[govinfo] GovInfo News 1-4-07

  • From: "Patrice McDermott" <pmcdermott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "FOI-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" <FOI-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 4 Jan 2007 10:20:15 -0500

- SBA criticized for pulling company data from Web site
- Guantanamo Bay Inquiry
- THOMAS Releases New Features in Beta


Patrice McDermott, Director
OpenTheGovernment.org
202-332-OPEN (6736)
www.openthegovernment.org

- FBI Says Files In Leak Cases Are ‘Missing'
http://www.nysun.com/article/45755

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 27, 2006


SAN FRANCISCO — The FBI is missing nearly a quarter of its files relating to 
investigations of recent leaks of classified information, according to a court 
filing the bureau made last week.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the FBI said it identified 
94 leak investigations since 2001, but that the investigative files in 22 of 
those cases "are missing" and cannot be located. "There is no physical slip of 
paper on the shelf which indicates that the file has been charged out to a 
particular FBI employee, so therefore there is no way of knowing where the file 
may actually be," an official in the bureau's records division, Peggy Bellando, 
wrote in a December 22 declaration.
[...]
Over the past decade, the FBI has waged an epic struggle to computerize and 
automate its records systems. The agency abandoned a $170 million "Virtual Case 
File" project last year after years of Congressional hearings and critical 
evaluations led to the conclusion that the system would never be implemented 
successfully.

One frequent critic of government database programs, Barry Steinhardt of the 
American Civil Liberties Union, said that record makes it understandable that a 
substantial proportion of the leak files would be mislaid.

"It's par for the course," Mr. Steinhardt said. He noted that the Justice 
Department has already put about 1 million case records into a database, called 
OneDOJ, that is being made widely available even though the files may contain 
unverified or erroneous data. "They want to distribute it to law enforcement in 
every city in the United States, but here the FBI can't manage its own files," 
the critic said.

Ms. Bellando's declaration said the 22 missing files pertain to 51 cases listed 
as closed and not to 43 other leak cases listed as pending.

Last month, a federal judge in San Francisco, Maxine Chesney, ordered the FBI 
and other agencies to respond by Friday to this reporter's requests for 
information on the frequency and outcome of leak probes. The requests followed 
a spate of high-profile federal investigations into press leaks, including a 
special prosecutor's inquiry into the leak of a CIA operative's identity, as 
well as a separate case in which two pro-Israel lobbyists and a Defense 
Department analyst were indicted for trafficking in classified information.

The Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Defense told 
Judge Chesney last week that they will be unable to meet the court-imposed 
deadline and need as many as 120 additional days to complete work on the 
requests, which were filed in March.

A spokeswoman for the FBI, Catherine Milhoan, said she could not comment on the 
ongoing litigation, but noted that the records search is continuing and has 
been complicated by procedures for handling classified materials. She also said 
all hope for recovering the missing files is not lost. "It doesn't mean there 
aren't other avenues in place to locate those documents," she said.

Mr. Theoharis, a professor emeritus of history, said that in the 1960s the FBI 
used procedures known as "do not file" and "summary memoranda" to avoid placing 
files in the central records system. As a result, he said, the bureau would 
tell judges or members of Congress that searches turned up no records, when 
files actually existed in a secondary system.
"There's no reason to think they're not doing the same thing today," Mr. 
Theoharis said. "I don't want to sound conspiratorial but I don't think one can 
discount this."


- SBA CRITICIZED FOR PULLING COMPANY DATA FROM WEB SITE
http://www.charleston.net/assets/webPages/departmental/news/Stories.aspx?section=businessreview&tableId=124446&pubDate=1/1/2007

MONDAY, JANUARY 01, 2007 7:02 AM
By Jim Wyss
McClatchy Newspapers


MIAMI Federal contracting watchdogs say the Small Business Administration's 
recent decision to delete key company data from a public Web site has stymied 
their efforts to try to catch large firms soaking up billions of dollars in 
contracts earmarked for small businesses.

At issue is the Central Contractor Registry Web site where companies that want 
to do business with the government are required to post profiles, including 
employee size and annual revenue. Recently, the SBA pulled the size data, 
citing privacy concerns.

Federal agencies and prime contractors use the Web site, known as CCR, to 
identify small businesses that qualify for contracts. But advocacy groups and 
small-business competitors use CCR to double-check contracts and challenge 
deals if they suspect the winner is actually a large company.

"How does the government expect small companies to file size protests if the 
information on the database has been deleted?" asked Lloyd Chapman, president 
of the American Small Business League, a California nonprofit that focuses on 
contracting fraud.

A team of ASBL researchers was combing through the CCR two weeks ago, compiling 
information for a network television expose on small-business fraud, when the 
size information disappeared and was replaced with a message reading, "A firm's 
actual revenues and number of employees are not releasable under the Freedom Of 
Information Act."

In a written statement, the SBA said it had pulled the information after 
receiving "a number of complaints" from businesses that balked at having 
"proprietary and confidential" information posted on the Web.

"In response to these objections SBA removed this information from the Web site 
while it considers the legal and procurement issues involved," the agency said. 
"This doesn't mean SBA will cease using this information for verification 
purposes; it will simply not be publicly available."

The SBA has a poor track record of policing itself. Last year House Democrats 
released a report saying that $12 billion the SBA had reported as going to 
small businesses last year actually went to some 2,500 large or otherwise 
ineligible companies.

That report is just one of about a dozen studies that have found large 
corporations, including IBM and ExxonMobil, have soaked up small-business 
contracts. In most cases the firms were using legal loopholes to win the 
contracts.
Raul Espinosa is a St. Augustine, Fla., small-business owner and the founder of 
the Fairness in Set Aside Procurement Coalition, which is lobbying the 
government to close those loopholes and punish large companies caught cheating 
the system.

While he admits that omitting the size information on CCR will make cheaters 
harder to catch, he also said he could understand how the disclosures might put 
small businesses at risk. Low employee or revenue figures might give the 
perception to government agencies that a small business is not ready to 
compete, he said.

But full disclosure should simply be the cost of doing business with the 
government, said Paul Murphy, president of Eagle Eye Publishers of Washington. 
"If you work for the taxpayer, then they have the right to know as much about 
you as they can," he said.

***
IG Gig Extended
http://www.coxwashington.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/washington/washington/entries/2006/12/21/ig_gig_extended.html
By Ken Herman | Thursday, December 21, 2006, 10:25 AM

One former Austinite has extended the government job of another former 
Austinite.

President Bush has signed into law a measure that keeps the office of the 
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction in business for an extra year 
or so.

The office, headed by former Bush aide Stuart Bowen Jr., had been scheduled to 
close this year. Congress, apparently convinced that a lot more inspector 
generaling needs to be done in Iraq, voted to keep the office operating until 
10 months after 80 percent of the money in the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction 
Fund has been spent. That should be sometime in late 2008.

Bowen was a top aide to Bush in the Texas Governor’s Office. In the White 
House, he served as a deputy assistant and associate counsel to the president. 
He became the special inspector general for Iraq in October 2004.

His office has produced several reports documenting fraud and waste in Iraq. 
The reports are available at www.sigir.mil.
***
- GUANTANAMO BAY INQUIRY
http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/guantanamo.htm

The FBI on January 2, 2007 released documents related to an internal inquiry in 
2004 of FBI personnel who had served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since September 
11, 2001 and had observed any aggressive interview techniques, interrogations, 
or mistreatment of detainees by representatives of law enforcement, the 
military, or the FBI. There were no documented incidents involving FBI 
personnel. These documents include summaries of what FBI personnel observed.

***

- THOMAS RELEASES NEW FEATURES IN BETA
thomas.loc.gov/beta/

"The THOMAS legislative information system from the Library of Congress has 
posted beta versions of several new features. The direct link to the new 
features being tested is thomas.loc.gov/beta/ -- or you can click on the 
Explore new features link on the main page to check it out.

New capabilities being tested include:
  Search all THOMAS databases for all congresses with one search.
  Sort search results by document type (bills, committee reports, etc), 
relevance, or date.
  Navigate and refine searches with new options on the search results and 
document display screens.
  THOMAS includes a link to offer comments on the new features. Before doing 
so, be sure to read the helpful section About the New THOMAS (Beta) and--in 
particular--the helpful FAQs."
[Thanks to Sabrina Pacifici bspacific.com and Peggy Garvin 
http://sla-divisions.typepad.com/government_information/2007/01/new_thomas_beta.html]
 

Other related posts:

  • » [govinfo] GovInfo News 1-4-07