Private Investigators In Virginia

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Posts Tagged ‘FOIA’

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


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

VA Freedom of Information Advisory Council

Posted by Bill on June 8, 2009

Interesting public records activity in Virginia.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, FOIA Council , is having a meeting today the Personal Identifying Information Subcommittee of the FOIA Council. Meeting is today, Monday, June 8, 2009, 1 p.m., in the Speaker’s Conference Room, Sixth Floor, General Assembly Building, 910 Capitol St., Richmond, VA.  See Memo and agenda HERE

Agenda includes:

Review of bills referred by the 2009 Session for further study by the FOIA Council:

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; disclosure of official records; exceptions. Provides that records of the Department shall be subject to the disclosure provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, except that personal information, as defined in § 2.2-3801, of individual applicants for or holders of any hunting, fishing, boating, or trapping license issued by an agent of the Department shall be withheld from public disclosure, provided that such individuals have requested that the Department not disclose such information. However, statistical summaries, abstracts, or other records containing information in an aggregate form that does not identify individual applicants or licensees shall be disclosed. The bill provides, however, that such information may be released (i) in accordance with a proper judicial order, (ii) to any law-enforcement agency, officer, or authorized agent thereof acting in the performance of official law-enforcement duties, or (iii) to any person who is the subject of the record.

HB 2471 (Hugo); Freedom of Information Act; salary records of teachers. Provides that the disclosure of the names of individual teachers is not required under FOIA in response to a request for the official salary or rate of pay of employees of a local school board.

HB 2630 (Crockett-Stark); Law-Enforcement Officers’ Privacy Protection Act. Allows a law-enforcement officer to request that personal information about the officer be withheld from disclosure on public records. For purposes of the Act, “personal information” includes the officer’s name, social security number, address, phone number, and any other information that could be used to physically locate the officer. NOTE:  You will recall that Delegate Crockett-Stark was present at the April 27, 2009 FOIA Council meeting to discuss HB 2630.  She indicated that there is a similar law in place in Ohio that was enacted because a family member of a law enforcement officer was murdered after personal information about the officer was made available. She stated that her sheriff had requested a similar law in Virginia.  Staff noted that in Virginia personal information about public employees is exempt from FOIA; however, real property assessment records and court records are open to the public as a matter of law.   The Council noted that there are two competing policies at work in this instance– privacy versus a community’s awareness of the identity of its officers.  The Council asked Delegate Crockett-Stark to have her contact call Delegate Griffith to identify the specific issue of concern so that the scope of the bill could be narrowed to address the issue.

SB 1332 (Cuccinelli); Private entities operating, managing, or supervising any portion of the state highway system. Provides that a private entity that operates, manages, or supervises any portion of the state highway system and receives funding from the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions shall be considered a public body for purposes of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.) of the Code of Virginia as it relates to that portion of the private entity’s business operations responsible for operating, managing, or supervising the portion of the state highway system. 

At the April 27, 2009 FOIA Council meeting, members of the Council agreed that the issue behind this bill was unclear.  Senator Griffith directed staff to re-invite Senator Cuccinelli to address the Council at its next meeting.  Therefore no action is required by the Subcommittee at this time.
Social Security Numbers and the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (GDCDPA):

Collection of SSNs: The Council has already indicated its intent to continue studying this area, which will coincide with the analysis of the results of last year’s survey regarding collection and use of SSNs.  This year’s study will focus on identifying and eliminating the unnecessary collection of SSNs by government. It is hoped that by limiting collection in the first instance, the need for additional protections to be added later will be reduced or eliminated.  In addition, because the SSN survey produced an unexpectedly large volume of responses that necessitated additional time for analysis, SB 1318/HB 2426 were passed in 2009 as recommendations of the FOIA Council to delay until 2010 the implementation date prohibiting the collection of an individual’s social security number unless collection of such number is (i) authorized or required by state or federal law and (ii) essential for the performance of that agency’s duties.  Note that in light of HB 2427 (May), establishing the Protection of Social Security Numbers Act, as discussed below, the Council needs to decide what further action, if any, needs to be taken

Disclosure of SSNs: HB 2427 (May) establishes the Protection of Social Security Numbers Act (the Act), which will become effective July 1, 2009.  In brief, the Act exempts from FOIA the first five digits of SSNs except under certain limited circumstances, and provides penalties for improper disclosure.  The final four digits of SSNs found in public records will remain open to public disclosure under FOIA.   In past meetings the Council has debated the merits of this and other protective schemes that would limit the disclosure of SSNs.  Again, the Act’s passage in 2009 raises the question of whether any further action regarding disclosure of SSNs is necessary at this time, and if so, what form should that action take.

Bill Lowrance

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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.

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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

Posted in attorneys, FOIA, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Research, Virginia | 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

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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:

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

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

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

Hip (meaning “cool,” “contemporary”) New Additions to Blog

Posted by Bill on November 14, 2007

If you look to the left side, you will see our “blog roll” and our “links.”  I’ve separated blog links from regular links, and I added several new links.  New links are for the Washington Post, Washington Post, the Federal Court Pacer System, Pacer, Maryland Land Records, MD Land, Richmond Sunlight, Richmond Sunlight, everything you want to know about the VA General Assembly, Society of Former FBI Agents, SOCXFBI, Pagebull Search Engine, Page Bull, and the US Department of Justice’s FOIA guide, US DOJ FOIA, offering everthing you want to know about the FOIA from DOJ’s perspective.  Also, check the FOIA Blog at The FOIA Blog.

A new page has been added—PI Jobs.  Here we have posted two listings of companies seeking registered Private Investigators for surveillance and other work in DC, MD & VA.  Check it out.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

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VA FOIA-Access to Public Records

Posted by Bill on November 6, 2007

Virginia’s Freedom of Information Advisory Council, see, Personal Identifying Information Subcommittee is meeting on November 9, 2007, at 10 a.m. at the General Assembly Building, Speaker’s Conference Room, 6th Floor, Richmond, VA.  Last year, nine bills covering six topics were referred to the FOIA Council from the 2007 Session of the General Assembly.  All of the bills concerned issues about personal identifying information.  The bills are among laws and other rules being considered to prevent personal identifying data from appearing in public records.  The Virginia Supreme Court formed a Committee on Access to Court Records in 2006 that proposed changes to court rules that would make it more difficult to access public court records.

Of course, in most bills and rule changes no exemption or exception is provided for duly, registered private investigators or private security business licensees to have unfettered access to the records for legitimate business purposes.  When Virginia adopted the Drivers Protection act Private Security Business Licensees, via a compliance agent, were allowed access to DMV information.  Of course, access is for official business purposes outline in the Virginia Code.

In many of the bills pending in the Virginia General Assembly, no provision is made allowing legitimate private security businesses access to restricted records.  The private investigation industry definitely has an interest in access to public records.   If anyone knows about other legislation or other attempts by the Virginia General Assembly to cut off access to public records, let us know.  Meanwhile if you can attend the meeting on November 9, please do so.  It will be very educational.  Two PIAVA members plan on attending the meeting–Nicole Bocra of Infinity Investigations, Arlington, VA, and Jim Schmidt, Schmidt and Associates LLC, Glen Allen, VA, 804-364-8983, both excellent investigators.  Contact either Nicole or Jim if you want to meet them in Richmond.

Keep asking questions.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

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