Family Exploit FOI to Mine Pentagon’s Data for Profit

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The Posey family used the Freedom of Information Act to extract Pentagon data for profit.

The Freedom of Information Act is federal freedom of information law that requires full or partial disclosure of previously unpublished information and documents that are controlled by the United States government upon request. The act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures, and defines nine exemptions to the statue.

The Poseys specialized in engineering drawings, technical orders, and manuals for aircraft, most of them from the military. Their small, family-owned Southern California-based company, Newport Aeronautical Sales, formerly owned and operated by Posey’s stepfather, sold non-classified technical information to companies seeking Pentagon contracts to repair military aircraft or manufacture spare parts.

George Posey recognized in the late 1970s that it was easier and cheaper to provide paperwork to bureaucrats than to cram into underground bunkers. The introduction of the Freedom of Information Act ushered in a free-market economy that “information resellers” capitalized on by submitting a stream of Freedom of Information Act requests to U.S. government agencies and treating the information as goods to unload.

While some information traders focus on the Security and Exchange Commission’s financial filings, others focus on facility inspection reports from the Food and Drug Administration.

Information vendors are now the primary beneficiaries of FOIA. Analysis of 229,000 FOIA requests in 2017 shows that only 8% of the requests came from journalists. By 2020, nearly 800,000 requests were made. At some federal agencies, the vast majority of requests now come from commercial operators that resell or use data for profit.

The sources for this piece include an article in WIRED.

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