Best Of FOIA

They’ve been whining about the Freedom of Information Act again. Which gave me an idea, as I read this fascinating thread.

Someone has managed to get the Ministry of Defence lessons-learned report on the 2007 incident when the Iranians took a boat’s crew from HMS Cornwall prisoner. That was the one with the iPods, if you weren’t paying attention. I think this may be the most highly classified document released under FOIA yet, as it was marked not just SECRET but UK EYES ONLY, i.e. not to be shown even to the Americans. And now, well, any fool can read it.

It’s been redacted, of course, but even so, it’s full of embarrassing admissions of incompetence and stupidity, and basically says that while the whole chain-of-command in Iraq was trying to put pressure on the Iranians, nobody bothered to tell the Navy, which also didn’t bother to look up what was going on in databases they had access to, partly because intelligence seems to have been a career Siberia, staffed by anyone who happened to be at a loose end. Also, the admiral used the helicopter as his personal taxi until it broke down and therefore wasn’t available to support the boarding party, which suggests seriously odd priorities.

Anyway. Wouldn’t it be awesome to publish a collection of the best FOIA releases, a Freedom of Information Act: The Greatest Hits box set? A bit like those old “2005: Blogged” things, but with less shameless abuse of other people’s copyrights or indeed copylefts. I’d read that, but more to the point, it would be a great campaign device and might even raise some money. Obviously there’s the stash at WhatDoTheyKnow as a source, but crowdsourcing seems the only practical way to do it.

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