introduced, affecting over a million homes built by the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission, residents retaining ownership rights.
Right-wing lawmakers’ so-called “democratization of property” threatens them, rights under the current Law of Property at risk of becoming null and void.
Housing now the property of family residents may be lost to corporate greed. Free healthcare, education, subsidized food for the needy and other vital social benefits may be on the chopping block for elimination.
Venezuelans suffering under hard times erred hugely in electing majority right-wing legislators, threatening years of social progress. Bolivarianism faces its stiffest challenge ahead.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Lifting International Sanctions on Iran Imminent - Sat, 16/01/2016 - 21:54
Lifting International Sanctions on Iran Imminent
by Stephen Lendman
Following Iran’s 1979 revolution, Washington imposed illegitimate sanctions without required Security Council authorization. 
They were broadened under five presidents - international pressure exerted on other nations to impose their own, including UN action since 2007 wanting the Islamic Republic isolated.
For decades, Washington ruthlessly targeted Iran and its people. Hostility continues unabated despite last year’s nuclear deal.
Reagan's 1987 Executive Order (EO) 12613 embargoed Iranian goods and services. 
In March 1995, Clinton's EO 12957 prohibited US involvement with Iranian oil development. His 1995 EO 12959 substantially tightened sanctions further. His 1997 EO 13059 prohibited virtually all trade and investments with Iran. 
In 1996, the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) became law. In 2006, it was renamed the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). 
It prohibited US and foreign oil development investments. Violators face stiff penalties. They include denial of Export-Import Bank of the United States help, rejection of export licenses, and a ban on all or some violating company imports. 
In 2008, banks and other US depository institutions were prohibited from processing transfers between Iranian and non-Iranian banks. 
In 2010, America's Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) became law. 
It extended sanctions imposed under the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act, punishing companies doing business with Tehran's oil sector and went further. 
Section 103 prohibits importing certain Iranian foodstuffs and carpets. Other Iranian product and service imports are banned, directly or through third countries.
Exporting goods, technology, or services are prohibited, including from offshore locations. Some humanitarian related exceptions were made. 
Overall, US individuals and companies located anywhere are prohibited from engaging in dealings with Iran of any kind. Included are purchases, sales, transportation, swaps, financing, or brokering transactions related to goods or services of Iranian private or government origin. 
On July 1, 2012, an EU oil import embargo took effect, covering crude oil, petroleum and petrochemical products, oil related businesses, equipment and technology, selling Tehran's refined products, new investments, as well as dealings with its central bank. 
Decades of sanctions were entirely for political reasons, ones related to its legitimate nuclear program about to end.
State television quoted Foreign Minister Javad Zarif calling Saturday “a good day for the Iranian people as sanctions will be lifted today.”
“(W)ith the release of the IAEA chief’s report, the nuclear deal will be implemented, after which a joint statement will be made to announce the beginning of the deal.”
On January 16, the IAEA is expected to release its final report on Iran’s nuclear program, confirming its compliance with last year’s nuclear deal terms.
Zarif will meet with John Kerry in Vienna at IAEA headquarters. Its report will trigger lifting sanctions relating to Iran’s nuclear program.
Others illegally imposed remain in force. Washington intends new ones, targeting Tehran’s legitimate ballistic missile program, unrelated to its nuclear activities - challenging its legal military related activities, intended solely for national security and defense.
Sanctions relief implementation day is a defining moment, despite Israel, its Lobby, and hawkish bipartisan US congressional opposition, risking undermining ahead what took years to successfully negotiate.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Here's How the Senate Should Fix the FOIA Reform Bill - Sat, 16/01/2016 - 07:18

With the U.S. House of Representatives passing a bill this week to amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), EFF and a coalition of other groups are calling on members of the Senate  [.pdf] to pass a law that meaningfully improves government transparency and accountability through access to federal records. 

It is becoming something of an annual tradition for Congress to introduce FOIA legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support. This year’s bill is the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act (H.R. 653), and it contains many of the same amendments to FOIA found in recent bills, including narrowing some of the most-abused exemptions in the law.

Even though members of both the House and Senate have strongly supported past FOIA bills, Congress has failed to pass a law after agencies subject to the bills’ heightened transparency requirements pushed back. For example, in 2014 the U.S. Department of Justice was instrumental in killing FOIA reform.

Despite what is likely to be another fight against DOJ and other federal agencies, EFF remains optimistic that Congress will pass comprehensive FOIA legislation this year. As the bill waits to be heard in the Senate, below is a summary of the good and bad aspects of the legislation along with some proposals EFF would like lawmakers to consider adding. 

The Good

The most significant provision of the bill prevents agencies from withholding records unless they can identify a “foreseeable harm” to one of the interests protected by FOIA’s nine exemptions. This provision would cut back on agency discretion to withhold records that may technically fall within an exemption. Further, it is buttressed by other sections of the bill that require agencies to proactively disclose more records.

The bill, like its predecessors, also narrows what agencies can withhold under Exemption 5, which exempts internal or inter-agency “pre-decisional” memos and other documents that reflect the agency’s “deliberative process” in reaching a final decision. Despite Congress crafting Exemption 5’s deliberative process privilege to encourage robust internal agency debate, it has become one of the most overused and abused FOIA exemptions.

The bill passed this week would prevent agencies from using the exemption to withhold documents that are more than 25 years old while also prohibiting its use on final agency opinions that have the force of law or any final guidance that would impact the public

Other improvements in the bill include making it easier for courts to award attorneys fees to requesters who sue for access to records and requiring that all federal agencies accept requests via email.

For more details about the bill, read the National Security Archive’s summary.

The Bad 

Though the bill purports to increase government transparency, members of the House significantly undermined that promise with last-minute amendments for intelligence agencies that will almost certainly result in greater secrecy.

The most troubling provision of the bill is a section that would prohibit disclosure of records that “would adversely affect intelligence sources and methods.” FOIA already contains an exemption for properly classified material, and there are a number of other federal laws that prevent disclosure of intelligence sources and methods, so what would the new language cover? The carve-out does not define what “adversely affect” means, so intelligence agencies would have a great deal of discretion to expand the types of records they can keep secret.

Other bad provisions of the law exempt intelligence and surveillance agencies from two important procedural fixes to FOIA. 

First, under the new bill agencies are required to inform requesters when they consult with another agency in response to a particular request. Consultations are when one agency has responsive records that are largely based on records generated by another agency. Second, agencies would have to publish a list of all of the material they denied access to under FOIA unless the disclosure was prohibited by law.

The current bill exempts all intelligence agencies from those fixes, which is a huge step in the wrong direction.

Given EFF’s longstanding fight against government secrecy and mass surveillance, the last-minute inclusion of these provisions and a lack of any public justification for why these agencies should be treated differently is unacceptable.

What Should Be in the Bill

On top of removing the bad provisions regarding the intelligence agencies, the Senate should amend the legislation to allow for greater public access to records.

Chief among the changes EFF would like to see is the creation of a public interest balancing test for Exemption 5. This proposal, which has been in previous FOIA reform bills, would require information that may fall under Exemption 5 to still be disclosed if a requester can show that doing so is in the public interest. Thus, a court could override an agency claim of Exemption 5.

If that provision was already in FOIA, EFF may have won a lawsuit seeking legal memos on the use of National Security Letters to obtain citizens’ call logs without legal process.

The Senate should also add an amendment to clarify when agencies can withhold law enforcement techniques and procedures under FOIA Exemption 7(E). Federal courts have interpreted the exemption differently, with some requiring agencies to show that disclosing the records would give potential lawbreakers a roadmap on how to evade law enforcement or otherwise break the law. Other courts have allowed agencies to withhold the records without having to make such a showing. EFF believes that agencies should have to at least justify withholding law enforcement techniques, particularly given that they are often controversial. 

EFF looks forward to working with other public interest groups and members of Congress to create meaningful reforms to FOIA that improve a law even lawmakers admit is broken. The current bill is a step forward, though lawmakers must ensure that the current bill results in more than mere cosmetic changes to FOIA.

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Categories: Aggregated News

Send in Your FOIA Horror Stories for The Foilies 2016 - Sat, 16/01/2016 - 05:53

The Foilies are back! 

Last year, EFF launched our inaugural, tongue-in-cheek awards series for government agencies who thwarted, stymied, foot-dragged, and retaliated in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other public records requests. We called out secrecy over cell-site simulators, marveled at the $1.4 million fee estimate for the DEA’s “El Chapo” file, and panned Chicago Public Schools’ refusal to disclose what’s in its mystery meats.

Sadly, the government didn’t learn its lesson.

Once again, EFF will announce many, many Foilies winners during Sunshine Week, March 13-19, 2016. But before we can publicly shame those who foiled your access to government records, we need your nominations. 

Who Can Win?

The Foilies are not given to people who filed FOIA requests. These are not awards anyone actually should want. In fact, there is no physical award. They are virtual distinctions of demerit issued to government agencies and public officials (plus the odd rock star) who snubbed their nose at transparency. If you filed a FOIA request with the Ministry of Silly Walks for a list of grant recipients, and a civil servant in a bowler hat told you to take a ludicrous hike, then the ministry itself would be eligible for the Foilies. 

What Are the Categories?

For the most part, we do not determine the categories in advance. Rather, we look at the nominations we receive, winnow them down to the most outrageous, then come up with fitting tributes, such as “Most Ironic Literary Redaction” and “Most Passive Aggressive Release of Records.” That said, there are a few things we’re looking for in particular, such as extremely long processing times and absurdly large fee estimates.  Most of all, we want your most surreal redactions.

Who Can Nominate 

Anyone, regardless of whether you were involved in the issue or just happened to read about it on Twitter. Send as many nominations as you like! 


All nominations must have had some event happen during calendar year 2015. For example, you can nominate something related to a FOIA request filed in 1994 if you finally received a rejection in 2015.


All nominations must be received by Feb. 15, 2016.

How to Submit a Nomination

Send nominations to with “FOILIES 2015 NOMINATION” in the subject line. You can nominate multiple entries in a single email, just make sure to enumerate the nominations so we can easily separate them. Please try to include these six items. 

Category: One line suggested award title

Description: Succinct explanation the public records issue and why it deserves recognition. 

Links: Include any links to stories, records, or other information that will help us better understand the issue.

Attachments: If you have the original FOIA/public records request and subsequent correspondence to support the nomination, please include it with the email. We may seek this information out separately later.

Attribution: Let us know if we can attribute the nomination to you and, if so, how you would like to be named (name, Twitter handle, etc.).

Contact details: Include a way for us to reach you with further questions. This information will remain confidential.

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Categories: Aggregated News

Israel Arrests Jewish Activist on Fraudulent Charges - Sat, 16/01/2016 - 02:29
Israel Arrests Jewish Activist on Fraudulent Charges
by Stephen Lendman
Israel arrested Ezra Nawi without just cause. A police state sting operation targeted him because of his activism. 
He’s held incommunicado, denied contact with legal counsel for five days, perhaps longer. An illegal gag order barring revelation of his identity and information about his case was violated.
He’s detained at least through next Tuesday, possibly indefinitely, on fabricated charges of activities endangering state security - Israel’s usual dubious claim against activist resistors when no credible evidence exists.
Authorities claim he collected unspecified confidential information on behalf of an unnamed foreign nation or terrorist organization, as well as unexplained involvement in criminal activity.
Judicial hearings on his case will be held behind closed doors, denying him the right to present his defense publicly.
His lawyer, Lea Tselem, said “police are (fraudulently) trying to create symmetry between (Palestinian Dewabsha family) murders and my client. The same method and the same practice. It won’t help them.”
On Tuesday, Rabbis for Human Rights head Arik Ascherman expressed solidarity with Nawi, saying:
“I have known and respected him for many years. He is not a perfect individual, but he has done a lot of good in the world.” He’s done nothing wrong, Ascherman maintains.
“Every Palestinian in the South Hebron Hills knows him. If there is an attack there by Israelis at dawn, they all know they can call him, and he'll be there” - staunchly supporting justice.
Israel tolerates no opposition to its ruthlessness, wanting its high crimes suppressed, Jews as vulnerable as Palestinians when revealing them.
Nawi’s rights were systematically violated. He’s gotten death threats. 
He’s a Ta’ayush advocacy member (Arabic for living together) - “a grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down the walls of racism and” apartheid through nonviolent unity for “equality, justice and peace” - polar opposite longstanding Israeli policy.
Haaretz editors blasted Israeli authorities for persecuting Nawi unjustly, saying they operate like other regional police states.
Denying him fundamental rights guaranteed under international law is more evidence of Israeli ruthlessness. Allegations against him are without just cause, entirely for political reasons.
“The two-facedness and hypocrisy of the authorities point to their true motives: to hound human rights organizations and delegitimize the entire left,” Haaretz editors stressed.
“Detention under the cover of darkness is another phase in the (regime’s) attempts to crush all resistance and opposition to the occupation.” 
Kangaroo courts outrageously “are abetting” police state lawlessness.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

US War on ISIS: A Complete Hoax - Fri, 15/01/2016 - 22:58

US War on ISIS: A Complete Hoax
by Stephen Lendman
US post-9/11 war on terror reflects willful state-sponsored deception - media scoundrels complicit in conning the public to believe Washington opposes what it actively supports.
ISIS, Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and various splinter groups are US creations, used as imperial foot soldiers, flourishing because Washington and rogue partners arm, fund, train and direct them.
Obama’s vow to “degrade and destroy” ISIS is one of his many Big Lies - saying one thing while supporting a universal scourge.
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced scores newly deployed US commandos in Iraq - ahead of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of combat troops to follow.
In September 2014, Obama said US troops “do not and will not have a combat mission” in Iraq against ISIS.
“I will not (order) our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.” John Kerry repeated the same Big Lie.
Carter’s public announcement along with a Defense Department press release revealed it. Months of planning precede military operations. 
Washington already has thousands of special forces in Iraq along with unknown numbers in Syria. Escalated military operations are now planned - naked aggression by any standard.
The Pentagon press release cited Carter saying defeating ISIS “must be a global effort and coalition partners and others must step up their contributions to the escalating fight.”
“America will continue to lead the fight. (G)reater military contributions (from) coalition partner(s)” are needed.
Next week, he intends meeting with British, French, German, Italian, Dutch and Australian defense ministers - discussing their involvement in Washington’s imperial campaign.
Make no mistake. The Pentagon intends aiding, not combating, ISIS on the phony pretext of plans to retake Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria, ISIS strongholds - saying it’ll aid nonexistent anti-Assad “moderate” forces and Iraqi Kurds, facing Erdogan’s war without mercy, getting no Western help in their liberating struggle.
Carter claiming Washington intends defeating ISIS is pure rubbish. Saying “extraordinary challenges (lie) ahead” is code language for endless war.
US Iraqi and Syrian bombing since 2014 struck no ISIS targets, infrastructure and government ones only.
Carter’s announcement may be the Pentagon’s attempt to counter Russia’s effective war on ISIS in Syria, aiming to prevent Iraq from requesting its vitally needed help.
Putin is the only major world leader actively combating ISIS, Russia’s military proving extremely effective, aiding Syrian ground forces retake lost territory.
Carter’s scheme is designed to help ISIS, not combat its scourge.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Erdogan's War on Academic Freedom - Fri, 15/01/2016 - 22:57
Erdogan’s War on Academic Freedom
by Stephen Lendman
Erdogan considers criticism of his rogue policies treason, going all-out to solidify unchallenged fascist rule, wanting opposition elements eliminated, waging war on press and academic freedom.
State-controlled Anadolu Agency news reported police arresting 12 academics (among over 1,100 others worldwide), signing a declaration - denouncing terror war without mercy on Turkish Kurds - part of Erdogan’s relentless attack on fundamental freedoms.
All 12 are Kocaeli University lecturers. Others on staff face arrest. Prosecutors charged targeted individuals with insulting the head of state and engaging in “terrorist propaganda” on behalf of the illegally banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Academics worldwide signed a declaration titled: “We won’t be a part of this crime,” calling on Turkish authorities to stop massacring Kurds, as well as lift siege conditions on their cities, towns, and villages.
Erdogan is waging merciless war on his own people, signatories said. “The responsibility for the present self-inflicted crisis in the country must lie squarely with (him), who perceives the Kurds…as obstacles to his plan to establish supreme rule for the Turkish presidency” - dictatorship by any standard.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is complicit with Erdogan’s ruthless agenda, duplicitously saying:
“It is really very saddening that some of our academics have signed such a declaration while we are fighting terrorism.” 
“Every day we are fighting against international terror such as Daesh and against the separatist terrorist organization that kills civilians…We are working to secure the life and security of our citizens.”
Truth is polar opposite his Big Lies. Erdogan as expected called the declaration “treachery,” denouncing its signatories, including Noam Chomsky, saying:
“Let our ambassador from the United States invite Chomsky, who has made statements about Turkey’s operations against the terrorist organization.”
Chomsky responded, saying if he “decide(s) to go to Turkey, it will not be on (Erdogan’s) invitation, but as frequently before at the invitation of the many courageous dissidents, including Kurds, who have been under severe attack for many years.”
Erdogan openly supports ISIS and other terrorist groups, while duplicitously claiming otherwise. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel are the region’s leading sources of state terror and destabilization, allied with Washington and rogue NATO partners.
Turkey’s state-controlled Council of Higher Education condemned declaration signatories. Turkish ones face police state prosecutions and imprisonments.
Thousands of political prisoners languish in the country’s gulag, among the world’s worst, notorious for torture and other horrific abuses.
Investigative reporter Nedim Sener was incarcerated for doing his job. After release, he said “I can describe (conditions) as a concrete grave…a place where people are left to decay.”
“Your eyes get damaged. Your sense of taste and touch disappear. Your attention to color fades.” State-sponsored cruelty “kills you soul. You can’t get back to life even after” release.
Deplorable conditions are meant to destroy bodies, spirits and souls. Guilt by accusation is automatic - due process and judicial fairness entirely absent.
Kocaeli University academics face horrific treatment. Erdogan considers truth-telling treason.
A Final Comment
A Turkish academic remaining anonymous for his safety said “many things are not going well here. I did not believe that the situation would decay so rapidly.”
Some elements “are openly calling the the extermination of” academics (and journalists) critical of regime policies.
“(T)he atmosphere is getting (increasingly) worse…(It’s) urgent (to) increase…awareness (of) nightmar(ish)” conditions. (It’s) not a page from 1984. (It’s) happening.”
The writer urged scholars and others outside Turkey to “raise their voices before it is too late.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

French Foreign Minister Irresponsibly Accuses Russia of Killing Civilians in Syria - Fri, 15/01/2016 - 21:18
French Foreign Minister Irresponsibly Accuses Russia of Killing Civilians in Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Russia uses state-of-the-art precision-guided weapons in its Syrian aerial campaign, accurately striking targets aimed at. 
Painstaking efforts are taken to hit ISIS and other terrorist elements only, scrupulously avoiding civilian casualties. Photographic evidence proves it. Claims otherwise are Big Lies.
Washington (like Israel) considers civilians legitimate targets, deliberately massacring them in all its wars, indifferent to rule of law principles and human suffering, reflecting rogue state viciousness.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius showed his government’s opposition to Russia’s war on ISIS - calling on it to cease its military operations, outrageously accusing it of killing civilians. 
After meeting with Syrian defector Riad Hihab, he said “(w)e discussed the absolute necessity that Syria and Russia end their military operations against civilians and in particular the ordeal in Madaya and other cities besieged by the regime.”
Fact: Syrian military forces continue fighting to liberate cities, towns and villages held captive by ISIS and other terrorist elements.
Fact: Russia’s effective aerial campaign is crucial to their success. 
Fact: France is part of the problem, not the solution, supporting the scourge it claims to oppose.
Fact: Fabius willfully lied, claiming Russian aerial operations kill civilians, without citing a shred of corroborating evidence. None exists.
Another round of so-called peace talks are scheduled to begin on January 25 - with virtually zero chance for success. Washington, France and other rogue partners want war, not peace.
They want Syrians disenfranchised, arrogating to themselves authority to decide who’ll govern the country, wanting its sovereignty destroyed.
Hihab is a traitor, bribed to betray his nation and people - chosen as opposition coordinator in upcoming talks, irresponsibly demanding Assad must go.
French President Francois Hollande is in lockstep with Washington, insisting he “has no role in the Syria of tomorrow.”
According to Fabius, UN-mediated peace talks have “two elements. On the one hand, the immediate end of bombardments and on the other hand that the agenda of these negotiations are sufficiently precise and there is no doubt in particular over who will govern” - demands assuring failure.
Putin insists Syrians alone must decide who’ll lead them, free from outside interference. “We do not want (the country) to end (up) like Iraq or Libya,” he said, wanting peace and stability restored.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blasted Fabius’ willful lie about Russia’s aerial campaign killing civilians - calling his claim totally “unfounded.”
“Russia’s aims in Syria are transparent,” she stressed,  “call(ing) on all countries to unite efforts in the fight against terrorism” - polar opposite US-led support for a universal scourge.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Phony Claims of Iran Mistreating US Sailors Briefly Held Captive - Fri, 15/01/2016 - 21:01
Phony Claims of Iran Mistreating US Sailors Briefly Held Captive
by Stephen Lendman
On Tuesday, Iranian forces seized two small US naval vessels, provocatively operating three nautical miles within Iran’s territorial waters.
Pentagon and State Department claims about mechanical problems responsible for their location were dubious at best. 
Washington spies intensively on Iran, both vessels likely involved in illegal surveillance. The State Department extended an official apology.
Briefly detained US crew members were treated humanely. No evidence suggests otherwise. 
Scandalous major media reports claim otherwise, saying videos showing several Americans kneeling with their hands clasped behind their heads were used for propaganda purposes and suggest mistreatment - contradicting Obama administration officials saying its military personnel were well treated with respect.
CNN hosts and guests blasted Iran irresponsibly. Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr called Tuesday’s incident “one of the most aggressive elements of the military and national security apparatus in that country.”
White House correspondent Jim Acosta accused Tehran of staging “an October(-like) surprise” ahead of Obama’s State of the Union address, meant to embarrass him.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said “(w)e’ve seen no indications (of) mistreat(ment) during their (brief) period of detention.”
“As we look at this, we’ll continue to assess and, as appropriate, comment further on how we view their treatment.”
The incident was swiftly resolved diplomatically in less than 24 hours, showing Iranian good will, despite what appears to have been a willful US provocation, continuing longstanding hostility toward the Islamic Republic.
On Wednesday, a Pentagon official said a rescue plan was being prepared, cancelled following diplomatic resolution.
Washington violated international law by illegally entering Iranian waters without permission. Tehran scrupulously observed Geneva principles while detaining US naval personnel. No evidence suggests otherwise.
Hawkish US lawmakers unjustifiably claimed otherwise. Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain accused the “administration (of) pretending as if nothing out of the ordinary has occurred.”
He lied, accusing Iran of violating “basic principles of international law…plac(ing) (US military personnel) at increased risk in the future.”
Iranian news media published photos and videos of US naval personnel in captivity. One sailor said the incident “was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake.”
“The Iranian behavior was fantastic while we were here, and we thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance. We had no problems here.”
John Kerry said US naval personnel were “well taken care of. All indications suggest” it.
They were “provided with blankets and food, and assisted with their return to the fleet…” Diplomacy triumphed over confrontation.
Neocon Republican presidential aspirant Senator Marco Rubio called detaining US naval personnel another reason “why on my first day in office (if elected), I am going to cancel this ridiculous (nuclear) deal…”
Washington’s criminal class is bipartisan. Longstanding hostility toward Iran continues unabated. More US provocations are likely. War remains an ominous possibility, the entire region at risk if launched.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Turkey's Ruthless Agenda - Fri, 15/01/2016 - 03:29
Turkey’s Ruthless Agenda
by Stephen Lendman
Turkey under Erdogan threatens regional peace and stability - complicit with Washington, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other rogue partners.
His delusional goal is Ottoman revival, incorporating northern Syria and Iraq into Turkish territory, a foolhardy objective he won’t achieve. 
He seeks unchallenged iron-fisted rule, supports ISIS and other terrorist groups for his own self-interest. 
Opponents are targeted for elimination. His recklessness risks direct confrontation with Russia. He’s systematically destroying fundamental freedoms. 
Naked aggression against Turkish Kurds rages. He blockaded northern Syria Kurdish areas, preventing essential to life supplies from entering, randomly shooting civilians from sniper towers.
At the same time, ISIS and other terrorist elements move freely back and forth between Turkey and Syria. Erdogan supports their agenda while rhetorically expressing opposition.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blasted his regime, saying:
“Turkey is playing a hidden game by following its narrow opportunistic interests. It is enough to mention its connivance (in violation of UN Security Council resolutions) with smuggling (ISIS-stolen) oil through its territory…let alone Turkish authorities’ regular supply of weapons to different extremist groups in Syria, including clearly terrorist organizations and those affiliated with them.” 
“Ankara’s plans are obvious as it used the chaos in Syria and tried to change the ethnic configuration in the north of the country to its benefit under the (phony) pretext of fighting against ISIL.” 
“In the framework of this strategy, it is making steps with the aim of weakening one national group that is fighting against jihadists successfully and with dedication, and at the same time…strengthen(ing) another.”
“Turkish special services provide military and other types of support to Turkmen armed groups, including clearly extremist, nationalist elements and militant volunteers from Turkey.”
“We condemn such destructive (actions) that lead to further escalation in the region, call for constructive work in the framework of international efforts on ensuring the launch of an inclusive process of political settlement in Syria and making steps to fight against ISIL and other terrorist structures in the region.”
In late December, Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Ja’afari explained “unprecedented terrorist war” on his country, involving Western and regional support for ISIS and similar groups, arming, funding training, and directing them.
He blasted Erdogan’s anti-Syrian regime, his armed forces directly involved in naked aggression - “provid(ing) covering fire for the terrorist movements inside Syrian territory” and along border areas “to facilitate the infiltration of terrorist mercenaries from Turkish territory into” Syria.
“The Turkish regime's crimes have been directed against not only Syria…but also against Syrian refugees in Turkey who have fled from the tyranny and terrorism of such organizations as ISIL, the Nusra Front, the Army of Conquest, and the Islamic Front, which the Turkish government hosts in Turkish territory.”
“Those refugees have to contend with the even more cruel tyranny and terrorism of gangs that engage in human trafficking with the knowledge and direct involvement of the Erdogan regime’s agencies and institutions.”
Erdogan’s megalomaniacal ambitions threaten greater regional war and chaos - Washington’s dirty hands orchestrating things covertly. 
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Swedish Foreign Minister Accuses Israel of Extrajudicially Killing Palestinias - Fri, 15/01/2016 - 02:16
Swedish Foreign Minister Accuses Israel of Extrajudicially Killing Palestinians
by Stephen Lendman
Israel murders Palestinians with impunity, Western leaders largely turning a blind to high crimes demanding accountability.
On the phony pretext of combating nonexistent Palestinian terrorism, Israeli soldiers and police escalated state terror last October - committing daily murders, mass arresting innocent victims, systematically brutalizing an entire population, victimized by state-sponsored barbarism.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom urged conducting “credible (independent) investigations into (Palestinian) deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability” - suggesting Israeli responsibility for “extrajudicial killings.”
Sweden recognizes Palestinian self-determination, Wallstrom saying it’s “Israel’s friend and the Palestinians’ friend, and both states have a right to exist.”
Israel responded to her remarks as expected, calling them “irresponsible and delusional,” ignoring hard truths, wanting them suppressed, tolerating no criticism of its ruthless agenda.
Last month, Wallstrom accused Israel of extrajudicially executing alleged Palestinian assailants - without affording them due process and judicial fairness.
Anyone justifiably criticizing Israeli viciousness is automatically called anti-Semitic - Jewish critics labeled self-hating. On Wednesday, Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said “Israel is closing its gates to official visits from Sweden.”
In 2014, Arab-hating ultranationalist extremist then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recalled Israel’s ambassador from Stockholm, protesting Sweden’s recognition of Palestinian self-determination.
On Wednesday, Israel summoned Sweden’s ambassador Carl Magnus in response to Wallstrom’s remarks.
Foreign Ministry director general for Western Europe Aviv Shir-On expressed the “fury of the Israeli government and the people of Israel over (what he called) a distorted view of reality, as well as (Wallstrom’s forthright comments) indicating her (wrongfully claimed) biased and hostile attitude toward Israel," according to ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
“Given (her) harmful and baseless position…Sweden has excluded itself in the foreseeable future from any role with regard to Israeli-Palestinian relations,” he added.
Wallstrom “give(s) support to terror and thus encourag(es) violence.” Rogue states notoriously want their high crimes suppressed.
In a Wednesday address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, ideologically over-the-top Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold defended the indefensible - calling longstanding Israeli state terror self-defense, claiming regime critics “actively encourage…terror…”
Israel is one of the world’s most ruthless regimes. Democracy is pure fantasy. Institutionalized racism and state terror reflect official policy.
War without mercy rages against defenseless Palestinians. Extrajudicial killings and other atrocities occur daily. Torture is longstanding practice. 
The world community is largely indifferent to slow-motion genocide, an entire population at risk.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 



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