In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Groups Continue to Press for Free Online Public Access to CRS Reports
II. OMB Partially Responds to Community Concerns on Post-WikiLeaks Info Assessments, Meeting Set
III. Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act Reintroduced in the Senate
In Minneapolis June 16 – 19 to attend Netsroot Nation? Be sure to stop by and visit POGO – the Project On Government Oversight, who, after two weeks of voting and more than 2,700 votes cast, is a winner in the "Grab a Booth" contest. POGO will be at the event to spread the word about Provoking Accountability. See POGO’s announcement, and a thank you from POGO’s Executive Director, Danielle Brian, here.
The Center for Public Integrity launched the beta version of iWatch News, a new investigative news site that will focus on stories relating to government, politics, money, health care, the environment and national security. Learn more about the project by reading the New York Times’ write-up here.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) recently posted a memo the organization sent to the Executive Office of the President and the Office of Government Information Services concerning the refusal of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to give Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesters information the agency had previously withheld under an interpretation of FOIA Exemption 2 the Supreme Court struck down as overly-broad in a case known as Milner v. Department of the Navy. As the memo points out, ICE’s decision is an arbitrary administrative action that directly contradicts the policies of the President and the Attorney General.
Several organizations continue to work with OpenTheGovernment.org and our partners to campaign for free online access to CRS reports. Below are descriptions of a series of letters to influential members of Congress, and a response to an earlier request of the Librarian of Congress to appoint a new CRS Director who will work with Congress to provide free, online, public access to CRS reports. We will continue to keep you up to date on the campaign’s efforts, and let you know how you can help.
One of the letters was to Chairman Lieberman and Ranking Member Collins of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee asking that they quickly reintroduce legislation to authorize and promote the public distribution of reports that are published by the CRS. During the 11th Congress, Senator Lieberman and Collins (along with four other Senators) cosponsored S.Res. 118, a resolution directing the Sergeant at Arms in the Senate to make certain CRS reports available to the public online. A similar letter was also sent to Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The organizations also signed on to a letter urging members of the House and Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee to drop language barring CRS from using any funds to make reports available to the public from future spending bills. Eliminating the provision will not make CRS reports available, but it will remove a legislative roadblock block that currently frustrates efforts to promote the authorized publication of these reports. See a generic version of the letter here.
As noted above, we recently received a response from the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington, to our request to appoint a new CRS Director who will work with Congress to provide free, online, public access to CRS reports. Unfortunately, Dr. Billington echoes many of statements for denying public access to CRS reports made by the former CRS Director, Daniel Mullhollan, and does not seem to be willing to support any policy change without direct intervention from Congress.
OpenTheGovernment.org recently received a letter from Jack Lew, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in response to the openness community’s concerns about a January 3 Office of Mangement and Budget (OMB) Memo directing agencies to conduct assessments of safeguarding procedures for classified information in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures. Unfortunately, the response does not address the substance of our concerns, primarily that many of the steps to improve information security suggested by a 9 page list of questions attached to the memo distract from the real issues involved and infringe on protected constitutional rights and privacy interests of employees. Additionally, as a recent blog post from POGO explains, the response does not clear up any confusion regarding whether or not agencies are meant to use the assessments as a road map for improving security. Fortunately, Mr. Lew has agreed to meet with representatives of several organizations on our original letter; these issues and others will certainly be on the agenda.
Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) recently reintroduced the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act for consideration in the 112th Congress. The new bill, S.743, is nearly identical to the version of the bill that failed to pass during the closing days of the 111th Congress – despite strong bipartisan and bicameral support – when a Senator placed a secret hold on the bill. As of yesterday, the bill had picked up 12 additional cosponsors. We urge the Senate to pass S. 743 as soon as possible so that we are one step closer to finally protecting the rights of government employees who help our country by blowing the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse, and hope the House will soon take up a similar measure.