After their badly flawed story on the same document last month, Raw Story now has discovered something far interesting about the Pentagon log of Freedom of Information Act Requests received by blogger Michael Petrelis.
A number of the requests came from Republican Party staff seeking to dig dirt on Democratic opponants, Raw Story shows. The web site had already reported that Democratic staffers are also researching Republicans, but were more likely than the GOP staff to reveal their affiliation in the request.
Political parties doing opposition research using FOIA requests isn’t nearly as shocking as Raw Story suggests — it’s another one of the well-known major uses of the openness legislation. Nor is there anything wrong with concealing your identity or purposes when requesting information — if there is a right to access, there is a right to access, no questions asked.
Still, Raw Story has done some good journalism by linking requesters’ names with other publically-available records to show that these staffers received money from campaign war chests for their efforts.
The story also highlights a weakness of the British Freedom of Information Act. The equivalent story would probably not have been possible here in Britain because FOIA requestors’ names tend to be exempt from disclosure as “personal data”. One way to sometimes get around this is to request the name of the organisation that made a request.