Global Surveys, Conferences and other Materials Australia Canada United Kingdom. United States, Scholarly Papers: Privacy; FOIA; and E-Government Issues. United States, Supreme Court Opinions United States, Other Court Opinions United States, Congressional Committees and CRS Reports United States, Presidency United States, Official Agencies United States, Commercial Request Services United States, Statutes United States, States pages United States, Non Governmental Organizations, Interest Groups United States, Press Other Countries
" The Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action, serving as a framework for advancing this human right, finds that access to information is fundamental to dignity, equity and peace with justice, and that a lack of access to information disproportionately affects the poor, women and other vulnerable and marginalized societies. The Declaration calls on all states and intergovernmental organizations to enact legislation and instruments for the exercise, full implementation and effective enforcement of this right. It further encourages all stakeholders to take concrete steps to establish, develop, protect and promote the right of access to information."
FreedomInfo.org's "IFTI" index of world financial & trade institutions' policy issues on freedom of information (thanks to Toby McIntosh, journalist). World Trade Organization's announcment of "derestriction" of its materials. [Local]
"Open government is strongly correlated to quality of life. Open government answers injustice rather than causing it (plans which cause injustice are revealed and opposed before implementation). Open government exposes, and so corrects, corruption. Historically, the most resilient form of open government is one where leaking and publication is easy. Public leaking, being an act of ethical defection to the majority, is by its nature a democratising force.
Hence a system enables everyone to leak safely to a ready audience is the most cost effective means of promoting good government -- in health and medicine, in food supply, in human rights, in arms controls and democratic institutions."
Wikileaks.org reveals emails of Gov. Palin (R-AK), claims she bypasses AK FOI law via personal email account, 17 Sep. 2008.
"Circa midnight Tuesday the 16th of September (EST) activists loosely affiliated with the group 'anonymous' gained access to U.S. Republican Party Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account firstname.lastname@example.org and passed information to Wikileaks. Governor Palin has come under criticism for using private email accounts to conduct government business and in the process avoid transparency laws."
FOI Research Unit, Univ. of Tasmania Law School. Articles and abstracts from the Freedom of Information Review as well as information from the Freedom of Information Research Unit.
Missen article for CFOI, UK, on Australian experience: http://www.cfoi.org.uk/missen.html
Administrative Review Council
The Council is responsible for overseeing and monitoring the Australian system of Administrative review and provides advice to the Attorney-General on strategic and operational matters relating to that system.
Australian Human Rights and Civil Rights:
Focuses on equal opportunity, freedom of information, bill of rights, privacy issues and Parliamentary protection of human rights in Australia. Also find related international links.
Maxwell School, Syracuse, faculty home page: http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/asroberts/ FOI NET (page of links and resources): http://www.foi.net Roberts's publications: http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/asroberts/research.html Canadian ATI request tracking database: http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/asroberts/track/index.html About the CAIRSweb index: http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/asroberts/track/track_info/cairsweb.html Roberts, Alasdair. 2006. Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age. Cambridge University Press. [blurb at amazon.co.uk] [Blurb at Amazon USA] Published in US Jan. '06, in UK May '06. Covers global openness. The first four pages, readable online at Amazon USA, reveal case studies of materials revealing corruption, released in India and Thailand under their Freedom of Information laws. The presentation consists of lively, journalistic vignettes rather than a traditional study of public administration. "Synopsis: Nearly forty years ago the U.S. Congress passed the landmark Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) giving the public the right to government documents. This 'right to know' has been used over the past decades to challenge overreaching Presidents and secretive government agencies. The example of transparency in government has served as an example to nations around the world, spawning similar statues in fifty-nine countries. This book examines the evolution of the move toward openness in government. It looks at how technology has aided the disclosure and dissemination of information. The author tackles the question of whether the drive for transparency has stemmed the desire for government secrecy and discusses how many governments ignore or frustrate the legal requirements for the release of key documents. Blacked Out is an important contribution during a time where profound changes in the structure of government are changing access to government documents." -- Amazon UK. "From Publishers Weekly: The conflict between expanding national security measures and preserving civil rights gets an extended examination in this timely history of the right to know. Lawyer and public policy scholar Roberts's occasionally exhausting book covers the right to know movement in a global and historical sense, touching on transparency movements and backlash domestically and internationally (the Freedom of Information Act's 1966 passing, Roberts notes, spurred the creation of similar laws in 60 countries) to show how governments across the world go to great lengths to dip, dodge, skirt and subvert openness laws. His account of the post-9/11 Bush administration depicts a secretive administration that bristles at attempts to reduce the secrecy under which it has conducted the war on terror. As Roberts demonstrates through countless examples, there are various ways for a government to subvert its own right-to-know laws without technically breaking any (classifying non-sensitive information, outsourcing operations, charging fees for information requests), sullying any optimism about the "rhetoric of transparency" that has been spreading as far as China in the past few decades. Roberts remains mindful that the "right to know" isn't a guarantee, but a struggle worth pursuing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved." -- Amazon USA
"Review: Alasdair Roberts' Blacked Out is a fast-paced, well-informed and engrossing account of the emergence of a worldwide movement to hold governments accountable by requiring them to disclose information they would rather withhold to conceal corruption, bureaucratic incompetence, environmental degradation, human rights abuses and other misconduct. It is essential reading for proponents of open societies. Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Institute". -- Amazon USA "Alasdair Roberts has written a monumentally important book, not only about secrecy and the right-to-know movement, but about the deeply troubling 'ethic of detachment' and quiescence of the American public. What good is significant information about abuses of power if there is no accountability, if no one acts on that information?"
Charles Lewis, President, The Fund for Independence in Journalism " -- Amazon USA
'The impact of the UK Freedom of Information Act on records management in the public sector' project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for 14 months (2008-2009). -- note received 18 June 2008 See https://www.ucl.ac.uk/slais/research/icarus/foi-impact/ "The UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force in January 2005. The Act imposes significant duties and responsibilities on public authorities to give access to information. To achieve this, public authorities need to know what information they hold, manage and retrieve information effectively, deal expeditiously (within 20 days) with FOI requests, and disseminate information through a publication scheme. As was made clear in the Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on the management of records published in compliance with FOIA (s 46), effective records management enables authorities to meet these obligations and underpins FOI. Together with Data Protection Act 1998 and Modernising Government agenda, FOI is a significant part of the wider government agenda to increase openness, transparency, trust and accountability in the public sector. The impact of information policy and freedom of information on public services and the effectiveness of public authorities in meeting their obligations are significant factors in the accountability of government to its citizens and of concern to all." "The central research question is: what has the impact of the UK Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 been on records management services in public authorities? More specifically, the project will examine:(a) how well records management services prepared for and coped with the first three years of FOI implementation
(b)what contribution records management services make to the ability of public authorities to comply with the FOI Act
(c) how the user experience of FOI is affected by the management of records
(d) what the implications are of FOI so far for good practice in records management."
"The research will seek to discover the impact of FOI and its link with records management from three perspectives:1. records managers
2. institutional FOI policy managers
3. FOI requesters and user communities"
"We aim to demonstrate how each group contributes to and benefits from the inter-relationship between records management and FOI. It will also identify examples of good practice which can be shared within the records management and public sector communities and will disseminate theoretical and policy findings to the professional, academic and public policy communities through publication." "For further details please contact Dr Elizabeth Shepherd, email@example.com, or Dr Alice Stevenson (Research associate) firstname.lastname@example.org" Roberts, Alasdair. (2005). "Spin Control and Freedom of Information." Forthcoming in Public Administration 83(1). (See further reading, below.) Open Government: a Journal on Freedom of Information. An open access e-journal, containing peer reviewed research and commentary on FOI worldwide and in the UK. Founded by Steve Wood. Freedom of Information Act Blog (by Steve Wood, Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University) Email Steve Wood Dijen Basu. 29 Oct 2004. Freedom of Information (1). Devereux Chambers. Patrick Birkinshaw. 1997. "Freedom of Information", Parliamentary Affairs, 50(1):166-181 (brief introduction available, but full text requires password)
Your right to know (BBC, 16 December 2004) Freedom of Information Act (Your Right to Know) Blog (by Heather Brooke, campaigner for open government) International Freedom of Expression Exchange Article 19 organization, selected documents on UK: Response March 1998, [locally mirrored] Censorship News No. 49, to the Government's White Paper on FOIA, 1997. Submission 1999 [locally mirrored] to same bill. Principles of FOI, 1999 [locally mirrored]. Papers given at 'The Right to Know' seminar, sponsored by Dutch government and Article 19 organization, February 2000: Mick McAteer, Senior Policy Advisor - Consumers’ Association, "Democracy needs informed consumers," (synopsis) [Locally mirrored] Peter Roderick of Friends of the Earth, "Environment and Access to Information," synopsis. [Locally mirrored] Marietta Cauchi of Finers Stephens Innocent solicitors, "International and Domestic Internet regulation,". [Locally mirrored] Mark Fisher, MP, "Legislating for Freedom of Information: the UK experience," synopsis. [Locally mirrored] Lindsay Ross, Press Freedom Director of the Commonwealth Press Union, "Media as a Public Watchdog: the Commonwealth Experience," synopsis. [Locally mirrored] Mary Rayner of Amnesty International, "South Africa – Truth and Reconciliation," synopsis. [Locally mirrored] Bronwen Manby, Human Rights Watch, "South Africa's Truth Commission," Paper written in 1996, distributed at 'The Right to Know' seminar. [Locally mirrored] Richard Carver, "Truth, Justice and Information". [Locally mirrored] Campaign for Freedom of Information, UK:Campaign for FOI, UK users' guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Environmental Information Regulations and new rights to see personal data [Local] Government statistics highlight "unacceptable" freedom of information delays, 23 June 2005 [Local] Maurice Frankel, on the first year's operation of the FOI Act, article in the Independent, Dec '05 [Local] and article in Press Gazette, Jan. '06. [Local] article on the Information Tribunal’s first three decisions under the UK Freedom of Information Act. [Local] Training Course on use of FOIA, May 16, 2006 [Local] Scottish Government's consultations on FOIA:
Stationery Office's text of the Freedom of Information Act, 2000 Information Commissioner's explanation) Official website from the Department for Constitutional Affairs (http://www.foi.gov.uk) UK Information Commissioner "The role of the Information Commissioner is to be the independent champion of public openness and personal privacy with various specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and other legislation."
Scottish Information Commissioner Scottish Freedom of Information Unit Victoria Quay Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ
Telephone: 0131 244 5405
Welsh Code of Practice (updated Jan '05)
Birkinshaw, Patrick. 2005. Government and Information: The Law relating to Access, Disclosure and their Regulation. London: Tottel. [Reviewed] Birkinshaw, Patrick. 1988. Freedom of Information: The Law, The Practice and the Ideal. London: Weidenfeld. Coppel at al.. 2004. Information Rights. Sweet and Maxwell. MacDonald, Jones et al. 2003. The Law of Freedom of Information. OUP.
Chris C. Demchak and Kurt D. Fenstermacher.
(2004) "Balancing Security and Privacy in the Information and Terrorism
Age: Distinguishing Behavior from Identity Institutionally and Technologically
Forum: Vol. 2: No. 2, Article 6. http://www.bepress.com/forum/vol2/iss2/art6
(Berkeley Electronic Press).
National security policies adopted after 9/11 have generated an intense and polarized national debate on privacy versus security. Privacy advocates fight to reveal nothing about individuals while security advocates would have authorities know everything. There is, however a middle ground if one decomposes privacy into a basic set of two elements. Full article (requires a login): http://www.bepress.com/cgi/...
Collection of "Privacy"; plus "the USA Patriot Act": abstracts of political science journals, from PROL, June 2004.
From APSA Conference '01:
Priscilla Regan, "Priscilla M. Regan. "From Clipper to Carnivore: Balancing Privacy, Law Enforcement and Industry Interests." Paper, 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 30-September 2, 2001." [Abstract] [Local PDF]
Catherine Lu. "Sovereignty as Privacy." Paper, 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 30-September 2, 2001. [Abstract] [Local PDF]
Abraham Newman, David Back. "In the Shadow of the State: Self-Regulatory Trajectories in a Digital Age." Paper, 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 30-September 2, 2001. [Abstract] [Local PDF]
Catherine L. Mann . "The New Economy: End of the Welfare State?." Paper, 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 30-September 2, 2001. [Abstract] [Local PDF]
Rosemary Nagy. "Reconciliation and the Public/Private Distinction: The Role of Victims and Beneficiaries in South Africa's TRC." Paper, 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 30-September 2, 2001. [Abstract] [Local PDF]
From APSA Conference '02:
From APSA Conference '01:
Darrell M. West. "E-Government and the Transformation of Public Sector Service Delivery." Paper prepared for delivery at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, August 30-September 2, 2001. [Abstract] [Local PDF]
Andrew Chadwick. "'Interaction between states and citizens in the age of the Internet: "e-government" in the United States, Britain and the European Union'." Paper, 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 30-September 2, 2001. [Abstract] [Local PDF] [Author's web site.]
Patrick Dunleavy, Helen Margetts, Simon Bastow, Jane Tinkler, Hala Yared. "POLICY LEARNING AND PUBLIC SECTOR IT: CONTRACTUAL AND E-GOVERNMENT CHANGE." Paper, 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 30-September 2, 2001. [Abstract] [Local PDF]
James Fowler. "Partisanship, Incumbency, Mandates, and Divided Government [Draft]: The Impact of Elections on Markets." Paper, 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 30-September 2, 2001. [Abstract] [Local PDF] [Author's web site.]
From APSA Conference '02:
Charles C. Hinnant. "Information Technology and Organizational Control: Examining the Management of IT in An Era of E-Government." [Abstract] Paper, 2002 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 29-September 1, 2002. [Abstract, Local] [Paper, Local PDF]
Caroline Tolbert, Karen Mossberger, Ramona McNeal. "Beyound the Digital Divide: Exploring Attitudes about Information Technology, Political Participation, and Electronic Government." Paper, 2002 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, August 29-September 1, 2002. [Abstract] [Paper] [Local Abstract] [Local paper]
Eric Welch, Shelley Fulla. "A Theoretical Framework for Describing Effects of Virtual Interactivity between Government and Citizens: The Chicago Police Department's Citizen ICAM Application." Paper, 2002 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, August 29-September 1, 2002. [Abstract] [Paper] [Local Abstract] [Local paper]
Stuart W. Shulman, David Schlosberg. "Electronic Rulemaking: New Frontiers in Public Participation." Paper, 2002 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, August 29-September 1, 2002. [Abstract] [Paper] [Local Abstract] [Local paper]
Thomas Zittel. "Political Representation in the Network Society: The Americanization of European Systems of Responsible Party Government? ." Paper, 2002 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, August 29-September 1, 2002. [Abstract] [Paper] [Local Abstract] [Local paper]
Procedures for invoking state secrets privilege -- FAS.org. "Practical Guidelines for Invoking the State Secrets Privilege," U.S. Army Memorandum for File, April 24, 2001, obtained via JamesMadisonProject.org under the FOIA. (Marginal notes are redacted under examption (b)(5), which protects the deliberative process.) [Archive, PDF] The personal story behind the 1953 Supreme Court ruling that established the state secrets privilege is explored, with other issues of government secrecy, in the new film "Secrecy" by Peter Galison and Robb Moss. The film was well received at the Sundance Film Festival, "The question of how much we should rely on methods inconsistent with our values is intelligently and elegantly handled," -- Los Angeles Times film reviewer, Kenneth Turan.
Subject: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Inter-Agency/Intra-Agency Exemption, Indian Tribes Question: Whether confidential communications between Indian Tribes and the Department of the Interior, in connection with the federal government's performance of its trust responsibility to protect and manage tribal water rights, are "intra-agency" documents that may be protected from disclosure under Exemption 5 of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5). Decisions: U.S. Court of Appeals - 9th Circuit, Filed: August 31, 1999 United States Supreme Court, Decided: March 5, 2001 [Findlaw] [Local]
United States, OtherCourt Opinions:
US House 9 Sep. '08 passed Overclassification bill, to have National Archivist develop procedures and incentives to prevent excessive classification US House members' Letter 26 June 2009 to CIA director Leon Panetta seeks to have him clarify that the CIA did mislead the Intelligence committees about covert operations from 2001. US House 9 Sep. '08 passed Overclassification bill, to have National Archivist develop procedures and incentives to prevent excessive classification Sen. Patrick Leahy's statement from Congressional Record, on the 42nd anniversary of the FOIA, June 2008: http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2008/foia42.html Congressional Research Service, updated July 5, 2007, "Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice and Recent Developments," http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/RL30319.pdf Congressional Research Service, updated February 1, 2007. "Freedom of Information Act Amendments: 110th Congress,"
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/RL32780.pdf [Local PDF]
Congressional Research Service. "Protection of National Security Information," June 30, 2006. From http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/RL33502.pdf [Local PDF] Harold C. Relyea, "Security Classified and Controlled Information: History, Status, and Emerging Management Issues," Report, June 26, 2006 [local PDF], Congressional Research Service. From http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/RL33494.pdf House Committee on Government Reform, home page (chair Tom Davis, R-VA-12) : http://www.reform.house.gov/ Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census [Adam H. Putnam (R-FL-12) Chairman].
House Committee on Government Reform, Minority (Dems) Office, (Rep. Waxman, D-CA) index: http://democrats.reform.house.gov/features/secrecy_report/index.asp
Executive summary of report on Secrecy in the Bush administration, Sep. 2004.
Entire Report in PDF, Sep 2004: [Local] http://democrats.reform.house.gov/features/secrecy_report/pdf/pdf_secrecy_report.pdf Rep. Waxman's 2004 Bill to Restore Open Government (PDF), summary: [Local]
House Report 104-795 to accompany 1996 EFOIA [Local]
Leahy & Cornyn OPEN Government Bill, press release Feb 2005 [Local]
Cornyn Bill “to establish an advisory Commission on Freedom of Information Act Processing Delays” . Restore FOIA Bill to amend Homeland Security Act, Congressional Record [Local]
http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2003/s031203.html [via FAS.org]
Restore FOIA bill [Local]
http://foi.missouri.edu/internatfoinews/leahy.html [care of Missouri FOI Center]
DOJ FOIA UPdate report on Leahy bill, 1994 [Local]
Leahy statement on passage of EFOIA, 1996 [Local]
United States, Presidency:
Inspectors General Unclassified Report 2009 on the Presidential Surveillance Program (warrantless wiretapping), required by statute in 2008, found the legal justifications supplied by John Yoo of the OLC under W. Bush were "deficient", omitted some legal provisions and were not peer reviewed. AG Gonzales misled Congress when he denied that there was disagreement within the administration about the legal justification of surveillance of US citizens. In fact, some career officials were on the brink of resignation. The IGs of the DOJ, DOD, CIA and NSA issued the joint unclassified report to four committees of Congress. [Local PDF] First Executive Order, on Presidential Records, revoking W. Bush order 13233, signed by President Obama, 21 Jan. 2009. The EO from president W. Bush had severely limited access by the public to presidential records. [Local archive] Second Executive Order, on Ethics commitments, signed by President Obama, 21 Jan. '09. [Local Archive] Presidential memo to Heads of departments on administration of the FOIA, White House press office, 21 Jan. '09 [PDF, Local Archive] President Obama's Inaugural Address: video and transcript. [Local Archive] Commentary: Todd J. Gillman, "Obama overturns Bush order on access to White House records", Dallas Morning News, January 22, 2009 National Security Archive, "President Obama embraces openness on day one ..." 21 Jan. '09 Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons, "President Obama swiftly sets course on Day One", Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2009 Mark Sherman, "Obama limits ex-presidents' discretion on records", Associated Press, January 21, 2009 Hope Yen, "Advocates praise Obama move on gov't disclosure", Associated Press, January 21, 2009 Posted text of US Executive Order 13392: "Improving Agency Disclosure of Information" issued by President George "W." Bush, 14 December 2005 Harry Hammitt commented at the time (Access reports, 31(24), 14 Dec. 2005:1-3) that the Order took the FOIA community by surprise; it seemed derived from the reinventing government strategy of the Clinton administration; was limited to practices already being implemented; and may have been intended to pre-empt the stronger provisions of the three Cornyn-Leahy OPEN Government bills in the US Senate. The order did not reverse the Ashcroft memo that had encouraged use of exemptions to withhold records under the FOIA. He suspected that the multiple references to working within existing resources would leave the order with little practical effect. Posted text of Executive Order 13292, "Classified National Security Information", signed by President George W. Bush, March 25, 2003. "We are launching a review of current policies by all of those agencies responsible for the classification of documents to determine where reforms are possible," announced President Obama in a major speech at the National Archives, 21 May 2009., that was carried live on the TV networks (before a scheduled, critical speech by former Vice President Richard Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute). President Obama said,"I ran for President promising transparency, and I meant what I said. That is why, whenever possible, we will make information available to the American people so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable. But I have never argued – and never will – that our most sensitive national security matters should be an open book."
"I will never abandon – and I will vigorously defend – the necessity of classification to defend our troops at war; to protect sources and methods; and to safeguard confidential actions that keep the American people safe. And so, whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions – by Congress or by the courts."
[A review of the use of the state secrets privilege was "nearing completion."]
"On all of these matters related to the disclosure of sensitive information, I wish I could say that there is a simple formula. But there is not. These are tough calls involving competing concerns, and they require a surgical approach."
"But the common thread that runs through all of my decisions is simple: we will safeguard what we must to protect the American people, but we will also ensure the accountability and oversight that is the hallmark of our constitutional system. I will never hide the truth because it is uncomfortable. I will deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government. I will tell the American people what I know and don't know, and when I release something publicly or keep something secret, I will tell you why."
Propublica.org, Journalism in the Public interest, offers this comparison of the OLC memos on enhanced interrogation techniques with the Red Cross report of the detainees' ICRC debriefings. The ICRC report tends to indicate more use of these "torture" techniques than do the memos. A number of Obama administration memos, news conferences and speeches were issued in early May, 2009, reversing the thrust of some of Obama's campaign policy statements on transparency: The photos of detainee abuses in military prisons across Afghanistan and Iraq will now not be released under the FOIA suit brought by the ACLU. The rationale is that the military command has strenuously objected that these would inflame opposition to the US in islamic countries in the middle east. Secondly, President Obama argued that there has already been an investigation and actions have been taken. Video of Obama speech, 13 May, from AP: "In Reversal, Obama Seeks to Block Abuse Photos." Jeff Zeleny and Thom Shanker, "Obama Moves to Bar Release of Detainee Abuse Photos," New York Times, May 14, 2009 Scott Wilson, "Obama Shifts on Abuse Photos" Releasing Images of Detainee Mistreatment Would Endanger U.S. Troops, President Says," Washington Post, Thursday, May 14, 2009. the PDF of fax sent from USDOJ to notify court and ACLU of the gov't action. Ed Hornick, "Obama reverses course on alleged prison abuse photos," CNN.com, 13 May 2009 ACLU, "Obama Administration Reverses Promise To Release Torture Photos: Decision Betrays Commitment To Transparency And The Rule Of Law," ACLU.org (5/13/2009) More information about the ACLU's 2003 FOIA lawsuit, which has resulted in the release of more than 100,000 government documents to date, can be found online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia OBAMA INTRODUCES NEW TRANSPARENCY LEGISLATION: On June 3, 2008, Sen. Barack Obama introduced a bill to expand public access to information about government spending. "The Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008," was crafted with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). Other co-sponsors are Sens. John McCain, and Tom Carper (D-DE). The new bill would strengthen previous efforts by Senators Obama and Coburn to provide public access to federal grant and contract information through the USASpending.gov web site, requiring all federal contracts and the bidding process to be published online. The provisions of the bill were outlined in a joint press release on June 3. http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2008/06/obama-coburn.html "People from every State in this great Nation sent us to Congress to defend their rights and stand up for their interests," Sen. Obama said in a prepared floor statement. "To do that we have to tear down the barriers that separate citizens from the democratic process and to shine a brighter light on the inner workings of Washington. This bill helps to shine that light." http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2008/s3077.html Yost, Pete, "Justice Dept Argues Limits of FOIA Law", Yahoo/AP, 22 Aug. 2007 [WH admin unit declared outside scope of FOIA] "Attorney General's Report to the President Pursuant to Executive Order 13,392, Entitled 'Improving Agency Disclosure of Information'," October 16, 2006 (1.2 MB PDF, Local) Gushes about minor improvements such as sending postcard acknowledgements instead of letters, and designating Chief FOIA officers. President W. Bush, Executive Order 13,392, on Improving Agency Disclosure, 14 Dec. 2005. [Local] White House Issues page on Patriot Act [Local]
Project on Government Secrecy produces well maintained web pages by Sgteve Aftergood, plus a regularly emailed newsletter: "Through research, advocacy, and public education, the FAS Project on Government Secrecy works to challenge excessive government secrecy and to promote public oversight".
National Security Archive, "Obama administration can act quickly to restore openness", press release, 12 Nov. 2008 National Security Archive, "FOIA Transition Recommendation" National Security Archive, "PRA Transition Recommendation" National Security Archive, "Classification Transition Recommendation" OMB Watch, "21st Century Right to Know Recommendations" [Large PDF] Sunshine in Government Initiative Report Lyndsey Layton, "Group Seeks Web-Savvy, More Open Government", Washington Post, November 12, 2008
US Report (2009) by OMB Watch on Controlled Unclassified Information, urges standardization of markings across agencies, plus a 5 year limit (presently there is no limit on CUI (aka SBU, "Sensitive But Unclassified") records, unlike materials actually classified. ISOO already has oversight jurisdiction for CUI.
Extracts of Brechner Center materials, for research purposes.
Progress & Freedom Foundation: "A think tank devoted to the study of the digital revolution and its impact on public policy and government: http://www.pff.org/. "
Robert McNamara: An Appreciation: National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 280. A valuable essay plus organized links, on McNamara's open re-evaluations of his foreign policy choices. Posted 9 July 2009.
FOIA's 40th Anniversary: Agencies Respond to the President's Call for Improved Disclosure of Information
In recognition of this important milestone in the history of disclosure of agency information, members and staff of OpenTheGovernment.org, the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI), Coalition of Journalists for Open Government (CJOG), National Security Archive, and other friends of openness in government undertook a collaborative look at a sample of the plans submitted by federal agencies in response to E.O. 13392, "Improving Agency Disclosure of Information," issued on December 14, 2005. View the accompanying table here.
Secrecy Report Card 2005
Government agencies are expanding secrecy in many areas, according to the findings of our report released on September 4, 2005. Press Release.
Secrecy Report Card: An Update
The federal government set a new record for keeping secrets in 2004, during which government employees chose to classify information a record 15.6 million times, according to new government figures highlighted in an update to OpenTheGovernment.org's Secrecy Report Card. Press Release
Secrecy Report Card: Quantitative Indicators of Secrecy in the Federal Government
Government data now confirm what many have suspected: Secrecy has increased dramatically in recent years under policies of the current administration. A 60 percent rise in secrecy during 2003 cost $6.5 billion. Press Release
Ten Most Wanted Documents for 2004
The 'Ten Most Wanted' is a list of documents that the public identified as the top documents the government should disclose to the public but does not. Press Release, Press Hits
Homeland Security Policies
"After September 11, the federal government passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002. In addition to creating the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the law contains two provisions that could exempt information from public access. Both the Critical Infrastructure Information (CII) and Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) provisions undermine corporate and government accountability...."
"Chemical facilities can endanger their workers and communities if not properly safeguarded."
Critical Infrastructure Information (CII)
"The Critical Infrastructure Information (CII) policy provides secrecy, civil immunity, preemption of state and local disclosure laws, and protection from whistleblowers to corporations that voluntarily submit information on infrastructure vulnerabilities."
Freedom of Information Act articles list, since 2004, on POGO's web. POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian and Board Member David Burnham Named to the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, March 8, 2006. Bush nibbles around the edges to improve FOIA and the public's right to government information. December 14, 2005. read this White House Press Release Response to FOIA requests varies significantly, The Hill, November 17, 2005. [Local] POGO Letter - Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Closes the Door on Accessing FOIA-able Information. DHS's revised policy for identifying and safeguarding unclassified information could result in serious lapses, misconduct, or even weaknesses in national security going uncorrected, according to letter sent to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. August 31, 2005. [Local] POGO supports the “OPEN Government Act of 2005” – a bi-partisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) & Sen. Leahy (D-VT) to strengthen FOIA and public access to government information. For more information about the Cornyn-Leahy bill and related materials, please visit http://cornyn.senate.gov/FOIA/ and http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200502/021605.html. February 10, 2005. Kate Martin from the Center for National Security Studies argues in this memo that pending intelligence reorganization bills will expand the use of the troublesome "sources and methods" exemption to the Freedom of Information Act. October 19, 2004. [Local] POGO letter to David Drabkin, GSA's Deputy Assoc. Administrator -- Office of Acquisition Policy, requesting transparancy and access to federal contract data, which is now controlled by a private contractor, Global Computer Enterprises, Inc. August 9, 2004. [Local] Coalition Letter to Senators Campbell and Inouye, Committee On Indian Affairs, regarding FOIA exemptions in S. 297, the Federal Acknowledgment Process Reform Act of 2003. July 8, 2004. [Local] Freedom of Information Act - FOIA - Resource Links. [Local] POGO Letter - Sample Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request Letter. April 28, 2004. [Local]
Argues that increasing levels of transparency do not always change international politics for the better. While the trend toward greater transparency will bring many benefits, Kristin M. Lord argues that predictions that it will lead inevitably to peace, understanding, and democracy are wrong. The conventional view is of authoritarian governments losing control over information thanks to technology, the media, and international organizations, but there is a darker side, one in which some of the same forces spread hatred, conflict, and lies. In this book, Lord discusses the complex implications of growing transparency, paying particular attention to the circumstances under which transparency’s effects are negative. Case studies of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the government of Singapore’s successful control of information are included. “The topic is very significant, and while there is considerable literature on the subject, the author has found something new to say about it. She takes on the conventional wisdom, challenging it with a very sophisticated argument, numerous examples, and interesting, detailed case studies. It will be difficult for serious scholars to repeat the conventional wisdom in the future without referring to the caveats in this book.” — Joseph S. Nye Jr., Harvard University, author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics “This book provides a good survey of an important subject and a critical perspective that is very much needed in a climate where transparency is seen as an obvious good with immediate consequences.” — Monroe E. Price, coauthor of Self-Regulation and the Internet Kristin M. Lord is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She is the coeditor (with Bernard I. Finel) of Power and Conflict in the Age of Transparency."
Doug Marlette, "I was a Tool for Satan," Columbia Journalism Review, 2003 (6), (November-December 2003) [A leading cartoonist calls for freedom of speech, with amusing anecdotes.] William Safire, "You Are a Suspect" [Local], New York Times, November 14, 2002. (On Total Information Awareness Program.)
"our goal is to provide timely reports on efforts to achieve greater access to public records and meetings and a free flow of information. We also provide background reports and lists of resources that may be of help to you in seeking information.... Email us at email@example.com or call us at 703-807-2100." Index of their background papers Report, 2005, on increased use of FOIA exemptions, and FOIA staff reductions 2000-04. [Local] FOIA Litigation Report [Local] Harold Relyea, Congressional Research Service, A Brief History of Access to Information. [Local] Index of their position papers Letter, 2005, to Attorney General Gonzales on Ashcroft's FOIA Guidance Memo [Local] Senate, 2005, Urged To Keep New Biological Defense Agency Subject to FOIA [Local] Letter, 2005, to Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, supporting FOIA reform and OPEN Government Act [Local] Letter, 2005, Supporting Waiver of FOIA Search Fee for The People For the American Way Foundation [Local] CJOG objections, 2005, to Dept. Homeland Security’s regulations on Critical Infrastructure Information [Local] CJOG objected, 2005, to Sensitive Security Information regulations of Transportation Security Administration [Local] Sen. John Cornyn on FOIA Reform: Sen. Cornyn, R-TX, LBJ Journal of Public Affairs, on his hearings and bill to “close loopholes in the law, help requestors obtain timely responses to their requests, ensure that agencies have strong incentives to act on requests in a timely fashion, and provide FOIA officials with the tools they need to ensure that our government remains open and accessible.” [Local] Senate Testimony on the OPEN Government Act. The Senate subcommittee hearing was held March 15, the first since 1992 dealing with FOIA. The subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Cornyn, heard from six witnesses, all supporting the legislation.
* Walter Mears, former AP Washington Bureau Chief
* Meredith Fuchs, General Counsel, National Security Archive
* Mark Tapscott, Heritage Foundation
* Lisa Graves, senior counsel, ACLU
* Katherine Cary, Texas assistant AG
* Tom Susman, attorney, Ropes and Gray
The OPEN Government Act and Related Legislation
Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tx) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) have introduced three bills affecting the Freedom of Information Act. The first, the OPEN Government Act, would make a series of changes to improve the implementation of the act. A second bill implements just one section of that bill, calling for Congress to explicitly identify any amendments to FOIA as part of proposed legislation. It has passed the Senate. The third bill, Faster FOIA, would create a one-year study commission to review FOIA and its operation and report back to Congress. The Senate and the House have each held one public hearing on the FOIA. Here are links to texts of the three bills, plus analyses of the legislation and transcripts of the testimony at the hearings.
* Impact Statement, New Legislation
* Faster FOIA
* OPEN Government Act - Text
* OPEN Government Act - Section by Section Analysis
* OPEN Government Act - Talking Points
House Testimony on How FOIA Is Working
Members of the subcommittee were looking at how well the current Freedom of Information Act and asked the witnesses repeatedly about the lack of “incentives” or “consequences” to motivate better performance by agencies in response to records requests. There were three witnesses at the May 11 hearing from the requester community and three from government agencies. Sen. Cornyn submitted a letter rebutting Justice Department testimony.
* Linda Koontz, Government Accountability Office
* Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States
* Carl Nichols, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
* Statement of Sen. John Cornyn
* Jay Smith, Cox Newspapers, Newspaper Association of America
* Mark Tapscott, The Heritage Foundation
* Ari Schwartz, Center for Democracy and Technology
Using the Freedom of Information Act. More than three million requests are filed each year and for many, it's a long wait before the documents are produced. For journalists, filing a FOIA request should be a last resort.
Citizens Guide to Freedom of Information Act, first published in 1977, was updated by the House Committee on Government Reform and released as House Report 109-226, on Sept. 20, 2005. It directly contradicts the Oct. 12, 2001 “Ashcroft” memo to agencies, saying: “The standard should not be to allow the withholding of information whenever there is merely a sound legal basis for doing so.”
Moynihan commission on secrecy in the mid-90s said the best way to protect secrecy was to reduce it. History of federal government secrecy from colonial days through the fall of communism.
A Special CQ Report on increasing Government Secrecy in the W. Bush administation, noting the courts “have generally appeared uninterested in enforcing the federal Freedom of Information Act.”
Briefing Report on Overclassification, House Subcommittee on National Security’s March 2 hearing, critical: overclassification ultimately incurs avoidable fiscal costs and compromises national security.
* The Testimony of Six Experts at the Hearing
The Information Security Oversight Office, put the cost of official federal secrecy in 2004 at $7.2 billion, an increase of nearly 10.7 percent for the year. There were 15.6 million “classification decisions,” an 80 percent increase since 2001. The cost total includes classifying and declassifying secrets, a process the ISOO annual report says has slowed.
* Text of 2004 Report to The President
Minority Critique of W. Bush administration's secrecy Sep. 2004, from the House Committee on Government Reform (Rep. Henry Waxman) concluded 2000-04 “an unprecedented assault on the principle of open government.”
Gilmore v Gonzalez case, where John Gilmore sued to force open the secret rules that require production of an identity card to use public transport. (Court's opinion expected January 2007). "Secret Law in the Old Rome: Caligula (according to Dio Cassius) wrote his laws in very small type, and hung them up upon high pillars, the more effectually to ensnare the people. (with thanks to Justice Blackstone)". Project against secret laws on identity papers. Andrew Noyes, "Groups ask high court to review aviation ID policies", Government Executive, November 14, 2006, at GovExec.com, from National Journal publishers.
Mario Barron, Report on Legislative Transparency in Argentina, 2006, via FreedomInfo.org (includes a good sidebar on Argentina's recent (and colorful) political history
Chile Becomes Latest Latin American Nation to Enact FOIA Law -- see freedominfo.org Update, August 13, 2008
Called the "Ley sobre Transparencia de la Función Pública y Acceso a la Información de los Órganos de la Administración del Estado" (Law on Transparency of Public Functions and Access to Information of the Agencies of State), the legislation was signed by President Michelle Bachelet on August 11.
- The signing of the law culminates a major campaign by Chilean freedom of information groups such as Pro-Acceso and Chile Transparente to bring about transparency in governance in Chile. The right-to-know movement received a major boost in October 2006, when the Inter-American Court ruled in a case, Claude Reyes and Others v. Chile, that the Chilean government had improperly withheld information from environmental groups on a deforestation project known as Rio Condor. The Court ordered the Chilean government to adopt legal measures "to guarantee the effectiveness of an adequate administrative process for dealing with requests for information, which sets deadlines for providing the information."
- The new law signed by President Bachelet gives government agencies 20 days to respond to petitions for information; it also orders agencies to create permanent government Web sites and postings to facilitate public access to official records. The law establishes a unique "Council for Transparency" to oversee and arbitrate the release of government documentation. President Bachelet now has 60 days to name the four members of the council.
Mario Barron, Report on Legislative Transparency in Chile, 2006, via FreedomInfo.org (includes a good sidebar on Chile's recent (and colorful) political history.
- Bogado, Martinez-Morales, Noll, and Bell, "The Federal Institute for Access to Information and a Culture of Transparency (IFAI), a Follow-up Report, Annenberg School of Communications, U. Penn., Dec. 2007.
Mario Barron, Report on Legislative Transparency in Sweden, 2006, via FreedomInfo.org (includes a good sidebar on Swedish political history.