This has been a busy year for OpenTheGovernment.org, and we’re grateful for all the support we received in our work to make the U.S. government more open and accountable. Below, you can read about some highlights from our 2015, as well as a preview of what to look forward to from us in the New Year. If you want to join the fight for government transparency, follow us, write to us, and subscribe.
Working for transparency through the Open Government Partnership
This year, OpenTheGovernment.org coordinated civil society engagement on the implementation of the second and creation of the third U.S. National Action Plans on open government. We and our partners met with a variety of government officials throughout the year, and released civil society progress reports on the second NAP. We also created a Model Plan for the third NAP, and after the official plan was released in October, civil society scored the NAP based on the extent to which it incorporated our model commitments. OTG staff also attended the 2015 OGP Global Summit in Mexico City, where they hosted a workshop on civil society experiences.
Interested in joining our civil society coalition on the Open Government Partnership? Let us know, we’re always looking for new partners.
Protecting FOIA and access to information
OTG worked with partners to prevent Congress from undermining the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) through provisions in the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) and in the Highway Funding bill. Thanks in part to the advocacy of OTG and coalition members, provisions harmful to FOIA were removed from both bills. We continued to fight CISA right up until it was passed as part of the omnibus spending bill, as the final language was drafted in secret and undermines FOIA and other state, local, and tribal access to information laws, in addition to weakening privacy and civil liberties.
Challenging government secrecy on torture
OTG continues to seek greater transparency on the CIA’s secret torture program, to raise public awareness of the continued secrecy of much of the United States’ use of torture and to promote accountability. In 2015, the CIA responded to an OTG FOIA request for its classification guidance for the agency’s torture program – by releasing a heavily redacted version with all but one page whited out. In September, OTG’s Katherine Hawkins filed a complaint with the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), arguing that the Executive Branch continues to wrongfully classify information about the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program, even after the release of the Senate torture report’s Executive Summary last December.
Bringing civil society groups together for open government
OTG continued to play a central role in fostering meaningful collaboration between open government groups. In September, OTG hosted a Town Hall on Foreign Aid and Security Assistance Transparency, bringing organizations together to discuss U.S. federal agencies’ efforts to disclose data on foreign assistance, and civil society initiatives to promote public access to information on U.S. security and development assistance.
• Stay tuned for more details on OTG’s January Town Hall on policing transparency, addressing the ways that transparency and comprehensive data could foster police accountability.
• The Administration’s second National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership comes to a close this month, so look for our final civil society evaluation in January.
• OTG will be working to advance FOIA reform legislation before FOIA’s 50th birthday in July. Follow the Sunshine in Government Initiative’s #FixFOIAby50 campaign for updates.
• We’ll be back for Sunshine Week 2016 in March, where we’ll push for the Obama Administration to fulfill its commitment to a “presumption of openness” as it enters its final year.
Happy Holidays, and see you in 2016!
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