In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Help Counter CIA Secrecy
II. RSVP for FOIA Requester Roundtable Hosted by OIP on December 8
III. Groups Urge Congress to Pass Long-Awaited Whistleblower Protection Bill
IV. Allies to Court: No Personal Privacy Rights for Corporations in Government Records
The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) recently updated the
Sunshine Week homepage to reflect
Sunshine Week 2011, which will be celebrated March 13-19. ASNE launched Sunshine Week in 2005 to promote dialogue
about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include hundreds of print, broadcast
and online news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits (including OpenTheGovernment.org and several coalition partners),
schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.
On November 15, the Advisory Committee on Transparency — a project
of the Sunlight Foundation that shares ideas with the Congressional
Transparency Caucus– hosted The Future of Earmark Transparency on
Capitol Hill. Panelists at the event were Steve Ellis, Vice President of our coalition partner
Taxpayers for Common Sense; Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy
Studies at the Cato Institute and founder of WashingtonWatch.com; and Daniel Schuman, Policy Counsel at the Sunlight
Foundation and Director of the Advisory Committee on Transparency.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
wrote to Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder on November 23 expressing concern over the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) failure to
abide by President Obama’s commitment to government
transparency and accountability, and the AG’s own
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidelines.
Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to not bring criminal charges against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
for the destruction of federal records: videotapes of the torture of detainees at CIA black sites. The destruction of
these records is a clear violation of the Federal Records Act, which DOJ should have pursued. The decision to date to give
the CIA a free-pass is antithetical to DOJ’s mission to enforce the law of the land, and sends the wrong message to
agencies that may have information that, if released, would be embarrassing or reveal illegal activities.
Not all of our leaders in the federal government are willing to stand by, though. The National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA) launched an early investigation into the issue, which was put on hold for the DOJ. We are thankful NARA has indicated that they will
re-start their investigation in light of DOJ’s failure to take the lead. You can join us in thanking NARA in a two ways: 1)
sign our petition;
and share the link
with your friends.
We are also circulating an identical letter from organizations. See the letter with current signatories
On December 8, the Office of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice (DOJ) will host its second annual roundtable
discussion with people who use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get information from the government. OIP
develops and provides guidance to agencies on questions relating to application of the FOIA, and produces an annual report on
FOIA compliance based on agencies’ annual Chief FOIA Officer Reports. The event is billed as an opportunity to exchange ideas
for increased cooperation, explore approaches to improve FOIA processing, and discuss areas where agencies can provide useful
information in a more accessible format to the public. The event will be held at 1425 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 11050
in Washington, DC, from 10 am – noon. To attend, you must e-mail your name and phone number to OIP’s Training Officer,
Bertina Adams Cleveland, at
OpenTheGovernment.org joined the Government Accountability Project (GAP)
and other members of the Make It Safe Coalition (including several coalition partners) in
urging the passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act
before the end of the 111th Congress. The bill enhances rights for federal whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud and abuse
to defend themselves against workplace retaliation; it is supported by organizations and individuals from across the spectrum
of ideological beliefs as a common-sense solution to save taxpayer resources.
In mid-November, a number of coalition partners and other allies urged the Supreme Court to reject “privacy” protections for corporate entities under the Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA). The Supreme Court will address the question when it takes up ATT v. FCC
on January 19, 2010. OpenTheGovernment.org, with several coalition partners, signed on to an amicus brief
written by counsel from CREW and the Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF) argues that: exemption 7(c) of the FOIA does not afford any protection
for so-called “privacy” interests of corporations, and that applying the privacy protection of exemption 7(c) to corporations would
bar access to documents long understood to be available under FOI and would afford corporate entities more privacy protections
than individuals enjoy. Additional amicus briefs were joined by Project on Government Oversight (POGO) (download here)
and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (download here).
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also issued a statement
rejecting efforts to broaden the personal privacy exemption to FOIA to include corporate information.