Policy and News Updates for July 6, 2010



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

 

News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. Most Agencies Improve Open Government Plans Before Deadline

II. Annual Report on Classification Costs Released

III. OpenTheGovernment.org Submits Comments Supporting Open Rule Making at DOJ

News from Coalition Partners & Others

CDT Organizes Effort to Outline Concerns with Senate Cybersecurity Bill

The Center for Democracy and Technology organized a letter signed by OpenTheGovernment.org and several coalition partners outlining concerns with S. 3480, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010. The letter highlighted concerns that the proposal does not ensure the same amount of transparency about cybersecurity activities as other proposals, and recommends that, in addition to discussing other reporting requirements with the groups, the legislation should clarify that reports to Congress must be made available to the public. See the response from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs here.

 

NFOIC Uses Knight FOI Fund to Support Another Freedom of Information Suit

The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) announced that the recently-created Knight FOI Fund has been tapped by the First Amendment Coalition (FAC) to support a suit against the Los Angeles City Council over the Council’s failure to tell the public, in advance, that it was about to consider and vote on layoffs of thousands of government workers. Learn more about the Knight FOI Fund here.

 

I. Most Agencies Improve Open Government Plans Before Deadline

Twenty-three of 39 federal agencies responded to the call from OpenTheGovernment.org to issue revised Open Government Plans by a June 25th deadline. An independent audit, organized by OpenTheGovernment.org, of Open Government Plans required under the Administration’s Open Government Directive (OGD) found that many failed to fulfill the basic requirements outlined in the OGD. The initial audit did not include evaluations of the plans produced by several agencies that were not required to do so by the Obama Administration. OpenTheGovernment.org and volunteer evaluators with experience working with the agencies and evaluating information policies from nonprofit groups, academia, and other organizations that serve the public interest provided informal feedback on these plans to the agencies in May. Updated plans were produced by a wide-range of agencies: from all five agencies that produced plans evaluated by the audit as the "weakest" to five of the eight plans evaluated as the "strongest." Four agencies that were not required by the Administration to produce plans also submitted revisions. Updated results will be released in July on the coalition’s Evaluating Open Government site.

 

II. Annual Report on Classification Costs Released

On June 25, the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) released the Report on Cost Estimates for Security Classification Activities for Fiscal Year 2009. The report reveals that, after a slight dip from 2007 to 2008, the amount of money government agencies spend to secure classified documents resumed its decade and a half long climb upwards. The newly reported cost excludes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Security Agency (NSA), as their cost estimates are classified. OpenTheGovernment.org will use data from this report to look at trends in spending on classification and declassification in our annual Secrecy Report Card (released in September).

 

III. OpenTheGovernment.org Submits Comments Supporting Open Rule Making at DOJ

Last week OpenTheGovernment.org submitted comments in support of Attorney General Holder’s decision to remove the December 11, 2008 regulations governing when states seek to apply fast-track procedures and limited review of death penalty cases in federal court (OAG Docket No. 1464). The regulations that were developed in 2006 and 2007 and finalized in December 2008 were prevented from becoming effective by a federal lawsuit challenging the manner in which the final rule had been developed and presented to the public. Among other things, Department of Justice (DOJ) communications received through Freedom of Information Act requests revealed that the working group responsible for developing the final rule included prosecutors from the Capital Case Unit of the DOJ who had substantial conflicts of interest vis a vis the certification process. Internal DOJ communications also demonstrated that the regulations were developed through a series of ex parte consultations with state prosecutorial organizations and individual representatives of state attorney general offices interested in certification. In addition to supporting the removal of the final rule and beginning the drafting process anew, the comments urged the new process be conducted in a fully transparent manner, with maximal public participation ensured.

 

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