A withdrawal from sunlight? [Updated 4/14]

[UPDATE: On April 12, The Hill reported that the new budget agreement between President Obama and congressional leaders sets a funding level of $8 million for FY2011. A GovExec.com/National Journal article also noted a Sunlight Foundation reaction: “Little is known yet about why lawmakers cut so deeply into the transparency budget because ‘much of the budget negotiation process was almost entirely done in secret’.” –4/14/11] Despite the Obama Administration’s repeated, fervent statements of support for transparency and technological innovation vis-a-vis government data, Federal News Radio reported on March 31 that the Office of Management and Budget plans to shutter seven [More]

Advocates, officials discuss sunshine measures

Here’s a brief summary of testimony by witnesses at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning on the Freedom of Information Act.  Our appreciation to Chairman Patrick Leahy for holding the hearing (and adjusting the schedule to avoid conflicting with “FOI Day” at the Freedom Forum).

Some context for some surveillance

When news broke recently that federal officials were pushing for new regulations to facilitate online eavesdropping (“U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet”, New York Times, September 27, 2010), it seemed like there were two ways to interpret the situation: Did the proposed powers represent a significant change from the status quo? The administration’s proposal… would require reconfiguring of the Internet to provide easier access to online communications. —ACLU Or did the proposed powers merely enable law-enforcement officials to continue doing what they had been doing? We’re not talking expanding authority. We’re talking about preserving our ability [More]

ICE rethinks an immigration disclosure; hoping for a trend

In light of President Obama’s first-full-day-in-office proclamation about transparency and FOIA, and the subsequent FOIA memorandum from Attorney General Eric Holder, we have been both hopeful and cautious when it comes to evaluating the Administration’s progress. Evaluating progress means looking at changes in numbers, and changes in experiences. One of those experiences involving a small newspaper and a story about immigration-related arrests may show the trends are encouraging. Four years ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested twenty-six people at a Bellingham, WA business, on suspicion of illegal immigration. A local newspaper, the Bellingham Herald, promptly filed a FOIA request for [More]

More images of wrongdoing

The military appears ready to recycle arguments from last year, that photographic evidence of wartime abuses by American soldiers poses a threat to national security, the military, or both. An Army commander is imposing strict limits on photographs in connection with the deaths of three Afghan civilians earlier this year. Descriptions of the photographs and some of the military’s rationales for secrecy in this case are reminiscent of previous photographs and justifications: The pictures in question show “three dead Afghans with three different Soldiers posing, holding up the decedent’s head. (Each photo was one Afghan, one Soldier),” according to an [More]

The McChrystal Fall-out: Biggest victim may be public

As reporters use Twitter to report that President Obama is accepting the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, the biggest loser in the aftermath of the general’s poor judgment may be the American public.  Yahoo! News reporter Michael Calderone writes that the military is locking down troops from talking with reporters, as NBC’s Richard Engel says notes.