OTG Calls for Accountability on Torture – October 28, 2014 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– OTG Publishes Shadow Report to UN Committee Against Torture (more)
– Join us Friday: OGIS at Five (more)
– A Critical Moment for FOIA Reform (more)

News from Coalition Partners & Others

National Priorities Project Tracks Federal Spending in the States

The National Priorities Project launched State Smart, an interactive publication that illustrates how federal funds are spent in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. State Smart spotlights spending on topics like education, transportation, health, and housing, and includes personal stories showing “faces of the federal budget.”

TRAC Finds Uneven Distribution of Workload for District Courts

A Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) study has found that the burden of a growing workload is falling on some district courts more than other. According to the study, some judges must handle workload that is four times greater than the national average. TRAC’s analysis is based on information pulled from Administrative Office of the United States Courts’ (AOUSC) fee-based online access system, PACER, and from a series of FOIA lawsuits TRAC brought against several divisions of the Justice Department.

OTG Publishes Shadow Report to UN Committee Against Torture

Ahead of the November review by the United Nations of the United States’ compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, OTG is spotlighting how the culture of secrecy in the US leads to multiple, ongoing violations of the Torture Convention. The “shadow report” to the UN covers secrecy in Guantanamo, the resistance to declassifying the full Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA torture program, the classification of the CIA’s rendition and “black site” programs, and more. As the report states, “[i]f torture is a state secret, impunity inevitably follows.” A summary is available here. Download the full report here.

Join us Friday: OGIS at Five

On October 31st, OpenTheGovernment.org, the Newseum Institute, and the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) will present a half-day event focusing on OGIS’ first five years and the possibilities for the future. Panelists will include OGIS staff, FOIA experts and users, and more. RSVP here.

A Critical Moment for FOIA Reform

Last week, 50 groups including OpenTheGovernment.org, sent a letter to President Obama asking key questions about the administration’s positions on legislative FOIA reform. As the letter notes, “FOIA remains one of the most effective tools for the public to know what its government is up to” and a key part of the Obama administration’s day one commitment to open government.

The reforms discussed in the letter reflect provisions included in a bill that is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee once Congress returns from election season, the bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act (S.2520). Some of the reforms addressed in the letter are also included in a bill passed unanimously by the House earlier this year, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act (HR 1211). We encourage the Obama administration to embrace reform efforts that embed the presumption of openness in government beyond this Presidency.



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