Policy and News Updates for January 11, 2005

Thank you for your support of OpenTheGovernment.org during 2004, our first year as a coalition. While it was a dark year for those concerned about government secrecy, there were some small gains that we can build on in the upcoming year. For example:

  • Congress strengthened a Public Interest Declassification Board to review agency classification decisions. This Board may provide much-needed oversight on agencies so that too many secrets are not kept.
  • A new proposal from the National Institutes of Health would require all published scientific articles based on taxpayer-funded research to be publicly available for free.
  • Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) failed in his effort to expand federal powers under the Patriot Act during debate over the 9/11 legislation.
  • Momentum is growing for Congress to strengthen whistleblower protections.

In addition, we showed that secrecy is expensive, costing taxpayers $ 6.5 billion. (In contrast, whistleblowers saved $ 2.1 billion in taxpayer dollars.) In 2005, we must keep up this energy to defeat a number of proposals. Congress will consider extending the controversial Patriot Act powers set to expire at the end of the year. The Department of Homeland Security may increase new limits on unclassified, public information. We may see Congress and agencies restrict other information that the public needs to ensure we are doing all we can to make our families safe, our country secure and our democracy strong.


Please alert us to any developments and news at info@openthegovernment.org. Join us in educating Congress about how openness and secrecy affect the work all of us do. Let us know about your advocacy efforts so we may alert others. And check out journalists’ plans to focus news attention on the public’s right to know and problems of secrecy in mid-March during Sunshine Week (http://www.sunshineweek.org/). Reporters will be looking for stories about how secrecy impacts everyday lives; consider ways your work can help journalists cover this story. Take advantage of that attention to highlight your group’s work to have a more open, accountable government.


Of course, the easiest way to help in OpenTheGovernment.org’s efforts is to sign on to our Statement of Values, and forward this message to friends and colleagues who might support our cause.


OpenTheGovernment.org wishes you the best in 2005!



Policy Updates



[new]Senate Confirmation Hearing for Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General
While Senators focused on the war on terror, two questions — including one from a Republican — focused on improving the public’s use of the Freedom of Information Act.
Status: Gonzales is likely to be confirmed.
Source: Text of the transcript from the Washington Post


**For other policies that OpenTheGovernment.org is watching, please visit our compendium.


The Spotlight Stories in OpenTheGovernment.org’s Press Room highlight the human impact of open government and government secrecy through stories from communities all over the country. Read the stories about how open government makes a safer and more accountable society, or submit your own story.



News Highlights



Looking for authors! The Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service distributes op-ed opinion pieces on any topic related to freedom of information. Pieces related in some way to the Freedom of Information Act are especially welcome. The op-eds may be published freely as long as the author is credited. To view the latest op-ed as well as all pieces in the series, go to Knight Ridder/Tribune. Pieces should be 700 words in length and sent as part of the email message (without attachments) to Ray Walker at rwalker@krtinfo.com and oped@krtinfo.com. Please also let us know if you submit a piece!


Recent pieces:

  • Martin Halstuk unravels the secrecy around the intelligence budget.
  • Charles Lewis reminds us that today’s secrecy requires courage.


Head of Worker Protection Office Accused of Retaliatory Transfers
[Washington Post Jan. 11]


Feds Failed to Disclose Financial Interest
[Associated Press Jan. 10]


White House, Pentagon, Industry Secretly Colluded to Skew National Academy of Sciences Perchlorate Report, Documents Show
[Natural Resources Defense Council Jan. 10]


Public decisions often made in private
[The News Journal Jan. 9]


Bill would allow some secret briefings
[Associated Press Jan. 6]



Government Failing To Share Information, Says Congressman Reappointed To Oversee Federal IT
[InformationWeek Jan. 6]



Forum focuses on possible ramifications of Patriot Act
[Dover-Sherborn Press Jan. 5]


Spy satellite debate comes out in the open
[MSNBC Jan. 3]


Judge says Legislature exempt from open records law
[Associated Press Jan. 1]


State Loses Bid to Withhold Documents
[New York Times Dec. 31]


Newspaper files suit to get letter’s contents
[Barre Montpelier Times Argus Dec. 29]


Reporting At Risk
[Sen. Christopher J. Dodd via the Washington Post Dec. 28]


FOI: Abbott Says Mandatory Education Needed
[Tyler Morning Telegraph Dec. 28]


Survey Finds Low Public Information Act Compliance In East Texas
[KLTV Dec. 28]


Federal doctors’ whistleblower protections limited
[Associated Press Dec. 27]


Sensitive Security Information at the USDA
[Secrecy News Dec. 27]


Torture Policy Documents in Contention
[Secrecy News Dec. 27]


US disclosures signal wider detainee abuse
[Boston Globe Dec. 26]



Past Updates…