Policy and News Update for September 20, 2011

In This Issue:

News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Groups Call for Presidential Advisory Committee on Open Government
II. White House Releases Transparency Status Report

News from Coalition Partners & Others

Sunlight Pushes Campaign to Open Super Committee

The Sunlight Foundation pushed forward the on-going partner-supported campaign to get the Super Committee created by the debt ceiling agreement to operate in an open and transparent fashion. As expected, while the Super Committee’s rules do promise at least some of the body’s meetings will be open to the public, they do not include the strong disclosure regime endorsed by many in the openness community. On September 15 Sunlight sent a letter, signed by OpenTheGovernment.org and several of our partners urging Super Committee members to voluntarily disclose information on fundraising and lobbying.

RCFP Releases Updated Edition of State-By-State Open Government Guide

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) has issued the 6th Edition of its Open Government Guide, a comprehensive overview of open records and open meetings laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Users can cross-reference and compare the laws in different states or simply get an in-depth analysis of one state. A CD version of the entire guide and hard copies of each state’s section also can be ordered from the Reporters Committee for a small fee. Learn more here.

EPIC Awarded Fees in FOIA Litigation Over DHS Body Scanner Program

A Federal Court recently ruled that the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) "substantially prevailed" in its open government lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for information about the agency’s airport body scanner program and has awarded attorneys fees to EPIC. The Court also denied a request to reconsider an earlier ruling, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling FOIA in Milner v. Dept. of Navy striking down the federal government’s use of a "high 2" exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to protect all internal rules and practices that guide employees in discharging their duties. EPIC plans to submit a new FOIA request for the information formerly withheld under the high 2.

I. Groups Call for Presidential Advisory Committee on Open Government

On September 8 several of our partners and others joined OpenTheGovernment.org and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) in sending a letter urging the Administration to create a Presidential Advisory Committee on Open Government under the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 (FACA). We hope this committee will be a key objective in the initial U.S. OGP Action Plan scheduled to be announced today as part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).The OGP is an initiative that will bring together partners from many countries and sectors to support governments’ efforts to become more transparent, accountable, and participation. This Committee would help raise the profile of open government on the international stage, throughout the U.S. federal government, and set an example for other countries. A Presidential Advisory Committee on Open Government, subject to the constraints and responsibilities of FACA, is a good model for effectively developing an action plan and can help build a stronger foundation for open government work. Learn more about the proposal here.

II. White House Releases Transparency Status Report

Last Friday the White House released an Open Government Status Report detailing an impressive series of changes they have made to make the Executive branch more open in a relatively short period of time. The report focuses on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Open Government Directive, Data.gov, spending transparency, White House transparency, and efforts to limit the use of security restrictions to keep information secret. Notably, the report acknowledges that the Administration has more work to do to meet the level of unprecedented openness the President committed to creating on his first day in office, and includes a description of the Administration’s plans to build on their transparency initiatives. We are pleased to see the Administration under-taking this kind of a review: it helps us all remember what has been achieved, and what challenges remain. We and our partners will continue to work with the Administration and hold it accountable for its commitments, and push its openness agenda more widely. Read more about the report, and our reaction, here.

 

 

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