Policy and News Updates for March 23, 2010



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

 

News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. Coalition Partners Welcome Bills to Increase Openness

II. Special Thanks to the Sunshine Week 2010 Sponsors

III. Sunshine Week Round-up

News from Coalition Partners & Others

 

 

National Security Archive Announces Rosemary Award Winner, Releases FOIA Audit

Immediately prior to the kick-off of Sunshine Week, the National Security Archive announced the 2010 Rosemary Award for Worst Open Government Performance. This year the annual award, named after President Nixon’s secretary who erased 18 and a half minutes of a crucial Watergate tape, was given to the Federal Chief Information Officers’ Council, the senior federal officials (responsible for $71 billion a year of IT purchases) who have never addressed the failure of the government to save its email electronically.

The following Monday, March 15, the Archive released a government-wide FOIA audit based on data obtained from government agencies through FOIA requests filed by the Archive in September 2009. The results of the audit show that, while some agencies can show progress in implementing the Obama administration’s FOIA policy and guidelines, other agencies cannot. According to the Archive, the results indicate "that much more pressure and leadership will be necessary, both inside and outside the government," to render a judgment on how far President Obama can move the government toward openness.

 

Coalition Partners Testify at House Oversight Hearing on FOIA

On Thursday, March 19, David Sobel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Adina Rosenbaum of Public Citizen, and Dr. David Cuillier of the Society of Professional Journalists presented testimony on current trends in the administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Download testimony, and link to a copy of the webcasted hearing, here.

 

POGO Accomplishments Highlighted by the Carnegie Corporation of America

The Project On Government Oversight’s (POGO) work with whistleblowers to add transparency to government operations was recognized in the Spring 2010 edition of Carnegie Results, a quarterly newsletter published by Carnegie Corporation of New York. Read the report here.

 

RCFP Announces New Freedom of Information Director

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) has announced that in late April Mark R. Caramanica will join RCFP as their new Freedom of Information (FOI) Director. In addition to supervising the Reporters Committee’s FOI efforts, Caramanica will also manage the committee’s intern program.

 

I. Coalition Partners Welcome Bills to Increase Openness

During last week’s Sunshine Week celebration, OpenTheGovernment.org and several coalition partners applauded new Congressional efforts to improve public access to government information. As part of a package of bills to make sure the public has access to information from the federal government, the House passed H.R. 1387, the Electronic Message Preservation Act, a similar bill to one passed by the House during the 110th Congress (H.R. 5811) requiring the Archivist of the United States to promulgate regulations governing presidential and agency preservation of email. Also in the House, open government advocates welcomed the introduction of H.R. 4845, the Public Online Information Act (POIA) and several coalition partners, including OpenTheGovernment.org joined the Sunlight Foundation in calling for Congressional hearings on the bill. The bill, introduced by Representative Steve Israel (D-NY), is the first legislative effort to require the executive branch to begin putting its public information online, and to provide for enforcement.

In the Senate, more than 30 organizations joined OpenTheGovernment.org on a letter in support of S. 3111, the Faster FOIA Act. The bill, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) would establish an advisory commission charged with presenting recommendations to Congress and the President to reduce delays in the administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). While backlogs have presented a longstanding problem in agency implementation of the FOIA, the conditions and practices that create those backlogs are not fully understood. By undertaking a thorough study of the root causes of FOIA processing delays, and developing concrete recommendations, the commission will help agencies successfully implement President Obama’s directive to reduce significant backlogs of outstanding FOIA requests.

 

 

II. Special Thanks to the Sunshine Week 2010 Sponsors

OpenTheGovernment.org would like to give a special thanks to our 2010 Sunshine Week Webcast Sponsors: American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Center for American Progress, League of Women Voters, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Freedom of Information Coalition, OMB Watch, Public Citizen, Sunshine Week, Special Libraries Association, and Sunlight Foundation. Our partners provided invaluable assistance planning, organizing, and executing our annual event.

 

III. Sunshine Week Round-up

In the spirit of Sunshine Week, several organizations, including OpenTheGovernment.org, held events last week to review and examine whether or not the federal government is moving toward the extraordinary level of openness promised by President Obama and other Administration officials. The week was kicked off on Monday with the First Amendment Center’s 12th National FOI Day Conference at the Newseum, and the Collaboration on Government Secrecy’s Third Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration at the Washington College of Law on Tuesday. Bookending the week was OpenTheGovernment.org’s 2010 Sunshine Week Webcast: Building Transparency. During the event, panelists examined the administration’s new open government initiatives and their effect on the public. (View an archived version of the webcast here).

The Administration also gave special recognition to openness during Sunshine Week. Attorney General Holder spoke to FOIA officials at the Justice Department about the shift toward a presumption of openness required by his year-old FOIA guidelines, and White House officials issued a memorandum reminding agencies to redouble their efforts to reduce the government’s backlog of FOIA requests.

 

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