Policy and News Updates for June 3, 2008

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

I. OpenTheGovernment.org Commends Senators Coburn and Obama for New Transparency Legislation

II. Sunshine Week Webcast Now Available on DVD

News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. OpenTheGovernment.org Commends Senators Coburn and Obama for New Transparency Legislation

Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL) today introduced S.3077, the "Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act" (STAFSA); Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Carper (D-DE) have also joined as co-sponsors. Two years ago, the Obama-Coburn Federal Funding and Accountability Transparency Act of 2006 harnessed civic curiosity, technology, and raw government data, enabling people to see more clearly what the government does with their taxpayer dollars, on sites like FedSpending.org and USASpending.gov. The new legislation will provide several valuable advances to promote openness and access regarding federal contracting information.

STAFSA includes several key upgrades to federal data processing: collecting a broader range of data about contract details, combining citizen access and government-based oversight, monitoring compliance with regulatory protections, and making a number of technical improvements. We urge all OpenTheGovernment.org coalition partners and supporters to keep an eye on this legislation and similar initiatives.


II. Sunshine Week Webcast Now Available on DVD

The DVD of our webcast, "Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know?" is now available for purchase through the online store of the Special Libraries Association. The webcast also remains archived at OpenTheGovernment.org, and available via Veotag.

News from Coalition Partners & Others

Please Welcome VoterWatch to OpenTheGovernment.org!

Please welcome VoterWatch to OpenTheGovernment.org; the following is a message from Billy Hallowell, VoterWatch Director of Content:

"VoterWatch and the Sunlight Foundation are working together on a new initiative – an ongoing system to track and evaluate Congressional committees’ Web sites. We are actively seeking non-profit organizations to help rate House and Senate committee Web sites within your area of expertise and have developed a brief online process. Your organization’s involvement would help secure access to vital information for your organization and its constituencies, and provide essential feedback to committee webmasters. If you are interested in receiving more information about this project, please e-mail billy@voterwatch.org."


POGO Obtains DoD Inspector General Report Exposing Lack of Oversight Capacity

Last week, POGO (The Project on Government Oversight) obtained a previously-unreleased report from the Department of Defense regarding the capacity of the Inspector General’s office to maintain oversight duties and keep up with the increasing obligations created by a rapidly-growing defense budget. The report describes a variety of troublesome consequences. POGO noted that "nearly half – $152 billion – of the taxpayer dollars spent on weapons acquisition did not receive sufficient audit coverage (only $164 billion out of $316 billion did; page 11)."

Moreover, as Steve Aftergood indicates, "routine oversight of the Department of Defense’s massive and far-flung intelligence apparatus has been significantly reduced, according to [the report]." Aftergood also noted that a February 29 Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing involved discussion of "a pending proposal to assign new intelligence oversight responsibilities to the Government Accountability Office."

The report is available from POGO and now from the Pentagon. For further analysis, see also the Secrecy News Blog.


Former DOJ advisor analyzes DOJ-OIG report

Jesselyn Radack, Homeland Security Director for the Government Accountability Project, analyzes the accuracy of a recent report on FBI interrogations through the prism of her own direct experience ("Report on FBI interrogations omits the Lindh case of torture," Philadelphia Inquirer, June 2): "But praise for OIG’s demi-candor in an atmosphere of absolute secrecy obscures the whitewash that the report really is. The report finds, ‘We believe the FBI should be credited for its conduct and professionalism in detainee interrogations.’ But to reach this conclusion, the OIG omits one of the earliest and most obvious cases of torture and FBI misconduct – that of ‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh. … Yet, the OIG report states in its executive summary: ‘We found no instances in which an FBI agent participated in clear detainee abuse of the kind that some military interrogators used at Abu Ghraib prison.’ I know otherwise because I was the Justice Department ethics advisor in the Lindh case," wrote Radack.



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