Policy and News Update for January 10, 2012



In This Issue:

News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. OpenTheGovernment.org and CREW Release Analysis of Effect of Obama FOIA Policy
II. How Should We Make the Federal Government More Open and Accountable?
II. We've Moved: Open House on January 20


News from Coalition Partners & Others


Act Now to Help ARL Start A National Effort To Digitize All Public Government Info


The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) recently sent out an alert directing supporters to a public petition, "Yes We Scan” on the White House's "We the People" site calling for the establishment of a Presidential commission or a high-level interagency Task Force that will answer within 1 year "what would it take to scan .gov?" What are the federal holdings at the National Archives, the Smithsonian, the National Libraries, and more; what would it take to digitize them; how much would it cost; and what are the economic and non-economic benefits? The petition was posted on December 21, 2011, by Carl Malamud, President of Public.Resource.Org and John D. Podesta, Chair of our coalition partner Center for American Progress. You must sign the petition by January 20.


Join Us on January 20th at WCL's Collaboration on Government Secrecy


On January 20th representatives from several coalition partners will participate in an event presented by Washington College of Law's Collaboration on Government Secrecy titled, "Transparency in the Obama Administration: A Third-Year Assessment." Register today to join Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), OMB Watch, OpenTheGovernment.org, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO),Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), and the Sunlight Foundation to talk about both the highlights and the lowlights of government transparency efforts during 2011. Register for the event and download the agenda here.

Reporters Committee Re-launches Website

Last month RCFP re-launched its website. The revamped site makes it easy to link to everything you need to file a public record request, including the Reporters Committee Automatic FOIA Letter Generator and links to federal and state Open Government Guides.


I. OpenTheGovernment.org and CREW Release Analysis of Effect of Obama FOIA Policy

An analysis released in late December by CREW and OpenTheGovernment.org of data collected by the government on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing reveals challenges the Obama Administration must overcome to create the "unprecedented level of openness" President Obama promised on his first day in office.

The analysis compares data from agencies' annual FOIA reports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, the first full year of data under the Obama Administration, and FY 2008, the last full year of data under the Bush Administration. As chronicled in the report, Measuring Transparency Under the FOIA: The Real Story Behind the Numbers, the results are mixed: agencies generally processed more requests more quickly under President Obama, and agencies used more exemptions to withhold information under President Obama.

More shocking were the myriad of problems with the quality of the government's FOIA data, and with the "public dashboard" set up by the Department of Justice, FOIA.gov, to allow the public to easily view the data and hold agencies accountable for how well – or poorly- they met their obligations to answer public requests for information. The report includes several recommendations for addressing these problems and making meaningful oversight of FOIA possible.

II. How Should We Make the Federal Government More Open and Accountable?

OpenTheGovernment.org has set up a blog to help us collect your suggestions for ways to make the federal government more open and accountable. As you may remember, last month OpenTheGovernment.org shared news about a report we had presented the Obama Administration with recommendations for what steps the Administration needs to take to meet the commitments it has made in the US National Action Plan (NAP) for the Open Government Partnership — and what additional steps we suggest the Administration take to meet these its goals. Now it's your turn to weigh in.

We need your feedback so that we can appropriately set priorities and make sure the Administration does everything needed to turn its promises into reality. We will evaluate the Administration’s effort to implement the plan, and will release results of that evaluation in September 2012.

The 18 goals laid out by the Administration in the NAP are written down the right hand side of the page. You can also find the areas you are particularly interested in by clicking on the "challenge" areas above or the tags to narrow down the list. The language from the NAP is in grey, and our recommendations are in green. Use the comment section to let us know what we missed, what needs modification, and how we should prioritize our recommendations.

III. We've Moved: Open House on January 20

OpenTheGovernment.org has moved offices. You can now find us at 1100 G Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005– the same location as POGO. In celebration of a great 2011 at OpenTheGovernment.org and a successful move to our new offices, we cordially invite you to join us at an Open House, hosted by POGO, on Friday, January 20, 2012, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., at 1100 G Street NW (entrance on 11th), Suite 500.

Light refreshments, beer and wine will be served.









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