In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. DOJ Drops Controversial Change to FOIA Regulations, Groups Remain Concerned
II. We’re Hiring: Seeking Consultant to Assist with Open Government Partnership Coordination and Evaluation
Several coalition partners joined Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in sending a letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in support of HR 3071, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2011. The bill does not affect whether a current or former president has the right to assert privilege to stop the disclosure of records. It puts in place a time limit for asserting privilege and processes for managing the disclosure of records if a former president asserts privilege. Without this legislation, the treatment of executive privilege claims by former presidents has been governed by executive orders that change with each incoming president.
The Sunlight Foundation used lobbyist data from the Center for Responsive Politics to compile a list of about 200 lobbyists using Twitter. You can follow what the lobbyists on the list are up to by signing up for the @SunFoundation/lobbyists twitter feed.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has announced recipients of its 2011 Pioneer Awards. The Pioneer Awards are given annually to recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. This year the awards will be presented to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, encryption innovator Ian Goldberg, and Tunisian blogging collective Nawaat. Learn more here.
Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it would drop a section from a proposed rule on implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that would allow agencies to lie about the existence of certain records in response to FOIA requests. The controversial change pertains to an exclusion under 5 USC section 552(c), which applies to certain law enforcement records and information on other sensitive national security investigations. The proposed rule would have allowed agencies using this exclusion to respond as if the documents did not exist (as opposed to responding that there were no responsive documents). This disturbing interpretation of the statute was highlighted in comments we submitted in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
According to DOJ’s letter to Senator Leahy addressing his concerns about the proposal, under operating Attorney General (AG) guidelines implementing Congress’ 1986 creation of "exclusions" to FOIA to protect "three narrow categories of law enforcement and national security information that, if disclosed, could compromise vital interests," agencies treat the information as not subject to FOIA. Agencies can truthfully report to requesters that "there exist no records responsive to your FOIA request." We are pleased to note that DOJ will require that records be kept of any uses of an exclusion — and its approval — and that the number of times an agency invokes exclusions will be publicly reported in the Chief FOIA Officer Report for that agency.
Several coalition partners, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Sunlight Foundation, OMB Watch, National Security Counselors, and Public Citizen also filed comments on the proposed FOIA rule that spell out concerns with a number of other proposed changes to DOJ’s FOIA regulations. We will work with our partners, our allies in Congress, and the Administration to address other troubling proposed changes in the draft rule.
Do you want to help us make the federal government more open and accountable? OpenTheGovernment.org is seeking a consultant to assist us in coordinating civil society organizations (CSOs) with a stake in US leadership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and managing the development of measurement tools to evaluate the Administration’s open government efforts.
The OGP initiative brings together partners from many countries and sectors to support governments’ efforts to become more transparent, accountable, and participatory. To participate in the initiative countries must embrace a high-level Open Government Declaration; deliver a country action plan developed with public consultation; and commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward. The US National Action Plan was released on September 20, 2011 and includes 26 commitments ranging from implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to managing the federal government’s electronic records.
Learn more about the position, qualifications, and how to apply here. Calls in regard to this opportunity will not be accepted.