In a new report released today by OpenTheGovernment.org, civil society groups find that the U.S. government, despite some meaningful efforts, is not poised to fulfill many of the open government commitments made in its second OGP National Action Plan. In contrast to President Obama’s 2009 pledge to usher in a “new era of openness,” the White House has fallen short of civil society expectations and has not taken full advantage of the OGP platform to push through transformative openness initiatives.
The report summarizes the Administration’s progress on a subset of the commitments in its second National Action Plan, which was released by the White House in December 2013. The Plan fulfills a membership requirement of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international and multi-platform initiative that requires government and civil society to work together on the creation and implementation of open government reforms.
The report’s analysis is based on interviews and discussions with OTG’s civil society partners. These organizations have been monitoring the progress made by agencies over the course of the OGP process, and have directly engaged in meetings with government personnel over the course of 2015.
The report found that promising initiatives have fallen short of their potential, and certain areas of secrecy cast a dark shadow over the entire U.S. OGP process. These include secrecy on U.S. national security issues, such as domestic and global surveillance programs; targeted drone killings; torture programs; and the use of secret law to shut the public out of the debate on these issues. (For more details on these issues, see OTG’s remarks given by Abby Paulson during the July 30th White House public meeting on open government).
In order to convince the American public and the globe that the U.S. government is truly committed to openness, the report calls on the Administration to demonstrate greater commitment to transparency on these issues before this President leaves office. It can do so in its third National Action Plan, to be released at the end of October.
Civil society urges the Administration to adopt substantive, measurable and transformative commitments, pursue a more collaborative relationship with civil society, actively support transparency-related legislation and policies, push the intelligence community to significantly reduce both secret law and overclassification, and ensure agencies work both to fulfill and exceed commitments. A comprehensive list of civil society recommendations for the third National Action Plan can be found in the 2015 Model Plan.
*This report and post was updated on October 13, 2015
Read the previous two progress reports on the second National Action Plan:
OpenTheGovernment.org would like to thank the following organizations for their input, contribution, and engagement throughout the evaluation process:
American Civil Liberties Union
Brennan Center for Justice
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Federation of American Scientists
Government Accountability Project
Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University
National Security Archive
Project On Government Oversight
Publish What You Fund
Yankelovich Center for Public Judgment