Policy and News Updates for June 30, 2009


News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. Chairman Leahy Marks 43rd Anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act

II. Administration Continues to Encourage Public Participation in Open Government Initiatives

III. Administration Releases Further Guidance for Stimulus Funds
 

News from Coalition Partners & Others

 

POGO to Host Muckrakers Happy Hour: July 1

For those of you in the DC area, tomorrow, Wednesday, July 1, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), will host its second Muckrakers’ Happy Hour from 5:30 to 7:30 P.M. at Johnny’s Half Shell (400 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, D.C.). The event allows reporters, NGO do-gooders, IG staff, and Hill staffers from both sides of the aisle shared a few drinks and exchange thoughts on their latest investigations. No need to RSVP, just mention at the door that you’re there for the Muckrakers’ Happy Hour, and somebody will point you in the right direction.

 

EFF Demands Public Release of FBI Surveillance Rules

Last week the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice, demanding the public release of the surveillance guidelines that govern investigations of Americans by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The guidelines, which went into effect in December 2008, detail the Bureau’s procedures and standards for implementing controversial guidelines on approved surveillance strategies issued by former Attorney General Mukasey. EFF’s lawsuit comes after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a complete copy of the Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines. Read the complaint here.

 

NFOIC 2009 FOI Summit in Minneapolis

On June 6 the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) concluded its two day long 2009 FOI Summit. The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, a fellow coalition partner, served as the host for this year’s event. OpenTheGovernment.org director, Patrice McDermott, moderated a panel on infrastructure transparency. You can access streamed content and blog coverage of the event on NFOIC’s 2009 FOI Summit Wrap-up page.

 

I. Chairman Leahy Marks 43rd Anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act

Last week Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and long-time open government champion, issued a statement honoring the 43rd anniversary of the signing of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on July 4. The statement praises progress made in implementing the reforms included in the OPEN Government Act and notes the need for further improvements, including enactment of S. 612, the OPEN FOIA Act, a bill that, if enacted, would make it easier for Congressional staff, advocates and the public to find exemptions that have been tucked into large bills. OpenTheGovernment.org and our coalition partners look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Leahy and our other allies in Congress to continue to improve FOIA.

 

II. Administration Continues to Encourage Public Participation in Open Government Initiatives

The Administration’s process to create Open Government Directive has been extended. Participants now have until July 3rd to write recommendations at http://www.mixedink.com/opengov/, and until 5 pm on July 7th to read and rate recommendations. Some undetermined time after the public participation phase of the process is over, we expect the administration to release formal guidance, which should once again be open for public comment.

This week and next open government advocates also have the opportunity to participate in a similar process to gather recommendations concerning proposed revisions to executive branch classification and declassification policies. Participants are asked to use the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) blog to discuss four areas (sequentially): declassification policy, creation of a National Declassification Center, classification policy, and technology challenges and opportunities. Three days will be devoted to each topic before moving on to the next. Users will be able to make recommendations as well as comment, vote, or flag as off-topic other recommendations. At any time, recommendations can also be emailed to pidb@nara.gov.

 

III. Administration Releases Further Guidance for Stimulus Funds

Last week the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued further guidance on recipient reporting under the Recovery Act. The guidance, OMB’s third, was given a "mixed review" by the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery (CAR), an organization consisting of more than 30 diverse organizations – including OpenTheGovernment.org and several coalition partners- that was formed to promote transparency and accountability policies for federal recovery activities. While we welcome several aspects of the new guidance, we continue to insist that in order to promote accountability and meet its promise of giving taxpayers the ability to track every dime of stimulus spending, OMB must require reporting from sub-recipients and sub-sub-recipients. OpenTheGovernment.org and our CAR partners will continue to work with the Administration to improve transparency of stimulus funds spending.

 

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