Peak into the FBI’s ‘Special File Room’

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What, you thought the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark was some George Lucas fantasy? Ok, maybe it is, but the Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender takes us someplace almost as secret, the FBI’s “secret file room”:

It is where the government has hidden the most secret information: plans to relocate Congress if Washington were attacked, dossiers on double agents, case files about high-profile mob figures and their politician friends, and a disturbing number of reports about the possible smuggling of atomic bombs into the United States.
It is also where the bureau stowed documents considered more embarrassing than classified, including its history of illegal spying on domestic political organizations and surveillance of nascent gay rights groups.

The FBI recently released memos detailing what the special file room contains and why those documents were placed there rather than the FBI’s normal filing system. The memos cover the time from the 1950s through the 1980s, and include information about international espionage, domestic threats and a rather heightened interest in gay activist groups and “allegations of homosexuality of some very prominent individuals.’’

Our friends at GovernmentAttic.org are hosting the memos (Warning: Link to 17.1 MB PDF), which run over 470 pages.

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Looking for information on federal inmates?

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Prison Window, used under Creative Commons license. Original at http://www.flickr.com/photos/decade_null/1397903264/

An anonymous tipster writes in with  a great resource for those of you trying to look up information on federal inmates: Federal Bureau of Prisons documentation on how inmate information is stored (PDF). Knowing what documents to look for is perhaps the most critical piece of any Freedom Of Information: Request the wrong thing or make a request that’s too vague, and you’ll end up with either a rejection or thousands of dollars in handling fees, when the properly phrased request could have gotten you the exact data you’re interested in in a timely, hassle-free fashion.

This 26 page document details the organization and maintenance rules surrounding Inmate Central File System, which contains:

  • Conduct, Work and Quarters Reports for federal inmates
  • General correspondence about inmates
  • Parole materials for inmates

Download the full document from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or if that’s down use our alternate download hosted on MuckRock’s servers.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike from Decade_Null. See original.

President Obama’s Statement on Sunshine Week

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From the White House comes the President’s statement on Sunshine Week:

As Sunshine Week begins, I want to applaud everyone who has worked to increase transparency in government and recommit my administration to be the most open and transparent ever, an effort that will strengthen our democracy and ensure the public’s trust in their government. We came to Washington to change the way business was done, and part of that was making ourselves accountable to the American people by opening up our government. We’ve put our White House visitor records on the Internet for the first time in history; opened up more government information than ever before on Data.gov, Recovery.gov and USAspending.gov; and issued an Executive Order fighting unnecessary secrecy, to name a few.

We are proud of these accomplishments, but our work is not done. We will continue to work toward an unmatched level of transparency, participation and accountability across the entire Administration.

What celebrations do you have planned?

Welcome to MuckRock

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Welcome to MuckRock, the site that lets you discover what your government is really up to through an easy to use freedom of information filing system. Curious about how much your local representatives are spending on jetting around town? Want to know if your toll taker is just nasty to you, or if the state is getting inundated with complaints? Worried that contractors are getting padded paydays from crooked pols? We’re here to help you get the answers to all of those questions, and we’ll share those results with the rest of the world.

Right now, we’re in a private beta, but we’re looking for early users, particularly in the greater Boston metro area. If you’re interested in helping bring to light government data and don’t mind the occasional hiccup, please send an e-mail to Michael@MuckRock.com, and I’ll be in touch shortly.

Thanks, and keep digging up the dirt!