The threat to government openness and information access has been heightened due to a subtitle in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which had gone relatively unnoticed. Title VIII, Subtitle I deals with "Information Sharing" and establishes procedures for sharing "homeland security" information among federal, state and local authorities.
The Critical Infrastructure Information (CII) policy provides secrecy, civil immunity, preemption of state and local disclosure laws, and protection from whistleblowers to corporations that voluntarily submit information on infrastructure vulnerabilities. DHS developed CII guidelines as mandated in the Homeland Security Act Section 214 amidst controversy. The final rule contains the highly criticized provisions, as well as some very troubling additions that broaden the overall scope of the rule.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
See our Reports page.