Public Trust & Accountability

A strong right of access to government information is a key component of an accountable government. In the simplest sense, accountability is being answerable for performance or results. Much of the public's trust rests upon the government being openly accountable for its decisions, actions and mistakes. When the government operates in secret or refuses to disclose information to the public, it is in essence stripping the public of its ability to oversee and hold the government accountable.

National Security

National security has long been recognized as a legitimate reason to restrict information from the public. The risk comes in not finding the proper balance between security and the public's right to know. Government, already a reluctant releaser of information, may overuse national security as a means to hide additional information. The late Supreme Court Justice Byron White foresaw this exact danger when he noted, "the label of 'national security' may cover a multitude of sins."

Environment, Health & Safety

Information has always been the fuel that powers the engine of environmental, health and safety protection. History shows that when environmental or health problems are made public, the public demands action, and government acts. But rules on access to information, including environmental, health and safety information, are now under drastic assault.

Democracy

The people's right to know is a foundation of democracy. Throughout history, the cardinal element in the formation of democratic societies -- the element most feared and suppressed by totalitarian rulers -- has been an informed, active citizenry. The more citizens know, the better prepared and more motivated they are to participate effectively in the decisions that affect their lives, their property, and their physical and economic well being.

Let's Reverse the Pattern of Secrecy

Concerned that our government keeps from the American public information that we need to make our families safe, secure our country and strengthen democracy, a broad-based set of organizations formed OpenTheGovernment.org. We hope you'll help.

 

Read our 2009 Year End Report.

Read our 2010- 2012 Strategic Plan.

 

 


Sunshine Week 2011 Webcast: Friday, March 18

The Sunshine Week 2011 Webcast will be on Friday, March 18 from noon to 1:30 pm (eastern). Watch the event live at the Center for American Progress or online.

Not in DC and want to participate? Host a local program! For more information, email Amy Bennett or call us at 202-332-6736. Click here for more information.


Groups Urge Focus on Problem at Hand in Post-WikiLeaks Information Security Assessments

A broad range of openness, national security, and civil rights organizations urged OMB Director Jacob Lew to to conduct the President's called-for review of the implementation of safeguarding procedures for classified information in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures in a manner that is targeted to the problem at hand and does not sweep so broadly as to infringe on protected constitutional rights and privacy interests of employees. The letter was prompted by concerns raised by a January 3 OMB Memo giving agencies guidance on initial assessments.

According to Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, "The majority of the questions focus appropriately on safeguarding policies and practices and oversight measures. Some of the questions, however, address personnel security and do not appear to be based on known standards or on publicly-reviewed rules." See the press release here.


WikiLeaks Frequently Asked Questions

We have worked with our partners to answer some common questions about the WikiLeaks controversy and government openness , including: Are the people working for WikiLeaks journalists?;Could Bradley Manning, or other accused leakers, and WikiLeaks be prosecuted?; What should be done to better protect our national security?; and What is the relationship between the WikiLeaks case and S.372, the Whistleblower Protection Act, which ultimately failed to pass during the lame duck session of Congress? Visit here for additional resources.


OpenTheGovernment, Partners, Thank NARA for Demanding CIA Accountability

More than 30 organizations and 125 individuals joined OpenTheGovernment.org in thanking the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for calling on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to account for the illegal destruction of videotapes showing the torture of detainees at CIA black sites. Giving the CIA a free pass sends the wrong message to agencies that may have information that, if released, would be embarrassing or reveal illegal activities. We are profoundly disappointed the Department of Justice (DOJ) has to date declined to bring any criminal charges over this blatant violation of the Federal Records Act and destruction of evidence, and hope DOJ will fully support NARA's investigation and act on its conclusions.

 


 

Policy and News Updates for January 25, 2011

 

    • News from Coalition Partners & Others
    • 2011 Sunshine Week Webcast to be Broadcast on March 18
    • Supreme Court Hears FOIA Case on "Personal Privacy" for Corporations

 


 

Open Government Advocates Welcome New Limits on Information Markings

 

On November 4, the Obama Administration released a new Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) policy rescinding the Bush Administration's Executive Order and standardizing and limiting the use of control markings on unclassified information. According to Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, ""The Bush policy and earlier drafts could have created a fourth level of classification. Instead, this Order is a victory for openness, for both our community and the Administration. We applaud the Administration for the time, effort, and thoughtful consideration of input from inside and outside government it took to make this the outcome."

Read the full press release here.


 

Urge The Senate to Allow Camera Coverage in the Supreme Court

 

On October 28, almost 3 dozen organizations, including OpenTheGovernment.org and many coalition partners, joined with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in sending a letter urging the Senate to support S. 446, a bipartisan bill that would allow cameras into Supreme Court proceedings unless doing so violates the due process rights of one of the parties. You can join the effort to open the Supreme Court by using the ACLU's action alert to send an email to your Senator urging him or her to support the bill and to urge Majority Leader Reid to bring S. 446 up for a vote in the remaining days of the 111th Congress.

 


Evaluating Open Government

 

UPDATE OpenTheGovernment.org posted a response to public feedback on our proposed framework to evaluate openness at federal agencies.

The framework is divided into three sections: 1) availability of information identified by the nongovernment openness community as critical for accountability; 2) progress in implementation of the agency's open government plan; and 3) the accessibility of information on the agency's website. OpenTheGovernment.org will be working with our volunteers, a group of individuals with experience working with agencies and evaluating information policies from nonprofit groups, academia, and other organizations that serve the public interest to complete sections 1 and 2. The Section 3 evaluation will be completed by the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies at Miami University of Ohio; we expect results of this section of the evaluation before the end of the year

The evaluations are a continuation of the coalition's effort to assess the Obama Administration's Open Government Initiative. The project was launched with an audit of the Open Government Plans agencies were required to develop by April 7, 2010, under the Open Government Directive. Initial results of the audit were released in May, and updated results were released at the end of June. The updated results also include evaluations of plans created by agencies that were not required to do so, but did anyway.

 


2010 Secrecy Report Card Released

 

 

On Tuesday, September 7, OpenTheGovernment.org released the 2010 Secrecy Report Card 2010 Secrecy Report Card, a quantitative report on indicators of government secrecy. The report chronicles a continued decrease in most indicators of secrecy since the end of the Bush Administration and growing backlogs in the declassification system as old secrets move through the system. The report covers the first 9 months of President Obama's Administration. According to Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, "The 2008 elections were largely seen as a referendum on the extreme secrecy of the last Administration. On his first full day in office, President Obama pledged his Administration would be the most open, transparent and accountable in history. The Secrecy Report Card helps the public monitor the progress, or lack thereof, the President makes toward that goal."

Read the press release here.


Follow OpenTheGovernment.org's Latest Efforts to Make the Federal Government More Open

 

As part of the effort to make the federal government a more open place, OpenTheGovernment.org works with our coalition partners and other advocates to highlight important issues and correct systemic problems. Keep up with our latest:

 


 

Watch the video HERE

Click on the links for OpenTheGovernment.org's Sunshine Week program and for a hand-out, "The White House on Transparency." For details, including a full list of panelists, click here.

 


 

 

Government Secrecy: Decisions Without Democracy Available for Purchase

 

See our Reports page.

 


 

OpenTheGovernment.org Analysis of Congressional Initiatives to Improve Information Sharing and Reduce Unnecessary Over-classification