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How a Video Game About Sheep Exposes the FBI's Broken FOIA System (dailydot.com) 116

blottsie writes from a report via Daily Dot: Earlier this year, the FBI released a free, online video game featuring sheep in its attempts to fight terrorism recruitment efforts. The game is called The Slippery Slope of Violent Extremism, and it is a real thing that exists. You can play it here. After journalists filed a FOIA request to find out more about the game, the FBI said it would take two years to respond -- a staggeringly long wait that helps expose how the Bureau actively avoids responding to open-records requests. The information requested asked for "all documents -- specifically memos, email correspondence, and budgets -- around the development, release, and public reception of the FBI's Slippery Slope game. It's the one with the sheep." There are several reasons why it would take two years to respond. One reason is because of the lack of requests. "If 500 people want to have the FBI file on a famous dead person, that's going to be available, and it's going to be available quickly," J. Pat Brown, an employee at MuckRock, a nonprofit that helps journalists, researchers, good government groups, and interested members of the public make FOIA requests of government agencies, said. "But basic requests about agency activities are pushed into their own pile," adds Daily Dot. Another part of the problem has to do with the outdated technology used by government agencies. "Many of the computers the FBI is using to search for this material are from the 1980s and lack graphical interfaces. Outdated technology being a hurdle to government transparency is common across many federal agencies. The CIA only accepts FOIA request by fax machine, for example," reports Daily Dot. "In 2013, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which oversees the NSA among other agencies, was unable to accept FOIA requests for months because its fax machine broke and it had to wait until the next fiscal year to get it replaced." What's more is that government agencies are often not required to disclose information after long wait times for processing FOIAs. "As Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Daily Dot in 2014, she once waited four years with near total silence on a FOIA request about the TSA's airport body-scanner technology only to get a note out of the blue from TSA saying she had to respond with 30 days if she wanted them to continue processing her request," reports Daily Dot. "When McCall reached out to others who had made FOIA requests to agencies under the Department of Homeland Security umbrella, they reported similar experiences."
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How a Video Game About Sheep Exposes the FBI's Broken FOIA System

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  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @04:39PM (#53057811) Journal

    It is working exactly as designed, to stonewall.

    • From the excellent new book, What Government Gets Wrong: The Unelected Officials Who Actually Run Government: "Simply comparing the total volume of congressional output with the gross bureaucratic product provides a rough indication of where lawmaking now occurs in the federal government. The 106th Congress (1999â"2000) was among the most active in recent years. It passed 580 pieces of legislation, 200 more than the 105th Congress and nearly twice as many as the 104th. Some, like campaign finance refo
      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        We still elect politicians, but they no longer run the country

        They are never supposed to.
        They are supposed to set policy to provide a direction instead of micromanaging.

        The idea that they actually run the country is very common but still incredibly naive. We also don't really want them to do it directly, there was a war to take control away from a King remember.

        • Once again Yes, Minister shows itself to be a frighteningly accurate look at how government works:

          Sir Humphrey: Minister I have something to say to you which you may not like to hear.
          Jim: Why should today be any different?
          Sir Humphrey: Minister, the traditional allocation of executive responsibilities has always been so determined as to liberate the Ministerial incumbent from the administrative minutiae by devolving the managerial functions to those whose experience and qualifications have better formed

        • They are never supposed to.

          They are supposed to set policy to provide a direction instead of micromanaging.

          I guess you haven't read Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United State of America.

          Here's a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          And here's the text:

          All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

          Hope this helps.

    • Government agencies loooove their secrets. They will fight tooth and nail to keep them safe. Some secrets should stay safe as they may lead to great ham in the wrong hands. Other's will only humiliate some one or worst yet, require a lazy low-level government employee to actually do something job related at work!

    • FOIA's purpose is served even with a lag. As long as records will reach the public then it serves as pressure on people. That's the intent.

      • Time is a critical element to documents, just like everything else. You are being dismissive of the FBI's outright malfeasance here. IF the FBI has nothing to hide, it would not take so long.
    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      Underfund so there is plausible deniability

  • by random coward ( 527722 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @04:42PM (#53057823)
    Lets hear it for the most transparent administration in history!
    • by npslider ( 4555045 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @05:01PM (#53057927)

      This is where you are wrong. The current administration IS being transparent.

      Do you see any information? Nope. That's because it is perfectly transparent, thus invisible to all known forms of visual detection.

      We have gotten what we were promised. We just need the 'courage' to accept it.

      • However, were previous administrations *more* transparent? No, not really. Administrations have been secretive forever. The only thing new with the Obama administration was the campaign promise to be more open, which then draws peoples attention to the fact that there is no transparency. And given the public's inability to remember the past they assume that only the Obama administration is being opaque. Of course there's some partisanship playing a part - the president you like is forgiven, the preside

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Lets hear it for the most transparent administration in history!

      Perhaps they are, but by going from "F" to a "D-"

    • by felrom ( 2923513 )

      Nothing new. The Obama administration has the worst record of blanket FOIA denial of any since FOIA became a thing.

      There was a lawyer who sent the FBI an FOIA wanting to know what offenses would make a person a "domestic abuser" and disqualify them from buying a gun. The FBI said the list was secret and refused to answer. There's your most transparent administration ever!

      The BATFE has stopped responding to FOIAs completely. If you want anything from them, you have to sue, pay for counsel, and wait for the

  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speter@@@tedata...net...eg> on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @04:56PM (#53057909) Journal

    Because I'm playing the game right now, and it's the funniest thing I've seen in a while. Play a game trying to steer a greased sheep through a Dire Straits music video, all the while being told that the enemy is trying to brainwash me. It feels eerily similar to old-school public service announcements [youtube.com] that have a message completely unrelated to the content delivered with it.

    "Don't be a puppet!" Hilarious. Who in their right mind would think this would stop terrorists?

    • by Thud457 ( 234763 )
      got GOAT [goatse.cx] [goat-simulator.com]
      ?
    • Who in their right mind would think this would stop terrorists?

      I'm kind of worried it will have the opposite effect because, if anything, the sloppy controls make me want to send a bomb to person responsible.

    • "Who the fuck eats raw eggs, man? I think the government's telling us it's time to burn one."

    • I was waiting for someone to say something funny about sheeple but greased sheep in a dire straits video made me damn near fall out of my chair...

    • by TroII ( 4484479 )

      Because I'm playing the game right now, and it's the funniest thing I've seen in a while.

      Far be it from me to tell you and your enormous balls how to have fun, but I'd steer clear of any Flash being served up by fbi.gov.

  • Trouble (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @05:02PM (#53057935)

    The sheep are starting to ask questions.

  • The controls for that game are horrible. If it took more than a day and $500 to create then taxpayers should be ticked.

    • It's the reason the F-35 program is so over budget - it paid for this fine piece of software.

      The game before you is the result of years of quality government work. It's the optimal use of other people's money. It took 456 different committee meetings just to decide to use sheep. The pizza costs alone for the programmers was in the millions. All minority groups and special interest groups had to be involved. The labor unions had to agree to the terms of the labor contract. The choice of Flash required a requ

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      The controls for that game are horrible.

      Because you are holding the sheep wrong.
      - Steve Jo-o-o-o-obs

  • I made legendary jihadist in 12 rounds! I dare you to beat my high score!

     

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Many of the computers the FBI is using to search for this material are from the 1980s and lack graphical interfaces.

    What does a graphical interface have to do with collecting data? What's more important is that the systems is hooked to a network and has a remote way of accessing it.

    • Don't you hate it when you are stuck using grep to find things?

      It would be so much quicker if you could just use windows search. Someone should create a windows search emulator for unix.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Government workers don't know how to use the old computer systems. My state paid tens of millions of dollars a few years ago to create a slow, fragile web-based system to replace the old CICS system because new workers were afraid of "DOS".

  • Stop (Score:4, Insightful)

    by U8MyData ( 1281010 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @05:21PM (#53058033)
    When is our illustrious government going to stop using the "outdated" technology argument? We all know that when they want something, they usually get it. This is just, "there is nothing to see here" in action.
  • Sheep in video games have more rights than you do.

    And you just lap it up, like sheep at a pond.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @05:29PM (#53058093) Journal

    1: Is there multiplayer?

    2: Can I get 60fps on a GeForce 960?

    3: Is the sheep a 6 or a 10?

  • Nothing in the world is free. How much time does it take to catalog, classify/redact and publish all the information on a sheep video game?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Please submit a FOIA request for the answer to your question. We do need at least 5 years for this type of request. In the meantime, please try our latest game called How To Dodge Investigations Involving E-mail Server Scandals.

  • Maybe we should all file FOIA requests with the FBI for Slippery Slope information. That way they could not use the "not enough requests" excuse.
  • Playing the game with The Veil by Peter Gabriel playing in the background. Eerily hilarious. Try it.
  • "The information requested asked for "all documents -- specifically memos, email correspondence, and budgets -- around the development, release, and public reception of the FBI's Slippery Slope game."

    This is a lot of information, maybe it would make sense to ask for a budget and a list of developers instead?

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      This is a lot of information

      I agree. That's probably somewhere between 10k and 200k of printed pages I would guestimate. Somebody has to review each one to make sure unrelated and/or personal or sensitive info is not included, like employee vacation dates. And they may have to ask a lot of questions to know what it's talking about being the sifters were possibly not on the design team(s).

      It's probably not a good expenditure of tax money unless there's decent evidence of nefarious activity. The problem is w

  • FOIA request will be properly responded to, just in time for the release of the Slippery Upwards Slope of Calm Transparency Demands game that is coming as a sequel.

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.

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