December Edition of the Washington E-Bulletin

December 23, 2009

The December edition of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET. Here is the Table of Contents:

UPDATES FROM THE HILL AND THE GOVERNMENT RELATIONS OFFICE

•    Open Government Groups Settle Lawsuit over Missing Bush White House Emails
•    Congress Defers PATRIOT Act Reauthorization until Next Year
•    New Open Government Directive Misses the Mark on E-Records Management
•    Nominations Open for Federal Depository Library of the Year
•    National Archives Receives Funding Increases in Omnibus Bill
•    Interagency Task Force Releases Recommendations on Sensitive But Unclassified Information
•    Obama Administration Provides Grants to Expand Broadband

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

•    THOMAS Adds RSS Feed on Bills Presented to the President
•    Delays Continue to Plague Foreign Relations of the United States Series
•    CREW Claims Senators Continue to Use Secret Holds Illegally
•    Browse the Oral History of the House of Representatives
•    Search the Smithsonian’s Vast Collections with New Research Tool

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


THOMAS Adds RSS Feed on Bills Presented to the President

December 22, 2009

The Law Library of Congress has added a new RSS feed to help you track the bills awaiting the President’s signature. This RSS feed joins the family of 9 other useful feeds offered by the Law Library, including the Daily Digest, Current Legal Topics and Global Legal Monitor. You can sign up to receive these feeds, which will help you track the last updates from the Law Library and THOMAS, by RSS or email.

Kudos to the Law Library for developing another helpful and easy-to-use research tool!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Join the Dialogue to Help Improve USA.gov

December 22, 2009

The General Service Administration (GSA) is calling for comments on how to improve the government’s official web portal, USA.gov, an interagency initiative to make it easy for the public to get U.S. government information and services on the web. The dialogue will be open until January 15, 2010, and USA.gov staff will regularly post new questions and respond to them.

Through their blog, USA.gov is currently seeking information in response to this question:

At present, the majority of the USA.gov website is comprised of links to other government resources, so visitors often have to leave the website to find the information and services they’re seeking.  Should USA.gov provide more government content and fewer off-site links?

Law librarians bring a unique perspective to this question and others, and we encourage you to share your thoughts with GSA. You must register to post or to respond to ideas. Thank you!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Open Government Groups and Obama Administration Settle Lawsuit over Missing Bush White House Emails

December 15, 2009

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Security Archive (the Archive), the White House and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced an agreement Monday to settle a long-standing lawsuit, filed by CREW and the Archive in 2007, to get access to millions of missing Bush White House emails.

The Obama Administration found a total of 22 million missing emails that had been mislabeled. Under the terms of the settlement, the Executive Office of the President (EOP) will restore 94 days of missing emails from January 2003 to April 2005, including 21 days on which the Bush Administration had reported an unusually low number of emails. The Bush White House had denied that the emails were missing, although it did admit to not having an effective system for storing and preserving emails. The new agreement requires the EOP to provide a description of the system it is currently using to manage and preserve its electronic records.

The missing records will now be sent to NARA, which will maintain the restored emails and eventually make them available under the Presidential Records Act or Federal Records Act.

AALL is pleased with the outcome of this settlement. In our December 2008 Statement to the Obama-Biden Transition Team, we urged the Administration to work with NARA from day one to plan for the electronic record keeping of their digital materials, including the use of non-proprietary systems that are crucial to digital preservation. We congratulate CREW and the Archive on this important victory for public access.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Cabinet Departments Commit to Open Government

December 11, 2009

In response to the White House’s new Open Government Directive, each of the Cabinet Departments released a commitment outlining specific actions it has taken or will take in the near future to increase access to their information. For example:

  • The Department of Justice became the first agency to release its Annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Report in a machine-readable format. The Department also released 19 annual FOIA reports from other agencies. In addition, the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) is now routinely releasing opinions from current and previous administrations on the OLC Web site.
  • The United States Patent and Trademark Office committed to making all published patents available for download in the first quarter of 2010.
  • The General Services Administration released 12 years of Committee data, enabling the public to examine 11,430 individual committee records detailing $3.24 billion in related spending for 77,740 meetings and 11,317 reports.

Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, and Beth Noveck, Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative, summarize these open government projects in the recent White House blog post, “Why an Open Government Matters.” Additional examples of recent transparency initiatives are available in the White House’s Progress Report on Open Government to the American People.

We are very pleased with these new open government projects and look forward to reviewing future open government initiatives from other agencies.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


White House Releases Open Government Directive

December 9, 2009

Following through on the goals outlined in President Obama’s January 21, 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, the Office of Management and Budget yesterday released the much-anticipated Open Government Directive (OGD) which outlines requirements for agencies to develop and implement an Open Government Plan.

Among its many requirements, the OGD directs each agency to:

  • Identify and publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets within 45 days.
  • Reduce Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) backlogs by ten percent each year.
  • Provide links to information on how the agency is meeting its records management requirements.
  • Publish for public comment its Open Government Plan explaining how the agency will improve transparency, participation and collaboration. The plan will be updated every two years.

The directive makes clear that the presumption of openness does not require the release of information that would “threaten national security, invade personal privacy, breach confidentiality, or damage other compelling interests.”

The directive follows months of public dialogue on open government organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. We are very pleased that the directive reflects many of the transparency recommendations in the 2008 report, Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda, which AALL, nine of our chapters, and more than 75 law librarians endorsed.

We applaud the Administration for taking these important steps to implement the open government principles outlined in the President’s Memorandum. We are especially pleased that agencies are tasked with measurable outcomes and deadlines for compliance. We will keep you updated on their performance during the coming months.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


AALL GRC Seeks Nominations for Public Access to Government Information and Oakley Advocacy Awards

December 3, 2009

The AALL Government Relations Committee (GRC) is seeking nominations for the 2010 Public Access to Government Information and Robert L. Oakley Advocacy Awards. Please send your nominations for both awards to GRC Chair Camilla Tubbs by February 1, 2010.

Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) Award

The Association presents the PAGI Award annually to recognize individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to protect and promote greater public access to government information. Recipients of the PAGI award may be any individual or organization. AALL was pleased to give the 2009 PAGI Award to the Sunlight Foundation for their excellent work in promoting political transparency and accountability in government through innovative Web 2.0 technologies.

Robert L. Oakley Advocacy Award

Established in 2008, the Robert L. Oakley Advocacy Award recognizes outstanding advocacy work and significant contributions to the AALL policy agenda at the federal, state, local, or international level. In July 2009, the AALL Executive Board changed the eligibility requirement for the Oakley Award so that it is now open to AALL members and groups. The award honors the memory of Robert L. Oakley, AALL’s Washington Affairs Representative from 1989 until 2007.

Rick McKinney, assistant law librarian at the Federal Reserve Board Law Library in Washington, D.C., was the recipient of the 2009 Oakley Member Advocacy Award. Mr. McKinney received this award in honor of his work on The Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C.’s Legislative Sourcebook, an impressive publication of online legislative resources, and for his willingness to help other law librarians with their research questions.

***

Both of these prestigious awards will be presented during the AALL Public Policy Update (G3) on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at the AALL Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

We hope you’ll attend the Policy Update, formerly known as the “Annual Legislative and Regulatory Update,” to see the award presentations and to hear from the chairs of the GRC, Copyright Committee, Electronic Legal Information Access & Citation Committee and AALL Government Relations Office Director Mary Alice Baish about AALL’s legislative and policy accomplishments during the past year.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


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