Thursday, September 13, 2012

400 days

Screenshot from Cuba Money Project
It's been 400 days since I filed my first appeal in response to the U.S. government's refusal to release documents on taxpayer-financed democracy programs in Cuba.
I am seeking the documents under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. I'm not interested in endangering democracy activists in Cuba. But I believe taxpayers have the right to know more about how their money is spent.
Cuba and the socialist government will certainly change in some way in the future. Historians and others will want to know what role the U.S. government played in Cuba's evolution.
Americans are still waiting for the CIA to declassify some of its documents on the Bay of Pigs invasion. I don't think we should have to wait 20 or 30 more years to learn about secret operations that the government is carrying out.

Dalexi González says was recruited to help set up an illegal satellite communication network. Photo: CubaDebate
It's true that scattered details sometimes slip out. Remember the boogie board escapade? (See "Wild plot: Surfboards disguised as satellite dishes in Cuba"). I think taxpayers have the legal right to know more about what goes on under both FOIA and the Open Government Act. So I've been filing FOIA requests (See my FOIA Tracker for more information on the requests) to try to obtain information from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The two agencies requested a combined budget of $51.6 billion for fiscal 2013.

USAID has been more responsive to my FOIAs. The agency has released some documents, although many have been heavily redacted or incomplete.
The State Department has been much slower to respond. I haven't appealed State Department responses to my FOIAs because there's almost nothing to appeal at this point.
USAID, on the other hand, has released some documents and withheld others. The five appeals I've filed so far have gone to USAID (See my FOIA appeals page).
The agency hasn't yet answered those appeals. I know it's been 400 days by looking at the counter I installed on my Cuba Money Project website.
Today I filed appeal No. 6, aimed at pressuring the agency to release more information related to a $5 million Freedom House program called "Alternative Methods to Increase Information and Assistance in Cuba." (See "$5 million money trail ends at USAID").

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