September Edition of the Washington E-Bulletin

September 30, 2009

The September edition of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET. This September has been filled with activity, including movement on the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization process, news from FCC Chairman Genachowski on new rules governing net neutrality, Attorney General Holder’s memo on the state secrets privilege, and more. We hope you enjoy reading this month’s news from the Government Relations Office!

Here is the Table of Contents from the September edition:

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

-You’re Invited to AALL’s Free Online Advocacy Training in October!

UPDATES FROM THE HILL AND THE GOVERNMENT RELATIONS OFFICE

-USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization Process Moves Ahead
-Attorney General Holder Releases Memo on State Secrets Privilege
-Recently Confirmed FCC Chairman Genachowski Proposes New Net Neutrality  Rules
-White House Posts Visitor Records Online

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: CHAPTER NEWS

-Ten Chapters and SR-SIS Join AALL on Letter of Appreciation to Sen. Leahy

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading for the Information Policy Junkie

-New Collections Available on FDsys
-White House Seeks Contractor to Archive Web Records
-2009 Secrecy Report Card Finds Slight Decreases in Government Secrecy
-New Resource Available in LLSDC’s Legislative Sourcebook

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


White House Will Post Visitor Records Online

September 9, 2009

On Friday, September 4, 2009 the White House took another step toward transparency with the announcement of a new policy to voluntarily disclose White House visitor access records. Starting on September 15, the White House will make available online the records of visitors from the previous 90-120 days.

In announcing the policy, the President said,

For the first time in history, records of White House visitors will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis.  We will achieve our goal of making this administration the most open and transparent administration in history not only by opening the doors of the White House to more Americans, but by shining a light on the business conducted inside it.  Americans have a right to know whose voices are being heard in the policymaking process.

While we’d like to see less time pass between the records’ creation and public release, the White House deserves our applause for this important step toward increased openness of the Executive Branch.

At the same time, the White House announced that it had settled four pending cases requesting specific White House visitor records, including records from the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration had refused to release the logs, claiming that they were not agency records of the Secret Service, but rather presidential records and therefore exempt from the Freedom of Information Act’s mandatory disclosure requirements. AALL opposed the Bush Administration’s position and we are pleased with the release of these records. Read more about the specific records that were sought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


OpenTheGovernment.org’s 2009 Secrecy Report Card

September 8, 2009

OpenTheGovernment.org released the latest edition of their annual Secrecy Report Card today. This year’s report card found slight decreases in government secrecy in the past year, though secrecy remains a serious problem in many areas of the federal government.

Special to this year’s report is an analysis of the Obama Administration’s track record on transparency. Despite many initial promising steps toward government openness, the Administration has disappointed open government groups, including AALL, with a number of decisions that promote secrecy. For example, the Administration has repeatedly used signing statements and the state secrets privilege to keep information secret, despite Obama’s promise to curb the use of both.

AALL is committed to ensuring that the new Administration follows through on its promises of “a new era of open Government.” We will continue to work with OpenTheGovernment.org to promote transparency at all levels of government.

Findings of the 2009 Secrecy Report Card include:

  • Classification Activity Still Remains High
    In 2008, the number of original classification decisions decreased to 203,541, a 13% drop from 2007. The number of “derivative classifications” continues to climb.
  • FOIA Backlogs Slightly Reduced
    The federal government processed 17,689 more FOIA requests than it received in 2008. The net improvement is in part the result of significant backlog progress on the part of a few agencies.
  • Reported Invocations of the State Secrets Privilege Continue to Rise
    Invoked only 6 times between 1953 and 1976, the privilege has been used a reported 48 times—an average of 6 times per year in 8 years (through 2008)—more than double the average (2.46) in the previous 24 years.
  • Scientific and Technical Advice Increasingly Closed to Public
    65% of FACA committee hearings were closed to the public in 2008. The same number of meetings was closed in
    2008 as in 2007, but the total number of meetings fell—leaving fewer opportunities for public
    participation.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


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