Policy and News Updates for October 12, 2010

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


News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. Comment Period on Open Government Evaluation Extended

II. Leg Update: Bills to Close SEC FOIA Loophole, Reduce Overclassification Signed

III. Congressionally Mandated Reports Act Pulled from House Schedule

News from Coalition Partners & Others

CREW Issues Report on FOIA Obstacles

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) issued a report chronicling the state of FOIA administration under the Obama administration. The report’s findings, which are based on the results of a survey CREW conducted of hundreds of FOIA professionals in the federal government, point to problems with the implementation of FOIA at the agencies.


TRAC Fights ICE for Access to Key Data

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) sent a letter protesting Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) refusal to release performance data about how the agency is enforcing the immigration laws. TRAC noted that, in addition to committing serious legal and procedural violations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by deciding to withhold the information, ICE said previously released the data it now said were "unavailable."


GAP Announces Launch of Food Integrity Campaign Website

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) launched a new website for its Food Integrity Campaign (FIC), a campaign to protect to protect the rights of whistleblowers in the food industry and government who speak out against unhealthy food, unsafe procedures, and inhumane animal handling practices. The website also informs the public about food-related issues, including a healthy food system, fair labor standards, and humane treatment of animals.


Bill of Rights Defense Committee Talks About National Security Letters and Fusion Centers

Shahid Buttar, Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, (BORDC) uploaded a YouTube video explaining the issues with National Security Letters (NSL) and intelligence fusion centers. The video is moderated by OpenTheGovernment.org partner Michael Ostrolenk of the Liberty Coalition.


I. Comment Period on Open Government Evaluation Extended

Agency personnel, Administration officials, good government advocates, and others with an interest in promoting open and accountable government have through October 15 to comment on a proposal to evaluate open government at federal agencies. The framework is intended to measure each agency examined on the basis of: the availability of information identified by the nongovernment openness community as critical for accountability; progress in implementation of the agency’s open government plan; and the accessibility of information on the agency’s website. To add your thoughts to the discussion, click on the "talk bubble" on the right side of the webpage. You can add general comments, or comments on a particular section of the proposal. If you’d like to provide comments on the proposal without posting them to the site, please email info@openthegovernment.org. We will consider and respond to all relevant comments before releasing a final framework.


II. Bills to Close SEC FOIA Loophole, Reduce Overclassification Signed

Last week President Obama signed S. 3717, legislation to strike the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemptions created for certain records provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under Section 929I of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act). The legislation is supported by OpenTheGovernment.org and many of our partners as a sensible fix to address the groups’ concerns that, if interpreted broadly, the new exemptions could have severely hindered the public’s ability to access critical information related to the SEC’s oversight activities. The President also signed HR 553, the Reducing Overclassification Act, which includes a requirement that the Inspector General (IG) of each executive branch agency that classifies information to evaluate the agency’s classification program and to assess its implementation of classification policies and procedures. Involving IG’s in oversight of the classification process is a good step towards reducing unnecessary secrecy.



III. Congressionally Mandated Reports Act Pulled from House Schedule

Prior to the House vote scheduled for September 28, H.R. 6062, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, was pulled from the suspension calendar. Currently, the only form of centralized publicly available information about these reports is a 235 page PDF of a sideways chart listing the reports. As OpenTheGovernmet.org and several organizations concerned with transparency and accountability pointed out in a letter in support of the legislation, these reports contain a wealth of information that enable the public to better understand how well federal agencies are (or are not) fulfilling their respective missions. HR 6062 would make it easier for the public to find this information and use it to hold officials accountable for their actions by requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to host a centralized website where agencies are required to publish all of the reports releasable under FOIA.


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