Tomah VA just provided its video and photos of the Hungry Hungry Hippos event I exposed on this website last year, minus the faces of offending employees.
Last November, I published a story about video leaked to me from a VA employee of Tomah VA and its annual Halloween party. That party included employee dress-up and a team building game of Hungry Hungry Hippos that then went viral. The event was on company time while the facility was under investigation by DEA for drug trafficking.
Yesterday, after ten months, I finally received the official footage from VA directly, minus the faces of the employees who participated. I wanted to publish it here for your enjoyment. I could appeal the FOIA, but I think VA sending the footage is good enough for now.
As an aside, many folks in the House Committee on Veterans Affairs did not think I would get this video straight from Tomah VA to verify the authenticity of the video much less to get footage that was less blurry. So I am giving myself a pat on the back right now. Below is the original footage that was blurry but good enough to play on Fox News.
Below is the original footage that was blurry but good enough to play on Fox News.
TOMAH VA HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS PHOTOS
TOMAH VA HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS FOIA
Here is a cut and past of the FOIA response I just received. Thanks VA for always giving me information to write about…
Dear Mr. Krause:
This letter is the initial agency decision on your November 6, 2015, request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, for “any and all copies of surveillance video and/or audio for the Tomah VAMC CREW Carnival including the ‘Hungry Hungry Hippos’ events. I also seek any and all video and/or audio or photographs referenced in Matthew Gowan’s email from November 2, 2015”.
I received this request in my office on November 6, 2015 and it was assigned the FOIA Tracking number listed above.
A thorough search for the documents you seek has concluded. Surveillance cameras are not mounted within or outside of the building where this event took place, therefore there is no surveillance video footage responsive to your request. The documents responsive to your request are eleven (11) pictures and one (1) video. You will find the images on the enclosed CD-ROM.
However, all information compiled, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and therefore images have been withheld under FOIA Exemption 6, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)(6). FOIA Exemption 6 permits VA to withhold information within a document if disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of a living individual’s personal privacy. Stated another way, VA may withhold information under Exemption 6 where disclosure of the information, either by itself or in conjunction with other information available to either the public or the FOIA requester, would result in an unwarranted invasion of an individual’s personal privacy without contributing significantly to the public’s understanding of the activities of the federal government. Specifically, the identities of the individuals who are shown in these pictures were withheld. The video has been blurred to ensure the privacy of the participants.
If you disagree with my determination to withhold the information under FOIA Exemption 6, please be advised you may appeal to:
Office of the General Counsel (024)
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20420
If you should choose to file an appeal, your appeal must be postmarked or electronically transmitted no later than ninety (90) calendar days from the date of this letter. Please include a copy of this letter with your written appeal and clearly state why you disagree with the determinations set forth in this response.
In addition to filing an appeal with the Office of General Counsel regarding my determination, you may also seek assistance and/or dispute resolution services regarding your FOIA request from VHA‘s FOIA Public Liaison and or Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) as provided below:
VHA FOIA Public Liaison:
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone Number: (877) 461-5038
Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)
Fax: (202) 741-5769
Office of Government Information Services
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
If you have any further questions, please call 608-372-3971 , extension 66732.
Shai Sims Brown