Policy and News Updates for January 11, 2011



In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]

 

News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. Resources on WikiLeaks and Transparency Available

II. Advocates Join OpenTheGovernment.org in Applauding Effort to Demand CIA Accountability

III. Secret Hold Kills Whistleblower Protection Bill in 111th Congress

News from Coalition Partners & Others

AALL Seeks Nominations for Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) Award

Submit your nomination for the American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL) Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) Award by February 1. The PAGI Award recognizes individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to protect and promote greater public access to government information. Learn more here.

 

First Amendment Foundation Issues 2011 Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual (FL)

The First Amendment Foundation recently announced that the 2011 Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual can be ordered now. The reference book covers compliance with Florida’s Sunshine Law and Public Records Law and includes the procedural and notice requirements for open meetings and public records, as well as the statutory exemptions.

 

Sunlight Foundation Releases New Lobbying Registration Tracker

The Sunlight Foundation has launched a new tool to track lobbyist registration. The Lobbyist Registration Tracker allows users to see new lobbyist registrations as they are submitted (within 45 days of being hired by a client), to browse by issue, registrant and client, and to see the trends in issues and registrations over time.

 

OMB Watch Posts Commentary on Obama Administration’s Transparency Initiatives at the Midterm

Dr. Gary Bass, the Executive Director of OMB Watch recently published "Obama and Open Government: Turning Vision Into Reality" on Huffington Post. The piece discusses what the transparency initiatives mean for the public, assesses progress and failures to date, and suggests steps the Obama Administration should take to make sure good intentions and strong policy pronouncements are effectively implemented.

 

I. Resources on WikiLeaks and Transparency Available

OpenTheGovernment.org is working with our partners to provide access to basic information about transparency issues raised by the WikiLeaks controversy. With the benefit of input and advice from a broad range of our partners, we have developed and posted answers to some of the Frequently Asked WikiLeaks Questions. While these answers reflect that advice and input, they do not represent, and are not intended to be representative of, a consensus view among our coalition partners, or the wider openness community. We are also maintaining a site with general resources on WikiLeaks and US government openness.

Recently, OpenTheGovernment.org joined a broad range of advocacy organizations on an open letter to US Government officials organized by coalition partner the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calling on government officials to respect freedom of expression in the debate over WikiLeaks. As the controversy continues to play out in the media, in the legislature, and the courts, OpenTheGovernment.org and our many of our partners will continue to work to make sure that the public and public officials fully understand the full range of problems with our secrecy system (like POGO has done in its blog post "Systemic Failures That Set the Stage for WikiLeaks") and will support changes to laws and policies that will better protect national security information while not unduly restricting the ability of the public to know what the government is doing.

 

II. Advocates Join OpenTheGovernment.org in Applauding Effort to Demand CIA Accountability

More than 30 organizations and 125 individuals joined OpenTheGovernment.org in thanking the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for calling on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to account for the illegal destruction of videotapes showing the torture of detainees at CIA black sites. We understand NARA has yet to receive a response from the CIA, and we encourage them to continue calling on the CIA to explain its actions.

We continue to be profoundly disappointed the Department of Justice (DOJ) has to date declined to bring any criminal charges over this blatant violation of the Federal Records Act and destruction of evidence. DOJ’s decision to date to give the CIA a free-pass is antithetical to DOJ’s mission to enforce the law of the land, and sends the wrong message to agencies that may have information that, if released, would be embarrassing or reveal illegal activities. We hope DOJ will fully support NARA’s investigation and act on its conclusions.

 

III. Secret Hold Kills Whistleblower Protection Bill in 111th Congress

A last second secret hold in the final days of the 111th Congress killed the opportunity to finally pass a bill that would strengthen the law that protects government employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse. The House passed a slightly stripped-down version of the bill, S. 372, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, in the waning day of the 111th Congress thanks in large part to the efforts of several of our coalition partners. OpenTheGovernment.org and many partners signed onto a letter circulated by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) urging Congress to pass the bi-partisan S. 372 during the lame duck session and a letter circulated by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) urging Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) to not delay passage of the bill. Unfortunately, a hold placed on the bill by an unnamed Senator prevented the Senate from voting on the House version before the end of the 111th Congress. We will continue to work with our partners and allies on the Hill to pass a strong bill during the 112th Congress.

 

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