Recently, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) began conducting compliance reviews of agency FOIA operations and posting its findings online, to share with the public and with other agencies. These no-nonsense analyses involve examining agency annual FOIA reports, interviewing FOIA personnel, and surveying agency staff; the idea is to accumulate institutional knowledge and refract it back through agencies to make FOIA work better. Notably, OGIS sharpened its reviewing skills at home, starting at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which underwent the inaugural reviews (here, and here). Now, the Department of Homeland Security, as the agency with the highest [More]
An experiment in responding to FOIA requests by also posting responsive documents online should do more good than harm for transparency and accountability in government by, if implemented well, identifying practical ways to promote quicker and broader release of information held by government.
We’re glad to see that OGIS has begun posting its “Final Response Letters”, in which the office explains what FOIA requesters have sought from agencies, what OGIS has done to help requesters, and how agencies have reacted. Although OGIS has only posted 26 letters so far, we can start to see some trends among the requests, denials, appeals, and reviews. First, OGIS has been able to provide assistance in the form of increased information, or education, or both, in nearly every case listed. In over half of the cases described, OGIS was able to obtain additional information the requester(s) had [More]
A House panel this morning encouraged the Labor Department to abandon its announced changes to the way it releases unemployment data and other market-moving statistics. Media groups protested almost immediately when the Labor Department announced on April 10th that it would force media groups to rip out equipment from the labor Department’s press room and require reporters to draft stories on government computers as part of wholesale changes intended to prevent early leaks of jobless claims and other economically significant information.
The SGI “FOIA Files” database has surpassed 600 entries, a testament to the persistence of journalists and the hard work of agency personnel who process Freedom of Information Act requests. This database is a collection of news and other stories that relied on a FOIA request to inform the public. In the last year, FOIA has enabled the public to understand more about the politics and policies that shape people’s lives: The recent financial crisis and its ongoing impact on the economy: #592: “How Hank Paulson’s inaction helped Goldman Sachs” (10/10/10) #615: “Morgan Stanley Speculating to Brink of Collapse Got [More]
Today President Obama signed into law a bill that sped through the House and Senate to quickly fix an overbroad exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The Sunshine in Government Initiative appreciates the quick action and hard work of transparency leaders in Congress to correct this mistake.
Between the legislative record for the SEC FOIA exemption in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and the recent written statement of Mary Schapiro, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, we have been able to clarify the origin and evolution of the three confidentiality provisions that became law in Section 929I. And despite Schapiro’s descriptions of the provisions in terms that downplay the importance or effect of changes in the language, we have observed the addition of two phrases, in two stages, to the FOIA exemptions in what would become Section 929I of the financial reform legislation. The first change [More]
Update 8/9/10: The hearing on the SEC FOIA exemption has been moved up to September 16th. Original Post: We need some input. You may have read that the financial reform law includes a provision that allows the SEC to withhold certain investigative files confidential. Fox Business is attacking this as a broad exemption ripe for abuse, while SEC says it really is meant narrowly and will issue guidance. And today the House Financial Services Committee announced a hearing on September 23rd September 16 to look into the matter. What’s the impact on journalists who’ve covered the SEC? Let us know [More]
Okay, we said it was over. We said the EPA disclosed the dispersant ingredients back in June: Details of the ingredients in the dispersant have been disclosed. The Environmental Protection Agency took care of this in early June. For the record, here’s the answer, from EPA: What are the chemical components of the dispersants COREXIT 9500 and COREXIT 9527? The components of COREXIT 9500 and 9527 are: CAS Registry Number Chemical Name 57-55-6 1,2-Propanediol 111-76-2 Ethanol, 2-butoxy-* 577-11-7 Butanedioic acid, 2-sulfo-, 1,4-bis(2-ethylhexyl) ester, sodium salt (1:1) 1338-43-8 Sorbitan, mono-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate 9005-65-6 Sorbitan, mono-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs. 9005-70-3 Sorbitan, tri-(9Z)-9-octadecenoate, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl) derivs 29911-28-2 [More]
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) has been overwhelmed with requests for information about the Gulf oil spill and is responding by eliminating fees, expediting requests, and posting responses on its website, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) noted on June 22.