The Paper Trail: March 12, 2024

Agencies Struggling to Fill FOIA Posts; Pentagon Papers, Afghanistan Papers...Horn of Africa Papers?; Growing Backlash Against Police Reforms; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for March 12, 2024

Bill enhancing contractor whistleblower protections advances to full Senate: The bipartisan bill would close loopholes that have left federal contractors and grantees who report waste, fraud, and abuse vulnerable to retaliation. (Edward Graham, Nextgov/FCW)

With FOIA backlogs on the rise, do agencies need direct-hire authority? A draft report by an advisory committee finds that many agencies are struggling to hire and retain FOIA professionals. (Justin Doubleday, Federal News Network)

Former U.S. official's work for Chinese client stirs concern over disclosure loopholes: Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch's advocacy work on behalf of a Chinese drone company exposes legal loopholes that allow lawyers and lobbyists to avoid disclosing clients subject to U.S. sanctions. (Michael Martina, Reuters)

U.S. is said to open criminal inquiry into Boeing: The DOJ is conducting a criminal probe of Boeing over the January incident when a panel on a 737 Max 9 jet operated by Alaska Airlines blew out in midair. On Friday, Boeing informed Congress that it was unable to find a potentially important record detailing its work on the jet. (Niraj Chokshi, Glenn Thrush, and Mark Walker, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: FAA audit of Boeing's 737 Max production found dozens of issues (Mark Walker, New York Times)

Warden ousted as FBI again searches California federal women's prison plagued by sexual abuse: FCI Dublin is known as the "rape club" because of years of rampant staff-on-inmate sexual abuse. Lawsuits allege the Bureau of Prisons has failed to root out sexual abuse and continues to allow retaliation against inmates who report the abuse. (Michael R Sisak and Michael Balsamo, Associated Press)

Israel-Hamas War

Senators urge Biden to stop arming Israel, citing violation of U.S. aid law: A group of senators urged President Biden to stop providing offensive weapons to Israel until it lifts restrictions on U.S.-backed humanitarian aid going into Gaza. They contend that by continuing to arm Israel, Biden is violating the Foreign Assistance Act, which bars military support from going to any nation that restricts the delivery of humanitarian aid. (Robert Jimison, New York Times)


House GOP report details testimony that contradicted key Jan. 6 witness: House Republicans claim unreleased testimony undermines former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson's account of President Trump's actions on January 6. (Jacqueline Alemany, Washington Post)

Police Misconduct

Killings by police brought reforms. Fear of crime is unraveling them: There has been a groundswell of legislative and voter pushback against police reforms initiated over the past several years. (Robert Klemko, Emily Davies, and Tom Jackman, Washington Post)


Schools stare down deadline as COVID-19 relief funds set to expire: Schools could face a "financial cliff" in September when the $200 billion Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) program expires. (Lexi Lonas, The Hill)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

VIP health system for top U.S. officials risked jeopardizing care for soldiers: Top government and military officials and their families received preferential treatment from a military health care program, potentially jeopardizing care for other patients including active-duty service members, according to an inspector general review. (David Hilzenrath, KFF Health News)

Broken track: Suicides & suffering in Army's exhausted armor community: Between 2019 and 2021, tank brigades experienced a suicide rate twice as high as the rest of the active-duty force. Across all unit types, enlisted tankers were three times as likely to die by suicide than other soldiers. (Davis Winkie, Army Times)

Who could have predicted the U.S. war in Somalia would fail? The Pentagon: A 2007 DOD study found fundamental flaws in its Horn of Africa campaign plan. Seventeen years and billions of dollars later, the Pentagon's own metrics show that America's war in the region was never effectively prosecuted, remains in a stalemate, and has been especially ruinous for Somalia. (Nick Turse, The Intercept)

Missile Defense Agency won't brief public on budget request: The U.S. Missile Defense Agency didn't offer the public a detailed view of its fiscal 2025 budget when the president released his spending request yesterday, breaking a decades-long tradition. (Jen Judson, Defense News)


Automakers are sharing consumers' driving behavior with insurance companies: Drivers of General Motors, Honda, Kia, and Hyundai cars may not realize their driving data is being shared with data brokers. (Kashmir Hill, New York Times)

Most automated driving systems aren't good making sure drivers pay attention, insurance group says: Most electronic systems that take on driving tasks for humans don't adequately make sure drivers are paying attention. Researchers say the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs to do more to set standards for the systems. (Tom Krisher, Associated Press)

Health Care

Medicare announces emergency funds for doctors affected by Change Healthcare hack: The announcement comes after members of Congress and the health care industry criticized federal officials for not making more help available for physicians and suppliers. (Dan Diamond, Washington Post)

How Big Pharma is fighting Biden's program to lower seniors' drug costs: Pharmaceutical giants are mounting a vigorous legal battle against President Biden's plan to lower prescription drug costs, urging federal judges around the country to invalidate a new program that aims to reduce the price of medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. (Tony Romm, Washington Post)


Immigration and Border Security:

Texas judge blocks AG's subpoena of nonprofit that assists migrants

At Seattle's Boeing Field, real-time video offers a rare glimpse of America's troubled deportation flights

Other News:

Biden sends his $7.3 trillion budget to Congress

FBI informant accused of smearing Bidens had past credibility issues

How Trump's Justice Dept. derailed an investigation of Caterpillar

Peter Navarro ordered to prison on March 19 for contempt of Congress

Gen. Mark Milley's second act: multimillionaire

Upcoming Events

📌 Panel Discussion: Artificial Intelligence: The Intersection of Public Access and Open Government. National Archives and Records Administration. Thursday, March 14, 1:00 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Facial Recognition Technology: Federal Law Enforcement Agency Efforts Related to Civil Rights and Training. GAO-24-107372 (PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Anti-Money Laundering: Better Information Needed on Effectiveness of Federal Efforts. GAO-24-106301 (PDF)

Nominations & Appointments


  • Marsha Borin - Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
  • David Cicilline - Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
  • Paul R. Fine - Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
  • Denise Grant - Member, J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board
  • Susan E. Lowenberg - Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
  • Judith Schocken - Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
  • Cynthia Simon Skjodt - Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
  • Lynn Tincher-Ladner - Member, J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board
  • Samantha Vinograd - Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
  • Mark Wilf - Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council