Policy and News Updates for January 29, 2008


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

I. Bush Budget May Shift OGIS Funding from NARA to DOJ, Undermining OPEN-Government Act
II. The Smithsonian Institution and FOIA
III. Legislative Update

News from Coalition Partners & Others

 

I. Bush Budget May Shift OGIS Funding from NARA to DOJ, Undermining OPEN-Government Act

Despite clear language in S. 2488, the OPEN Government Act, to establish the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Senator Leahy reported that the Bush Administration plans instead to shift the OGIS/NARA funding to the Department of Justice. Although an OMB spokesman said that the final budget has not been released, Senators Leahy and Cornyn expressed astonishment that the DOJ, which has failed to improve FOIA service from other agencies, would be given control over an ombudsman, creating what Pete Weitzel of the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government called "a clear conflict of interest."

 

II. The Smithsonian Institution and FOIA

Representatives from OpenTheGovernment.org and other organizations met with staff for members of Congress on the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents to urge the revision of Directive 807, a recently-adopted policy that would permit the Smithsonian Institution to conceal information from the public. While the Smithsonian is not technically covered by the Freedom of Information Act, it is, as OpenTheGovernment.org and thirty other signatories explained in a recent letter, "the guardian of our Nation's treasures…a great institution funded largely by taxpayer dollars to house, maintain, study, and exhibit so many diverse elements comprising our national heritage," and as such, should set an example of transparency, rather than opacity. House staff indicated that the Smithsonian Institution's Governance Committee discussed the document and revisions are expected.

 

III. Legislative Update

Senator Ted Kennedy introduced S. 2533, the "State Secrets Protection Act," on January 22. Co-sponsored by Senators Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy, this bill would amend federal law by providing for judicial review of evidence that the government argues is exempt under the state secrets privilege. The "state secrets" privilege has been in the news lately in both litigation (e.g., the NSA's warrantless wiretapping) and analysis; see Confronting the State Secrets Privilege [1/14] and Confronting the State Secrets Privilege [1/29], from the Secrecy News blog.

S. 886, the Presidential Records Act Amendments, first held up by Senator Bunning, is now being held up by Senator Sessions. Please contact his office in Washington, DC (202-224-4124) or in Birmingham, AL (205-731-1500) and ask him to work with bipartisan supporters of the bill.

 

News from Coalition Partners & Others

 


NFOIC Grants

The National Freedom of Information Coalition is now accepting applications for grants to NFOIC members. Click here for more details, examples, an application, and contact information. Charles Davis, director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, has also volunteered to help would-be applicants formulate ideas for grant applications.

 


The Center for Public Integrity: "The Buying of the President 2008"

The Center for Public Integrity rolled out "The Buying of the President 2008," a website designed to go with CPI's quadrennial book about the politics and economics of presidential campaigns. Since 1996, CPI has reported on candidates and benefactors, politicians and staff, from historical details to interviews with all kinds of players.

 

 

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