The Project on Government Oversight has flagged a potential government secrecy concern in the Defense Authorizations bill the Senate is expected to vote on when they come back from recess. The issue is a provision three-quarters of the way through the 539-page bill that would give the Department of Defense broad authority to exempt unclassified information from public disclosure via the Freedom of Information Act, including information that may be relevant to public health and safety.Read Full Article
Disclosure in the earmarking process has never been state-of-the-art. Earmark requests and funds secured for projects are released to the public in clunky, non-machine processable PDF files that are often more than hundred pages long and are not sortable in any way, for example by sponsor, recipient, or amount. The disclosures are a far cry from being truly open government data.
But at least it's something. As Ron Nixon at the New York Times reports today, when there's not a formal earmarking process (e.g. the earmark-free government funding arrangement we're operating under right now), Congress' work to direct federal funds to their pet projects doesn't actually stop, it just becomes much more secretive.Read Full Article
About a week after the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill was signed into law, government transparency watchdogs found a heinous provision in the bill that seemed to allow the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to deny Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests for information pertaining to an "examination, surveillance, or risk assessment” of banks and other financial comapnies. A group of groups wrote to the bills' sponsors, Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] and Rep. Barney Frank [D, MA-4], saying that the provision was "undermining the bill’s overarching goals of more transparency and accountability" and asking that they pass another bill to remove it.Read Full Article
Federal agencies have a mixed record when it comes to processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in spite of a renewed, government-wide commitment to the law. And now, a move to reduce the amount of time the government takes to process FOIA requests has advanced in the Senate and is getting some high profile and bipartisan support.Read Full Article