News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Administration Releases Impressive New Action Plan on Transparency
II. A Look at Transparency and Federal Advisory Committees
III. 2012 Transatlantic Conference on Transparency Research Scheduled
News from Coalition Partners & Others
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) launched the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability on September 27 at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. The tour features "stops" at universities across the country during the current academic year (2011-2012) to educate the public – particularly our country’s incoming workforce – about whistleblowing. Check the tour schedule for stops in your area and keep up with latest by checking out the tour blog.
Common Cause, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the New England First Amendment Coalition, helped promote a unified effort by more than 20 of the Massachusetts’ daily newspapers to support legislative attempts to increase government transparency. See an example of the editorials run by the papers to buttress of better access to the Legislature’s deliberations and all public records here.
Tomorrow the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University (NYU) School of Law will host Curbing Needless Secrecy: Reducing Overclassification Through Accountability at the National Press Club from 12:30 to 2:00 pm. The event will feature the release of the Brennan Center’s latest report, Reducing Overclassification Through Accountability, and a discussion with classification insiders and experts– Scott Shane (moderator), New York Times national security reporter; Hon. Christopher Shays, former Congressman from Connecticut and former chair of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations; J. William Leonard, former director of the Information Security Oversight Office from 2002 to 2007; Dr. Jennifer Sims, member of the Public Interest Declassification Board, the president’s advisory committee on classification; and Elizabeth Goitein, Co-Director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program.
On September 20th the Administration released a National Action Plan that Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org calls "impressive in its scope and breadth." The plan was developed as part of the Administration’s leadership of the Open Government Partnership, an international effort to spur governments around the world to be more open, participatory, and collaborative. Among other agreements, countries that join the partnership must develop a national action plan with public consultation that includes concrete commitments to address at least one of the "grand challenges" governments face. The US plan addresses three of these challenges – increasing public integrity, managing public resources more effectively, and improving public services – and includes 26 concrete commitments.
We are particularly pleased that the Administration has committed to addressing the dismal state of records management in the federal government. As we have highlighted many times, the National Archives Records Administration’s (NARA) 2010 Records Management Self-Assessment found that 95% of federal agencies self-report they are at risk of losing electronic records. We urge the White House to work with NARA to make sure agencies are not improperly destroying records that could be crucial to answering public or Congressional requests for information, or writing a thorough account of a public policy’s development.
Last week we took a closer look at statistics on federal advisory committees that are included in our 2011 Secrecy Report. As highlighted in our report, during Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, 72% of the 7,254 meetings of active federal advisory committees that fall under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) were completely closed to the public. Breaking down the numbers further reveals that whether or not a meeting is likely to be open is closely connected to what agency the committee is connected to, and the purpose of the committee. These trends are especially troubling given that Congress passed FACA, in part, because federal advisory committees were perceived to not represent the public interest and were too often closed to the public. Under FACA, committee meetings are presumptively open to the public. Clearly it is time for Congress to reexamine and update FACA so that the presumption of openness is restored and we have a clear idea of how our government’s advisory committees conduct their — and our — business.
On June 7-9, 2012, researchers from North-America and Europe will gather at Utrecht University, Netherlands, in order to exchange the latest findings and insights concerning transparency and open government. The conference follows up on the 1st Global Conference on Transparency Research in Newark (NJ) in May 2011, during which Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, along with John Carlo Bertot, Professor and Director of the Center for Library & Information Innovation at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies and Ted Smith, Senior Research Fellow at the Armstrong Interactive Media Studies (AIMS) of Miami University, presented a paper on the evaluation of the open government plans federal agencies developed in response to the Obama Administration’s Open Government Directive. OpenTheGovernment.org Steering Committee Member Tom Blanton, who is the Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, sits on the 2011 Conference Program Committee. Learn more about the conference and the topics and deadlines for submissions here.