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FBI New FOIA Requesting Procedure — Electronic

Posted by Bill on April 27, 2010

                      

          The FBI announced a new change in submitting FOIA requests. You can submit such requests via the FBI website. You can use This Form .   The FBI said the new electronic form makes requesting information easier.  Visit the Bureau’s FOIA page Here to learn about the Bureau’s recording keeping and its FOIA policy. The bureau said it revamped its records Web site to include a guide for research in FBI Records, details on what happens after you make a request and data on how to file an appeal with the Justice Department.

Bill Lowrance
Attorney/private investigator/legal consulting
 www.lowrancelaw.com
 www.informationinsightsinc.com

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Posted in attorneys, crime, FBI, FOIA, Investigations, law enforcement, private investigator, Public Records, Research | 3 Comments »

FBI Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide

Posted by Bill on October 29, 2009

FBI Seal Interesting article in NYT about release of the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, see NYT Article, See the Guide, or the DIOG, here  DIOG Part 1-4, DIOG Part 5-9, DIOG Part 10-11.11.9, DIOG Part 11.12-17, Appendices

The FBI says:  The DIOG establishes the FBI’s internal rules and procedures to implement the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations (AGG-Dom).  The DIOG and the AGG-Dom were promulgated in late 2008 to ensure that the FBI is equipped with all lawful and appropriate tools so that it can transform itself into an intelligence-driven organization that assesses and investigates criminal and national security threats to our nation and its people. Both documents have been released to the public as part of an ongoing effort to assure the American people that FBI employees will carry out their mission according to an established set of rules and with full respect for the constitutional and statutory rights of the people.

 These rules, which will be audited and enforced through a rigorous compliance mechanism, are designed to ensure that FBI assessments and investigations are subject to responsible review and approval and do not target anyone or any group on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or the exercise of any other right guaranteed by the Constitution.  

The DIOG is a living operational guide and its release to the public is intended to provide as much transparency as possible. It will be reviewed and changed periodically, as law and policy change and as circumstances dictate. Because it does govern FBI operations and investigations, not all of its contents can be released as they provide too much of a road map to those who pose a threat to the nation. The FBI will, from time to time, reassess whether additional information can safely be released.

All very interesting. Now you can investigate and get tips on investigations techniques.

Bill Lowrance, McLean, VA
www.lowrancelaw.com
www.informationinsightsinc.com

Posted in FBI, FOIA, Investigations, law enforcement, PI Chatter, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators, Public Records, Research, surveillance | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Tax Information On The Web In Italy

Posted by Bill on May 10, 2008

A recent read of BBC News reveals that the Italian outgoing government published every Italian citizens declared earnings and tax contributions.  Well, as you might guess there was a public “negative” response and the information was taken down after being on the tax authority’s web site for 24 hours.

Probably the most sacred information to Americans is tax return information.  It is a grievance felony to release tax return information without proper authority.  Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 6103 provides that all tax return information is confidential, private and may not be released or disclosed without specific statutory authority.  The IRS cannot turn over tax return information to anyone, government or private sector, without following specific procedures and statutory provisions.

There are certain exceptions and situations allowing the IRS to release tax return information.

However, there are important exceptions that you should be aware of.

IRC 6103(d) provides that return information may be shared with state agencies responsible for tax administration. The state agency must request this information in writing, and the request must be signed by an official designated to request tax information.  It should be noted that the IRS and almost all states have signed memorandum of agreements relating to specific enforcement programs.

IRC 6103(i)(1) provides that, pursuant to court order, return information may be shared with law enforcement agencies for investigation and prosecution of non-tax criminal laws.

IRC 6103(k)(6) allows the IRS to make limited disclosures of return information in the course of official tax administration investigations to third parties if necessary to obtain information that is not otherwise reasonably available.

IRC 6103(l)(1) provides that return information related to taxes imposed under chapters 2, 21, and 24 may be disclosed to the Social Security Administration (SSA) as needed to carry out its responsibilities under the Social Security Act. Chapter 2 relates to self-employment income and does not normally concern employers. Chapter 21 concerns social security and Medicare (FICA) tax, and chapter 24 deals with income tax withholding.

The IRS may therefore share information with SSA about social security and Medicare tax liability if necessary to establish the taxpayer’s liability.   This provision does not allow the IRS to disclose your tax information to SSA for any other reason.   SSA employees who receive this information are bound by the same confidentiality rules as IRS employees.   Therefore, they generally cannot disclose the information to state social security administrators, state officials or other Federal agencies.

IRC 6103(e)(6) and (c) provide for disclosures to powers of attorney and other designees.  If you are notified of an audit by the IRS, you may want to have someone other than the authorized officer of your entity represent you or participate in the meeting.   You may bring any individual you wish into the discussion, in person or by telephone.   You may give oral consent to speak with a third party if necessary to resolve a Federal tax matter.   However, oral consent does not substitute for a power of attorney or a legal designation, and the discussion is limited to the issue for which the consent is given.   

Well, so much for the highly technical aspects of the Internal Revenue Code.  Have you read it?

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc., McLean, VA

Posted in attorneys, FOIA, Investigations, lawyers, PI Chatter, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Virginia Supreme Court Restricts Access To Court Records

Posted by Bill on March 25, 2008

justice.jpg  Recently (March 18, 2008), the Virginia Judicial Council sent a report to the Virginia Supreme Court on a proposed, formal set of Rules of Evidence and on proposed changes to Part Nine to the Supreme Court Rules that would regulate access to public court records. 

Virginia and Massachusetts are the only two states that do not have a formal evidence code.  According to the Virginia Lawyers Weekly, VLW Blog, Click Here, the new evidence code would be similar to the Federal Rules of Evidence, but would adopt most rule language from Virginia case law.  Read the proposed rules Click Here.

Proposed changes to Part Nine of the Supreme Court Rules address concerns of personal and private information being accessible in court records.  The proposed rule provides for sealing of court records, procedures to unseal records and limiting personal information in filings with the court.  Read the proposed changes Click Here

We initially wrote about this in a previous post last year Click Here.   While the Virginia Supreme Court did not act upon the first set of proposed rule changes for access to court records, the Court is considering the Judicial Council’s most recent set of proposed rules for access to public court records.  Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. told the council that he expects the court to take some time before acting on the proposed rules.  Hopefully, the Supreme Court will consider public comments on the proposed rules.  We shall see.

Access to public court records is important to the legal and professional investigation industry.  Private investigators work for the public, businesses, law firms and attorneys.  In all cases, whether involving fraud, litigation, criminal trials or business due diligence, private investigators must be able to identify, verify and locate individuals referenced in public records.  Without the ability to gather this information, many investigations will fail or the costs will increase so that the public and others cannot afford to prepare their case or conduct due diligence or complete fraud investigations. 

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in attorneys, crime, FOIA, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Roanoke Times Backs VA FOIA

Posted by Bill on December 24, 2007

foia  In an editorial today, “Punish illegal secrecy”, the Roanoke Times comments on judicial enforcement of Virginia’s FOIA law.  The Times highlights the recent Court fine levied againt Sheriff Eric Weaver for his refusal to give public records to a member of the public.  The Times recognizes the importance of open government records and supports judicial monotoning and enforcement through fines if necessary.  See Editorial Here.

Posted in attorneys, FOIA, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Virginia | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Madison County’s Sheriff Weaver Violates VA’s FOIA–Pay Up Sheriff $$$$$

Posted by Bill on December 21, 2007

dollar  Madison County, VA, Sheriff Erik J. Weaver must pay a $250 fine and the plaintiff’s court fees for willfully violating the state’s Freedom of Information Act, a judge ruled this week in Madison County General District Court.

Experts say the fine may have set a precedent for punishing public officials who fail to comply with open-records requests.  See Richmond Times Story  The court ruled Sheriff Weaver has to pay up with personal funds.  Sheriff Weaver’s response to the news story was “Weaver described Purdum’s (requester) case as a personal attack veiled in an FOIA request from a “former disgruntled employee.”

I hope the various government entities realize that public records mean Public Records

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in FOIA, Investigations, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Virginia | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Congress Passes First FOIA Reform In Ten Years

Posted by Bill on December 19, 2007

FOIA   Thanks to Sabrina Pacifici, beSpacific, for alerting us that the FOIA bill passed through Congress. 

The House passed the FOIA Reform Bill (Open Government Act)  (S 2448) that was passed by the Senate last week.  The new bill aims to fix some real, everyday problems in FOIA practice and procedure used by federal agencies.  Such problems as excessive delays, lack of response and litigation gamesmanship practiced by the Department of Justice lawyers who represent federal agencies.  The bill establishes a tracking system for requests, penalizes agences for delays some delays which took up to 20 years and set up an office to mediate disputes as an alternative to litigation.

The bill now goes to the White House for signature.  We will see how it turns out.

See good summary at National Security Archive

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in attorneys, FOIA, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Research, Virginia | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Federal Courts Limit Case Information

Posted by Bill on December 6, 2007

 New Onerous Court Rules

With new rules providing privacy protection for case files posted on-line in the federal district, bankruptcy and appellate courts which are effective December 1, 2007, identifying specific persons subject of a federal case will be more difficult.  The new rules limit personal identifying data of a party to the case whether it is a civil, criminal or bankruptcy case.  The new rules were proposed by the Judicial Conference in accordance with the E-Government Act of 2002, which requires that each court make publicly available on-line any document filed electronically. The rules require parties to redact certain personal information from each filing.  The Supreme Court came up with the new rules to “protect privacy and security concerns related to electronic filing of documents and the public availablity . . . of documents filed electronically.” 

The Act required the Supreme Court to prescribe rules “to protect privacy and security concerns related to electronic filing of documents and the public availability . . . of documents filed electronically.”

The new privacy rules include Civil Procedure Rule 5.2, Criminal Rule 49.1 and Bankruptcy Rule 9037.   Appellate Rule 25 was amended to incorporate the new privacy directive. The rules can be found at Rules.

The new rules for civil, criminal, and bankruptcy courts require that case files show only the last four digits of a person’s financial account or Social Security number; only the year, not date, of someone’s birth; and only the initials, not name, of persons known to be minors.  Of course, this is restriction is for on-line case information such as you get when you use the Federal Courts Pacer system (Link is on left). 

Social Security and Immigration cases are open to the public but they will not be available for on-line access.  You will have to go to the court clerks office to look at these records.   Judge Lee Rosenthal (S.D. Tex.), chair of the Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure said “These records are often full of sensitive, highly personal information. The most obvious example is medical records. Because of the volume of the records and the extent to which they are made up of such personal information, it is not feasible to use redaction to protect privacy. The rules recognize these practical problems and do not require the parties to redact personal identifier information in these cases.”

Rosenthal added: “Because these filings will remain unredacted, it seemed prudent to keep them off the Internet, where they can be easily searched.” 

Although Social Security and immigration cases still will be available to the public at the courthouse, prohibiting on-line access “balances our long-standing commitment to keeping our case files public with the need to protect privacy in the age of computers,” Rosenthal said.  See full story at Newsletter of Federal Courts

For investigators, attorneys and others needing such public information for legitimate reasons, access is going to be more difficult–meaning higher costs to clients.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in attorneys, FOIA, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

FOIA In Georgia Supreme Court; New Jersey Convictions

Posted by Bill on December 3, 2007

An interesting item appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, AJC, today concerning the release of police department records on unsolved crimes.  Under Georgia law, police departments can refuse to turn over files and records in a “pending investigation.”  In this case, however, the records are about a murder that occurred in 1992.  There has never been an arrest, and the case is “cold.”  The Athens Banner-Herald newspaper requested the records, but the request was refused under the “pending investigation” exemption to the Georgia Open Records Act, O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 et seq.  The definition of the term “pending investigation” is now up to the Georgia Supreme Court. See whole story Here.

Virginia has a similar FOIA exemption category in Va. Code section 2.2-3076, Code.  Under this code section, criminal incident information must be released to the public if requested.  Criminal incident information means “a general description of the criminal activity reported, the date and general location the alleged crime was committed, the identity of the investigating officer, and a general description of any injuries suffered or property damaged or stolen.”  But, the Virginia FOIA provides that “where the release of criminal incident information is likely to jeopardize an ongoing investigation . . .  such information may be withhelduntil the above-referenced damage is no longer likely to occur from release of the information.”  To my knowledge, there has not been a Virginia Supreme Court interpretation of this term.  Perhaps, if it ever comes to that, the Georgia Supreme Court opinion may be relevant.

At least in Georgia and Virginia as well as most states, some criminal information is available to the public.  But, in Mississippi, Miss. Code 25-41-3, is interpreted by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (Mississippi Highway Patrol) very broadly to exclude furnishing any information under the broad exception “law enforcement officials.”  This term provides that a meeting of “law enforcement officials” is not open to the public.  But, the interpretation does not stop there.  DPS says if they wanted to they could exclude most everything from disclosure.  No Mississippi court has weighed in on this broad interpretation.  See story Here

 New Jersey Conviction Records

According to the New Jersey Home News Tribune, HNT, updated New Jersey Superior Court convictions records for 2007 and the last 10 years are searchable at Data Universe, the Home News Tribune’s public records site.  Good that more open records are out there and the public has access.

More post will follow on interesting subjects over the next few days.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in FOIA, Investigations, law enforcement, PIAVA, Public Records | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Florida’s Fair, Frank and Free Open Records

Posted by Bill on December 2, 2007

Florida Governor Crist started two new open government initiatives that will improve Floridians’ ability to access public documents and meetings. The first initiative involves a Bill of Rights for all Floridians trying to access public records. The list of rights was compiled by the Commission on Open Government, established by the Governor on June 19, 2007, by Executive Order 07-107.  The second initiative involves improving Internet access to state agency contact information.  The Governor wants to create a more open government for the people.  See the Governor’s press release: http://www.flgov.com/release/9648

Posted in FOIA, Investigations, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

FOIA Funk–Lover’s Sweet Email Whisperings

Posted by Bill on November 30, 2007

This “hot” story almost slipped by my sharp sights except for catching this on the J. Craig Williams’ super Blog May It Please the Court (MIPTC), MIPTC.  Craig’s headline reads Wife’s Sweet Email Whisperings To Lover End Up In Husband’s Hands.”  This story backs up my previous posts and my firm belief that a FOIA request, whether State or Federal, can turn up relevant and material information in almost any investigation.  Here, wife was having an affair with husband’s co-worker.  Wife and co-worker e-mailed each other, on government computers, sensitive and very personal communications.  Well, husband found out about affair and submitted a FOIA request for e-mail between wife and co-worker from the government agency.  The government agency resisted, but the other day, on November 19th, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip J. Shepherd ordered the e-mails written between wife and co-worker be released. 

It is important to note that the e-mails in issue were between wife who was a government employee and co-worker who is also a government employee.  Under Kentucky law, conversational e-mails and non-policy, fact e-mails are not subject to disclosure if the e-mails are between a government employee and a private citizen. 

Ah, FOIA— let’s keep those public records open records so that we all know what the government is doing and how it operates.

Keep “askin” questions.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in FOIA, Investigations, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Research | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is the Government Tracking You via Cell Phone?

Posted by Bill on November 29, 2007

The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press reported in the rcfp sidebar today that the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, FOIA Request filed a FOIA request with the U.S. Department of Justice requesting documents about how federal officials have reportedly tracked people using their mobile phone signals. The FOIA requests comes after the Washington Post reported on the practice last week in the November 23 edition. 

The Post reported that federal law enforcement is routinely asking courts to order cell phone companies to furnish real time tracking data so they can locate drug traffickers, fugitives or other criminal suspects.  Some judges have granted such orders without requiring the usual “probable cause” standard under the U.S. Constitution, 4th Amendment. 

The article stated: “In a stinging opinion this month, a federal judge in Texas denied a request by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent for data that would identify a drug traffickers phone location by using the carrier’s E911 tracking capability. . . . Magistrate Judge Brian L. Owsley, of Corpus Christi division of the Southern District of Texas, said the agent’s affidavit failed to focus on “specifics necessary to establish probable cause, such as relevant dates, names and places.”  The judge wanted some specific information that the phone was being used in a criminal activity.  The judge said that the agent simply alleged that the subject trafficked in narcotics and used the phone to do so. 

 This is an issue that is of growing concern to privacy groups and to law enforcement.  Does law enforcement need probable cause to track or locate a cell phone?  This could work its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bill Lowrance
President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in FOIA, Investigations, law enforcement, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »