Sunshine Week officially began on Monday, but OpenTheGovernment.org and many of our partners began the celebration early, paying particular attention to the Freedom of Information Act.
According to the National Security Archive’s latest FOIA audit, more than half of agencies’ FOIA regulations are out of date. Fifty federal agencies (out of 101) have not updated their regulations in line with the 2007 FOIA amendments, and 55 have not updated their regulations to incorporate the presumption of disclosure outlined in President Obama and Attorney General Holder’s 2009 guidance. See the Archive’s full audit here.
The Center for Effective Government published a new report card on agencies’ FOIA implementation, taking a close look at the top 15 agencies that received the most requests. The report is available here.
Cause of Action published a report on instances of White House review of FOIA requests. Download the report here.
For more Sunshine Week reports and events, visit SunshineWeek.org.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, the Coalition for Court Transparency, which includes OTG and several partners, sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts asking him to another step for press freedom and allow the recording and broadcast of the Supreme Court’s proceedings. The letter is available here.
OTG joined the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and 32 other organizations to call for the administration to expedite the declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation methods and to hold the CIA accountable for any obstruction of Congressional oversight.
Sixteen groups dedicated to openness and accountability joined the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and OpenTheGovernment.org to ask the House and Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittees to restore funding to the Office of Technology Assessment. The debates over surveillance and telecommunications policy make the need for Congress to have access to technological expertise more crucial than ever. Read the letter here.
OTG’s Assistant Director Amy Bennett testified the open government community’s priorities for FOIA reform and modernization last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In her oral testimony, Bennett recommended that Congress put tighter boundaries on the use of exemption 5 of the FOIA through a public balancing test and time limit on the application of the exemption. Bennett also called for greater support for the Office of Government Information Services to bolster its role reviewing agency compliance. Watch her testimony here and read about a number of other reform priorities in her testimony here. Bennett will also participate in a panel at the Advisory Committee on Transparency on March 19th at 2pm. Details about the event are here; she wrote a preview of the event as a guest blog for Publish What You Fund.
OTG welcomes Katherine Hawkins to the OTG staff as a National Security Fellow. Katherine previously worked as a fellow in the office of Senator Edward Markey and an investigator with the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment. She will be tackling a wide range of openness issues, including surveillance transparency and secret law.
Rep. Mike Quigley introduced the Transparency in Government Act on March 13th. The bill is wide-ranging and comprehensive, addressing transparency issues across all branches of government. Notably, the bill would require agencies to use FOIAonline, make responses to FOIA requests available online, and improve access to visitors’ logs of executive branch officials. A summary of the bill is available here.