Political Science at Huntingdon College
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External links: Access Reports | Campaign for FOI, UK | Carter Center, Atlanta | EPIC | FAS Project on Government Secrecy | FAS archive of CRS reports |
FreedomInfo.org | National Security Archive | OpenTheGovernment.org | Privacy.org | Transparency & Secrecy Listserv

See also my: Index to FOIA Links | US FOIA Text as Amended, 2007

FreedomInfo.US:

log of Freedom of Information Laws and Policies

Developments in the United States | United Kingdom | Global Developments

Covers access to information; the right to know; privacy; transparency;
official secrecy; declassified information and related issues


compiled by Jeremy Lewis, PhD; revised 12 July 2012, with new source.
Any links or pages archived here, were compiled purely for individual scholarly research.  No endorsement is necessarily implied of any views found therein.
Developments in the United States


Upcoming Events

  • Noted with pleasure: new Sources, events or documents:
  • Academic conference papers related to open government
  • At the World Congress of the International Political Science Assocation (IPSA) in Madrid, 8-12 July 2012, a number of papers were presented on areas relating to open government. Links will be provided shortly.
  • Investigative, journalistic story on privacy:
  • Robertson, Jordan, "When Your Criminal Past Isn't Yours," Associated Press, 16 Dec. 2011, from web.  Argues that many states that publish court data cannot oblige commercial background check agents to incorporate updates and corrections, thereby tainting job applicants falsely with the criminal records of others who may share part of their names. When criminal convcitions are erased from public records after a specified period, they may remain in commerical databases indefinitely.  Background checks are now conducted by nearly all employers, up from about half in 1990.  Software bots that scour the internet for data are now the nrom, lacking human judgment in data matching.  Recognizing these problems, some states have returned to releasing only individual records rather then selling streams of data. 


  • Owing to pressure of work, there is a gap in the log here, during the period 1 Sep. 2010-15 Dec. 2011. (The author became chair of the combined history and Political Science departments, then chair of the division of History, Politics and Psychology.) Sorry.  I will try to backfill it later.

  • ASAP's FOIA and Privacy Act Workshop, September 20-22, 2010 at the Sofitel hotel in downtown Chicago, Illinois. ASAP training events for freedom of information and privacy officers are laid on by the association of access professionals. 
  • 1st annual Northeast Conference on Public Administration (NECoPA), hosted by the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark on October 22 and 23rd, 2010.  The conference theme is "Public Service Under Pressure."
  • Comedy video, just discovered with pleasure: 
  • The National Security Secrecy debate (Oct. 2001) by Even Stvphen on Comedy Central
  • Academic anthology, Transparency:
  • Piotrowski, Suzanne. 2010. Transparency and Secrecy: A Reader Linking Literature and Contemporary Debate.  Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. ISBNs, paperback: 0-7391-2752-7 / 978-0-7391-2752-0.  Table of Contents
  • "Gaining access to government information is a perpetual concern of citizens. This is due in large part to the relationship between transparency and the issues of ethics, corruption, administrative malfeasance, and accountability. The last few years have proven that governmental transparency is a burgeoning academic subfield spurred on by contemporary political events and attention generated by the popular press. This reader addresses the topics of governmental transparency and secrecy and includes original discussion, classic readings, and primary source documents. Transparency and Secrecy is organized according to a theoretical model fully developed in the introduction. Governmental transparency is the degree to which access to government information is available through various channels. These avenues of access to information include governments proactively releasing information, freedom-of-information type requests, open meetings, and whistleblowing and leaks. The reader addresses each of these components as well as values that compete with openness such as privacy, security, and efficiency.
         The chapter discussion sections begin with the presentation of cases to make the material relevant to students. The cases together with the review of the literature help readers understand how each aspect of transparency is relevant to contemporary public policy debates. The discussion sections include a brief summary of the included articles and place these readings within the scholarship at large. Integrative study questions, suggested class projects, recommendations for case studies, movies, and supplemental reading all make Transparency and Secrecy ideal for classroom adoption."
  • Academic journal article, defamation law:
  • Amy Kristin Sanders.  2010.  "Defining Defamation: Community in the Age of the Internet."  Communication Law and Policy, 15(3) June 2010: 231 - 264. 
  • Abstract: The ability to instantly communicate with a global audience has created numerous legal uncertainties as jurists struggle to adapt age-old jurisprudence to modern-day technologies —and defamation jurisprudence is no exception. The definition of a plaintiff's community is critical to his or her ability to succeed in a defamation lawsuit, often determining whether the plaintiff is a public figure or whether the plaintiff's reputation has been injured in his or her community. This article examines federal and state defamation jurisprudence to compare the factors courts have used to define community in both traditional print and broadcast cases with the factors used in more recent Internet defamation cases. It then suggests three possible rubrics courts could employ to more uniformly define community in Internet defamation cases.
  • Academic journal article, sanctions in state sunshine laws:
  • Stewart, Daxton R. "Chip".  2010.  "Let the Sunshine In, or Else: An Examination of the 'Teeth' of State and Federal Open Meetings and Open Records Laws." Communication Law & Policy 15(3):265 – 310, June 2010 
  • Public access laws are at the heart of transparent democracy, in place to ensure that government meetings and records are open to the public. However, compliance with these laws is often problematic, a fact that can be attributed, in part, to ineffective remedies available for violations of state and federal open government laws. This study examines the enforcement provisions of the public access laws in jurisdictions across the United States to explore the remedies available, including equitable relief such as injunctions and mandamus, actual and punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and civil and criminal sanctions. Structural difficulties were revealed that can make these remedies toothless for people unlawfully denied access. The article concludes by suggesting improvements such as enhanced and uniform penalties, more consistent enforcement, and alternatives to litigation.
  • Academic journal article, FOI compliance:
  • Cuillier, David.  2010.  "Honey v. Vinegar: Testing Compliance-Gaining Theories in the Context of Freedom of Information Laws." Communication Law & Policy 15(3):203 - 229, June 2010
  • Freedom of information laws are useful to the extent that they are followed. This study, based on compliance-gaining theories, employs two field experiments to examine the effect of persuasion tactics and litigation threats on agency adherence to public records laws. In Study 1, a journalist requested use-of-force reports from all police agencies in a state, mailing agencies either friendly or threatening letters, randomly assigned. In Study 2, a journalist requested superintendent contracts from school districts, mailing agencies randomly assigned versions of friendly, neutral or threatening letters. In both experiments the threatening letter resulted in slightly higher response rates, lower copy fees and faster response times, however, the friendly letter resulted in more helpful behavior from agencies. The article concludes by discussing implications for journalists, compliance-gaining theory in a legal realm, and freedom of information.
  • Policy, limiting media access to military:
  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued new guidance on 2 July 2010 and gave an 8 July press briefing, seeking to reduce the inaccuracies or lack of context in military personnel's discussions with journalists.  DOD staff are asked to clear statements with Public Affairs staff before speaking on matters with "national or international implications."  The press briefing was featured on the national media.  The Gates memo also declared, "Leaking of classified information is against the law, cannot be tolerated, and will, when proven, lead to the prosecution of those found to be engaged in such activity."
  • Charges filed, leak of classified material:
  • On July 5, Pfc. Bradley E. Manning was charged with the unauthorized transfer and disclosure of classified records, including the classified video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, posted online in April 2010 by WikiLeaks.  (Wikileaks has been accused of indiscriminate publication via online servers that are beyond jurisdictions.) 
  • Espionage conviction:
  • Shamai Leibowitz, former FBI contract linguist, has become the third person in 30 years to be convicted under the espionage act for leaking information to the media. Uniquely, he seems to have offered little defense. Access Reports 36(11), (26 May 2010).
  • Law review article on executive privilege:
  • Lane, Eric, Frederick A.O. Schwartz and Emily Berman.  2010.  "Too Big a Canon in the President's Arsenal: Another Look at United States v Nixon." George Mason Law Review, 17(3), spring 2010.  Available by search at: Fas.org/blog/secrecy
  • See also summary and commentary in Access Reports 36(11): 1-3, (26 May 2010); and in Aftergood, Steven, 2010. "Does Candor Require Secrecy? A Critical Review (FAS.org). The "candid advice" rationale for executive privilege to withhold testimony and documents from Congress and the Courts did not apply to criminal evidence in US v Nixon (1974) but was recognized generally in that Supreme Court opinion.  It had previously been advanced only by the Eisenhower administration in Kaiser v US (1958) (based loosely on "human nature") and by the Nixon administration in EPA v Mink (1973).  Congress had accepted this in 1966 with the FOIA's exemption (b)(5) for internal deliberative material.  In In re sealed case: Espy (1997) the Supreme Court extended this rationale to presidential advisors and to the common law deliberative process government-wide.  The authors argue Congress should limit the privilege for Congressional testimony via guidelines, with recourse to the Courts in specified circumstances by majority vote of one chamber -- basing this on the constitutional power of investigation and the checks and balances. 
  • ODNI's 2009 review of intelligence reform:
  • IRTPA, "Reforming Intelligence" [large pdf]
  • Magazine article on DNI's role:
  • Josh Gerstein, "Panel found 'distracted' DNI," Politico, 2 June 2010, summarizes report of President's Intelligence Advisory Board on the role of the Director of National Intelligence. 
  • Official review of security classification, 1992, DOE:
  • U.S. Department of Energy, "Classification Policy Study," 4 July 1992.
  • official policy on unclassified defense research:
  • policy since the Reagan administration's NSDD 189, has required open data of unclassified, scientific defense research, reiterated in the Obama administration.  "The Department of Defense fully supports free scientific exchanges and dissemination of research results to the maximum extent possible," wrote Under Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter in a May 24, 2010 memo (pdf) to the military service secretaries, first reported by Inside the Pentagon.
  • Academic article:
  • Etzioni, Amitai.  2010. "Is Transparency the Best Disinfectant?" Journal of Political Philosophy, Spring 2010.
  • Abstract: "Transparency is a highly regarded value, a precept used for ideological purposes, and a subject of academic study. The following critical analysis attempt to show that transparency is overvalued. Moreover, its ideological usages cannot be justified, because a social science analysis shows that transparency cannot fulfill the functions its advocates assign to it, although it can play a limited role in their service. We shall see that in assessing transparency, one must take into account a continuum composed of the order of disutility and the level of information costs. The higher the score on both variables, the less useful transparency is. Moreover, these scores need to be particularly high to greatly limit the extent to which the public can rely on transparency for most purposes."
  •  Book rediscovered: 
  • Hoffman, Daniel.  1981. Governmental Secrecy and the Founding Fathers: A Study in Constitutional Controls (Contributions in Legal Studies). Greenwood Press. 0313221669. Old source, recently rediscovered; with extensive historical research, found Founders were as adept at executive secrecy (focusing on the Jay Treaty Struggle, the XYZ Affair and the 1798 Sedition Act) as calling for openness. 
  • Book published: 
  • Schoenfeld, Daniel.  2010. Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law (by the former editor of Commentary magazine.) Conservative polemic, sparked by his editorial call for prosecution of New York Times journalists under espionage laws for reporting details of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping activity within the U.S. Data include calls for secrecy in the Continental congresses, and espionage laws in the early republic and in 1917. 
  • Recent Events:
  • ASAP Spring Training session for basic FOIA issues and privacy, 21-23 June at the Washington Convention Center.  Costs $300 per day for members, and up.  See www.AccessPro.org
  • CGS FOIA Community Conference: "Transparency in the Obama Administration: A First-Year Assessment," Washington, D.C., January 20, 2010
  • First Amendment Center's "12th National FOI Day Conference," 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Washington, D.C., March 15, 2010
  • CGS's "Third Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration," Washington, D.C., March 16, 2010
  • CGS Academic Conference: "The State of the State Secrets Privilege," Washington, D.C., November 18, 2009
  • OMBwatch webinar:
  • "Policymaking for Open Government: An Assessment of the Obama Administration's First-Year Progress" Jan. 28, 2010, Featuring moderator Gary D. Bass of OMB Watch and panelists Norm Eisen, Ethics coordinator, the White House; Sarah Cohen, Duke University; Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation; Mark Tapscott, the Washington Examiner; and Meredith Fuchs, National Security Archive
  • eGov Conference:
  • Oct 19 – 20 2009, Suffolk University, Boston, MA.  5th International Conference on e-Government.  The International Conference on e-Government (ICEG 2009) for researchers and practitioners from around the world. 
  • New position:
  • Sarah Cohen, fomer database editor of the Washington Post, has become Knight Professor of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University. She is interested in open source databases in open government.
  • New sources online: 
  • Scott A. Hodes, Attorney at Law, FOIA blog and a web site.  Hodes is an information law attorney and former DOJ official. 
  • Judicial Watch, which litigates for official documents (including the White House visitor logs), includes this in its mission statement: "Through its Open Records Project, Judicial Watch also provides training and legal services to other conservatives concerning how to effectively use the Freedom of Information Act and other open records laws to achieve conservative goals of accountability and openness in government."
  • National Security Archive updates are now on Facebook
  • Official anti-terroism memo:
  • Richard Clarke's memo to national security adviser Condi Rice, about Al Qaida, on 25 Jan. 2001 - on NSA Facebook and on NSA Web (in more depth)
  • National Security Archive updates are now on Twitter
  • Court opinion on classified information:
  • Judge Royce Lamberth's opinion in Richard A. Horn v. Franklin Huddle, Jr., says the parties in that lawsuit need to discuss with their counsel the classified information they already possess.
  • Justice Department attorneys on September 2 (pdf), requested a stay of the order pending appeal.
  • Both the plaintiffs and respondents opposed the stay.
  • White House policy:
  • The Obama administration announced a new policy to release almost all of the White House visitor logs at regular intervals, [locally archived] following pressure from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  An editorial in the New York Times, 8 Sep. '09 welcomed the change (although it may have overstated it).
  • Interest group report:
  • The Secrecy Report Card 2009, [PDF], has been published by the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition.  Written by Patrice McDermott and Amy Fuller Bennett, the report compiles indicators ranging from classification activity (down in 2008) to declassification activity (also down) to FOIA processing and assertions of executive privilege.
  • Academic article: 
  • Clint Hendler, "How to Keep Secrets: Obama Tries to Get Classification Right" Columbia Journalism Review, September 2, 2009.
  • Commission report:
  • older report in hardcopy, rediscovered online at FAS.org: The Moynihan Commission's Report on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, 1997. [Index]
  • Book published and reviewed:
  • McDermott, Patrice. Who Needs to Know? The State of Public Access to Federal Government Information. Lanham, MD and Washington D.C.: Bernan Press, 2007 and 2008. 292 pp. $19.95, ISBNs 978-1-59888-050-2 and 978-1598883077.  Reviewed by Charles McClure in Government Information Quarterly, in press August 2009.
  • Declassification issue:
  • The 1991 law requiring release of the Foreign Relations of the US series of documents within 20 years is still not being complied with.  The 1967-76 volume, recently released, is 30 years old, far behind President Kennedy's goal of 15 years:

  • "In my view, any official should have a clear and precise case involving the national interest before seeking to withhold from publication documents or papers fifteen or more years old," President Kennedy concluded.  See National Security Action Memorandum No. 91, "Expediting Publication of 'Foreign Relations'," September 6, 1961.
    The FRUS of Soviet relations 1969-76 includes inaccurate transcriptions of Nixon tapes that in some places appear to reverse their meanings by omitting a "not", or replacing "you" with "Thieu".  See FAS.org and the Nixon Tapes Project.
  • Anti-terrorism source:
  • Abu Yahya al-Libi, a rising al Qaeda field commander in Afghanistan, argues spies like "locusts" have penetrated successfully among muslims and jihadis, in a new book translated by the DNI's Open Source Center as "Guidance on the Ruling of the Muslim Spy" (pdf).  The author refers to research among Koranic verses that refer to spying.  Evidently Al Qaeda has suffered from losses to US missiles on targets spotted by spies.  (It sounds like the beginning of a purge of jihadis.)
  • Official report on surveillance:
  • Inspectors General Unclassified Report 2009 on the President's 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
  • Surveillance Act:
  • H.R.6304, FISA Amendments Act of 2008 Title III, Sec. 301. Authorizes the IGs of the DOJ, DOD, CIA and NSA to report in both classified and unclassified forms to the four intelligence and judiciary committees of Congress. [Local
  • Interest group report:
  • 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. 
  • Testimony on classified leaks:
  • FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told the Senate Intelligence Committee in "Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States" (pdf) 4 Feb. 2008, that in Sep. 2001-Feb. 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation checked  85 reported leaks of classified intelligence information to the media.
  • Interest group report:
  • 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.
  • Congressional oversight letter on covert operations:
  • 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. 
  • 12 European Countries Sign First International Convention on Access to Official Documents [FreedomInfo.org] However, as the map shows, signatories were limited to the scandinavians and Eastern Europeans, without the major regional powers.
  • New US Blog found: 
  • written by Bill Leonard, retired director of the ISOO: http://www.secgov.info/
  • Official report:
  • United States Government Accountability Office Report on Rulemaking and Transparency: Federal Rulemaking: Improvements Needed to Monitoring and Evaluation of Rules Development as Well as to the Transparency of OMB Regulatory Reviews.  GAO-09-205, April 20 http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09205.pdf
  • GSA Office of Citizen Services and Communications' Intergovernmental Solutions Newsletter issue on Transparency and Open Government. [pdf]
  • Event: 
  • Jun 11 – 13 2009, Washington, D.C. Fifth Transatlantic Dialogue on “The Future of Governance”.  Hosted by the European Group of Public Administration (EGPA) and the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), addresses the public/private boundary.  Issues include: How can we foster transparency and accountability? What are the implications of new technologies and systems? What possibilities are offered by emerging forms of collaboration? http://www.aspanet.org/scriptcontent/pdfs/5TAD.pdf
  • Event: 
  • Jun 5 – 6 2009, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. National Freedom of Information Coalition’s 2009 FOI Summit. Annual gathering of state freedom of information groups and access advocates, with panels on FOI topics. www.nfoic.org
  • Executive Order:
  • 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."
  • Interest group report on torture:
  • 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
  • Mar 15 – 21 2009: Sunshine Week 2009
  • The American Society of Newspaper Editors sponsored the annual Sunshine Week, at  www.sunshineweek.org or contact Debra Gersh Hernandez: dghernandez@asne.org.
  • Events: 
  • Tuesday, Feb 3, 2009: Declassifying Secrets: Opening Classified Records for Public Disclosure?  Washington, D.C..  Neil Carmichael discussed the declassification process at the National Archives, past executive orders, present initiatives, and the future of declassification in the executive branch. For more information, visit: http://www.archives.gov/dc-metro/events/february.html or contact: KYR@nara.gov.
  • Monday, Feb 2, 2009: Policy and Press Conference to Launch the International Budget Partnership's Open Budget Index 2008, The National Press Club, Washington, D.C..  The International Budget Partnership will release the Open Budget Index 2008, the only independent measure of government budget transparency across 85 countries. The Index evaluates the quantity of information made available to the public during the course of the budget year so that the people can see how their government is collecting and spending public funds. For more information, visit www.openbudgetindex.org or contact masud@cbpp.org, mcullough@cbpp.org, or mondo@cbpp.org.
  • Stimulus Watch.org: A new project is assembled quickly (using open source software) to list (by state) the projects for infrastructure spending from the US Conference of Mayors' web site, and invite viewers to vote for or against each project.  (However, the comments about politics in the discussion wiki are crude, and the projects are not actually included in the 2009 economic stimulus bill.)
  • Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009: Lecture on the Freedom of Information Act.  Washington, D.C..  Ramona Branch Oliver discussed provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and how the statutes affect public access to both archival and operational records at the National Archives. For more information, visit: http://www.archives.gov/dc-metro/events/january.html or contact: KYR@nara.gov.
  • Academic journal articles:
  • Open Government: a journal on freedom of information, Vol 5, No 1 (2009), Table of Contents
  • Dr. Jeremy Lewis is now a member of the editorial board of Open Government Journal.
  • Cuillier, David. 2008. "Access attitudes: A social learning approach to examining community engagement and support for press access to government records." Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 85(3), 549-576.
  • Piotrowski, Suzanne, and Gregg Van Ryzin.  2007.  "Citizen attitudes toward transparency in local government." The American Review of Public Administration.
  • Executive Orders and memos on transparency from new Obama administration:
  • 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
  • Influential proposals in late 2008, from open government interest groups:
  • 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
  • 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 gov.palin@yahoo.com 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."
  • US House 9 Sep. '08 passed Overclassification bill, to have National Archivist develop procedures and incentives to prevent excessive classification
  • 2008 Secrecy Report Card, 9 Sep. '08 from OpenTheGovernment.org
  • 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]
  • Carter Center issues Declaration on Transparency, 5 Aug. '08, in Atlanta -- from FreedomInfo.org
  • " 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."
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy's statement from Congressional Record, on the 42nd anniversary of the FOIA: http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2008/foia42.html
  • Martin J. Sherwin and Lee White, "Democracy Requires a Past", Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 June 2008 (requires subscription).  "The Bush administration does not appear to believe that our way of life depends on access to our history ..."
  • 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
  • Event: "FOI Live 2008" international transparency conference, London, was held, June 3, 2008.
  • Book published: 
  • What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, by Scott McClellan (Hardcover - May 28, 2008).  Memoir, highly critical of the Bush administration's control of information, by the former Press Secretary, has received strong publicity and surprised several former members of the White House press corps as well as Dan Bartlett, communications director.  McClellan was seen as a loyal foot soldier until this book was previewed.  McClellan appeared on the usual televised discussion programs promoting the book.
  • The CIA is preparing to send its oldest files of historical worth to the National Archives.  http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/intel/nara-cia.pdf
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced (April 2008) a new bill to increase transparency in government agency expenditures, to provide online public tracking of legislative earmarks, and to require the IRS to provide taxpayers with statements of total taxes paid and projected. http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2008/s2852.html
  • "When I am president, the era of Bush/Cheney secrecy will be over," said Sen. Hillary Clinton in a speech to the Newspaper Association of America on April 15.  "I will empower the federal government to operate from a presumption of openness, not secrecy... I will direct my administration to prevent needless classification of information that ought to be shared with the public."   http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2008/04/clinton041508.html
  • Sunshine Week Webcast, Wednesday March 19, 2008, at the National Press Club.
  • CGS's "First Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration," Monday March 17, 2008, 9:00-4:00, at the Washington College of Law. Luncheon speaker: Hon. Royce C. Lamberth, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia and former Chief Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
  • First Amendment Center/Freedom Forum's "National FOI Day Conference," Friday March 14, 2008, at the Newseum.
  • The venerable litigation book, Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws," 2008 edition has been published by EPIC and Access Reports.  The previous volumes have been the handbook for US public records requesters for a quarter century.  The new edition includes discussion of the 2007 OPEN government amendments, and can be purchased for $67 including shipping.
  • "The next president should open up the Bush administration's record," by Steven Aftergood, FAS, Nieman Watchdog, 7 Feb. '08
  • "By now no one expects the Bush Administration to make itself accountable for its controversial and possibly illegal practices. But the next President will have a unique opportunity to reveal what has been kept hidden for the last seven years. Secrecy watchdog Steven Aftergood suggests a few questions for the presidential candidates about their willingness to disclose just what the current Administration has done."
  • State Secrets privilege (protection from introducing classified information in court cases)
  • the film: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.
  • the bill: Senator Kennedy introduced the State Secrets Protection Act (S. 2533) on January 22, '08.   "The Act clarifies that the courts, not the executive branch, must review the evidence and determine whether information is covered by the state secrets privilege." "For example, a court may limit a party's access to hearings, court filings, and affidavits, or require counsel to have appropriate security clearances." Press release from Senator Kennedy's office to the FAS.
  • At a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing today, witnesses discussed the feasibility and advisability of legislating reforms to the state secrets privilege.  The prepared statements from the 29 Jan. '08 hearing
  • Last week, Senators Kennedy, Specter and Leahy introduced "The State Secrets Protection Act." The text
  • CIA's destruction of videotapes of interrogations of alleged terrorist detainees
  • Several media channels have reported the CIA's admission that it destroyed videotapes of interrogations, and that the new Attorney General Michael Mukasey has begun an investigation.  Since several lawsuits seeking records about detainees are in process, this might involve illegalities.  White House counsel Fred Fielding directed that records about the destruction be preserved.  See AR 34 (4); 9 Jan. '08, 1
  • CREW's Open Community Document Review System
  • (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has established a documents collection that is searchable by individual pages, each with its own URL, thereby facilitating sharing.  Called the Open Community Document Review System, it contains many public records received via FOIA requests. For description, see AR 34 (4); 9 Jan. '08, 9.
  • Herbert N. Foerstel's book appears on Amazon.com and the Greenwood Press website:

  • Herbert N. Foerstel, Freedom of Information and the Right to Know: The Origins and Applications of the Freedom of Information Act. CT: Greenwood Press, (Hardcover, print on demand) prices $77-84, ISBN 0-313-28546-2
  • OPEN Government act of 2007
  • A good legislative history and commentary on the provisions is provided by Harry Hammitt in AR 34 (4); 9 Jan. '08, 1-4
  • Two brief notes are found at http://www.accessreports.com/news.html
  • "January 1, 2008, Bush Signs FOIA Amendments.  President George W. Bush signed into law the OPEN Government Act Dec. 31, marking the first time the FOIA has been amended in ten years. The new amendments restore the attorney's fees eligibility criteria that existed before the Supreme Court's Buckhannon ruling and prohibit agencies from collecting fees if they do not respond to a request within the statutory 20-day time limit. The amendments also provide a tracking system for requests and codify the positions of Chief FOIA Officer and FOIA Public Liaisons that first appeared in the Bush executive order issued in December 2005. The amendments create an ombudsman, designed to resolve disputes short of litigation, at the National Archives and clarify the status of media requesters. Finally, the amendments direct OPM to study how to encourage federal employees to choose FOIA as a career path by creating greater incentives and recognition."
  • "December 19, 2007, Congress Passes FOIA Amendments, The House passed a revised set of FOIA amendments Dec. 18 shortly after the Senate had acted as well. Although the House passed its set of amendments in March and the Senate passed a compromise bill in August, House "pay-as-you-go" rules required that body to revise the Senate bill to provide alternative funding for two provisions -- the potential increase in attorney's fees due to rejection of the Supreme Court's Buckhannon decision as the threshold standard for awarding fees, and to replace the loss of fees agencies would no longer be able to charge if they did not respond within the 20-day statutory time limit. The amendments passed the Senate by unanimous consent and the House by a voice vote. It seems likely that President Bush will sign the legislation or allow the bill to become law by failing to sign or veto it before the upcoming congressional recess."
  • Legislative history summary, from http://www.wcl.american.edu/lawandgov/cgs/about.cfm
  • "Several bills were considered during the 110th Congress prior to enactment of the 2007 FOIA Amendments. One, H.R. 1309, was passed by the House on March 14. Another, S. 849, was passed by the Senate on August 3. It was reintroduced in revised form as S. 2427 on December 4 and then was modified and introduced on December 14 as S. 2488 -- which was passed by the Senate on that same day and then was passed by the House on December 18. This bill was signed into law on the last possible day before it would have become law automatically under Art. I, Sec. 7 of the Constitution, on December 31, 2007."
  • FOIA Conference on the 2007 FOIA Amendments, Collaboration on Government Secrecy ("CGS"), American University Washington College of Law, January 16, 2008, outline
  • OPEN Government Act, text, National Security Archive, PDF [Local, PDDF]
  • "President Bush Signs FOIA Reform Bill", by Wade-Hahn Chan, FCW.com, Federal Computer Week, 2 Jan. 2008
  • "A FOIA face-lift: Proponents call it the first major FOIA reform bill in a decade," By Adam Chandler, FWC.com, August 13, 2007
  • Incorrect AP report on content of Act, widely reprinted, in USA Today.
  • President Bush Signs S. 2488, the OPEN government act of 2007, into Law, http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2007/12/wh123107.html
  • "The White House, President George W. Bush
    For Immediate Release
    Office of the Press Secretary
    December 31, 2007
    President Bush Signs S. 2488 into Law
    On Monday, December 31, 2007, the President signed into law: S. 2488, the "Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007," which amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by: (1) establishing a definition of "a representative of the news media;" (2) directing that required attorney fees be paid from an agency's own appropriation rather than from the Judgment Fund; (3) prohibiting an agency from assessing certain fees if it fails to comply with FOIA deadlines; and (4) establishing an Office of Government Information Services in the National Archives and Records Administration to review agency compliance with FOIA."
  • CONGRESS APPROVES FOIA REFORM BILL - from FAS.org, Secrecy News newsletter by Steve Aftergood, 20 Dec. 2007
  • The OPEN Government Act, which cleared both the Senate and the House over the past week, "becomes the first major reform to the Freedom of Information Act in more than a decade," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill's leading co-sponsor in the Senate along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).  Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) led passage in the House.
  •  http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2007/oga121407.html [Senate approval]
  •  http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2007/oga121807.html [House approval]
  • Among other things, Senator Leahy explained, "This legislation will improve transparency in the Federal Government's FOIA process by: restoring meaningful deadlines for agency action under FOIA; imposing real consequences on Federal agencies for missing FOIA's 20-day statutory deadline; clarifying that FOIA applies to government records held by outside private contractors; establishing a FOIA hotline service for all Federal agencies; and creating a FOIA Ombudsman to provide FOIA requestors and Federal agencies with a meaningful alternative to costly litigation."
  • http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/

  • 2007/leahy121807.html
  • "Open Government: President Bush's signature would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act." Editorial, Washington Post, Friday, December 28, 2007; p.A20, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content

  • /article/2007/12/27/AR2007122702132.html
  • "Information Con Game," Editorial, The New York Times, December 22, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/22/opinion/22sat3.html
  • House action to pass the Senate version of the OPEN government act, from the Congressional Record:
  • Remarks of Sen. Leahy on Passage of the OPEN Govt Act, December 18 (via FAS.org)
  • House Approves the Open Government Act of 2007, December 18 (via FAS.org)
  • Senate Approves Amended Open Government Act, December 14 (via FAS.org)
  • Senate Approves Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act, December 17 (via FAS.org)
  • Congressional Documents on Secrecy and Security, 2007, indexed at FAS.org
  • Presidential Control of Information: "A Tighter Ship at Justice: Michael Mukasey limits political contacts." Washington Post, Saturday, December 29, 2007; A18. In contrast to his predecessor, new Attorney General sharply limits the number of DOJ staff who can discuss cases with WHS -- except for counter-terrorism cases.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/

  • 2007/12/28/AR2007122802571_pf.html
  • Privacy and music file sharing: article in NY Times about University of Oregon rebuffing RIAA demands for ID of students using file-sharing of music files. Discusses widespread settlements elsewhere.
  • ADAM LIPTAK, "In the Fight Over Piracy, a Rare Stand for Privacy," December 31, 2007.  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/us/31bar.html
  • NASA survey of pilots shows near misses are more common than reported, according to records released under FOIA, reported on CNN, 31 Jan. 2007.

  • "NASA boss promises to reveal safety poll results.   Reversing course, NASA's administrator promised Congress on Wednesday he will publicly disclose results of an unprecedented federal aviation survey which found that aircraft near collisions, runway interference and other safety problems occur far more often than previously recognized." -- MSNBC, 31 Jan. '07. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21561639/from/ET/