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In This Issue:
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. New Coalition Partner Social Media Directory Available
II. Congress Should Carefully Consider Any Effort to Address Leaks of Classified Info
III. Groups Urge Senate to Turn Back Short-Sighted Decision to Defund the American Community Survey
National Security Counselors Calls on Congress to Weigh in on OGIS Authorities
Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors sent a letter to Congressional officials urging them to weigh in on unsettled issues regarding the respective responsibilities and authorities of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and the Office of Information Policy (OIP) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). OGIS was created by Congress in 2007 to serve as a mediator of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disputes and to recommend changes to Congress and the President to improve FOIA processing. As noted in the letter, several actions by DOJ in the last few years have been viewed by many as attempts to undermine OGIS' authority. The letter was prompted by DOJ's recent claim, made while acting as attorney for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a FOIA lawsuit brought by Kel against the CIA, that OGIS “just performs mediations” (see Exhibit C of the letter).
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has pulled together information and resources (including several useful tools created by coalition partners) to create guides that walk students and professionals through the process of requesting government information, and filing appeals. The guides are intended to help people who are unfamiliar with FOI laws, need help submitting a records request, or simply don't know where to start.
OMB Watch has published in-depth analysis of the Federal Chief Information Officer's (CIO) recently announced strategy to "Build a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People." The strategy was called for by President Obama's May 23rd memorandum, "Building a 21st Century Digital Government." According to OMB Watch's analysis, the plan lays out procedures for establishing openness as the default for public information and raises the bar for usability, efficiency, and innovation. Read more here.
OpenTheGovernment.org has compiled a Social Media Directory to help people who care about open and accountable government connect and share information. The directory can be found on the right-hand side of our homepage under our Coalition Partner Directory. The Social Media Directory lists twitter handles and facebook pages (where available) for our coalition partners, and twitter handles of members of our Steering Committee and staff. To suggest any additions or corrections, please contact Abby Paulson at apaulson at openthegovernment.org.
Last week the leadership of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees announced that they are working quickly to draft legislation to address leaks of classified information in order to have the language included in the final version of the Fiscal Year FY 2013 Intelligence Authorization bill. The Intelligence Committees feel a sense of urgency to "do something" in the face of a spate of recent high-level leaks involving the CIA's controversial secret drone program, the Stuxnet virus aimed at derailing Iran's nuclear program, and more. However, rushing to pass legislation to deal with the problem without careful consideration and the widest possible public input on the complex set of issues involved, runs the very real risk of writing into law policies that do not work and endanger other critical national priorities.
The issues at stake in any legislation to address leaks of classified information includethe tension inherent in both providing rigorous safeguards to avoid disclosure of legitimate national security secrets and also ensuring adequate public access to information about government programs to provide accountability. Further, any reform of the classification system should ensure that classified systems are not overburdened by information that does not need rigorous protections. Such unnecessary or inappropriate classifications make the system more difficult to manage and undermine respect for classification labels. Additionally, the civil liberties and free speech rights of public servants must not be compromised. The legislation must protect people who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, and ensure there are safe channels for lawful disclosures of wrongdoing. Seeking input from the public and experts in the field will help Congress ensure that any legislation intended to stop leaks of classified national security information appropriately addresses these issues.
OpenTheGovernment.org will be working with our partners and allies in the coming weeks to urge Congress to make sure it addresses the leaks of classified information with the widest possible public input into any legislation and with the most open process possible. Keep up with the issue by checking our homepage or following @OpenTheGov on twitter.
Several partners and other open government allies joined OpenTheGovernment.org recently in urging the Senate to reject the House's short-sighted decision to defund the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). The House eliminated the funding from HR 5326, the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
The ACS is an annual survey that provides data on the social and economic needs of local communities. Statistics generated from ACS are used by the federal, state and local government to make sure other government spending is distributed as effectively and efficiently as possible. Potential job creators like retailers, manufacturers, and service sector firms also rely on ACS' rich data set on neighborhood characteristics, including income, education, and occupational skills, to improve their business decisions.
The Senate's version of the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, S. 2323, was passed by the Appropriations Committee in April but is not yet scheduled for a floor vote.