April Edition of the Washington E-Bulletin

April 30, 2008

The latest edition of the Washington E-Bulletin is now online! The April E-Bulletin is filled with updates on the EPA libraries, the latest news on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), new legislation on electronic records management, and more. As always, we report news from our chapters and give you some ideas for further reading!

Here is the Table of Contents from the April Edition of the E-Bulletin:

-EPA Seeks Comments: Help Improve Access to Environmental Info

-One-Year Anniversary of the National Summit on Authentication!
-NARA Oversight Hearing and Decision to Stop Web Harvests
-EPA Releases Library Report to Congress, Calls for Comments
-NIH Public Access Policy and Call for Comments
-Letter Urges Public Comment Period for Sensitive But Unclassified Information
-House Bill Addresses Electronic Records Management

-LLOPS Members Participate in OMB Watch Listening Tour

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading for the Information Policy Junkie
-International Conference Leads to Plan for Right of Access to Information
-Newseum Offers Access to Hundreds of Papers Online
-Site Offers Free Legal Information to Connect People with Lawyers

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Senate Hearing on Secret Law and Accountable Government

April 28, 2008

On Wednesday, April 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government.” The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Witnesses will include:

Steven Aftergood
Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists
Washington, DC

Bradford Berenson
Sidley Austin LLP
Washington, DC

Dawn Johnsen
Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington
Former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
Bloomington, Indiana

Heidi Kitrosser
Associate Professor of Law
University of Minnesota Law School
Minneapolis, Minnesota

J. William Leonard
Former Director
Information Security Oversight Office
Leonardtown, Maryland

David Rivkin
Baker Hostetler
Washington, DC

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Senate Committee Addresses “Future of the Internet”

April 25, 2008

On April 22, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing titled “The Future of the Internet.” The hearing addressed consumer expectations and network operation, including network neutrality.

The hearing featured a wide array of witnesses, including Kevin J. Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. Testimony of all witnesses is available on the Committee website.

Professor Lessig, who for years focused his energies on copyright and Creative Commons, recently turned his focus to the influence of money in politics in the form of the Change Congress movement. He has developed a series of video lectures on the project which explain his ideas. Check them out for a great Friday break!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

House Hearing on Executive Branch Electronic Communications Preservation

April 23, 2008

The House Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives will hold a hearing today to address the Electronic Communications Preservation Act (H.R. 5811), sponsored by Chairman of the Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA-30), Chairman of the Subcommittee Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1), and Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH-2). The bill directs the Archivist of the United States to establish standards for the capture, management, retrieval, and preservation of White House e-mails and other electronic communications. The Committee’s Press Release, summary of the bill, and full text of the bill is available here.

Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, will testify about the state of the preservation of electronic records and the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) oversight responsibilities. OpenTheGovernment.org recently assisted Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with data collection for their new report, “Record Chaos: The Deplorable State of Electronic Record Keeping in the Federal Government.” Findings of the report include: federal agencies are not keeping up with modern electronic records management methods; there is widespread confusion among federal employees about their obligations regarding record keeping; and there is a lack of meaningful oversight of the agencies by NARA.

This hearing was originally scheduled for April 16, but canceled at the last minute. Assuming the witness list stays the same, the witnesses will include:

The Honorable Allen Weinstein
Archivist of the United States
National Archives and Records Administration

Dr. Anna K. Nelson
American University – Department of History

Witness to be announced
Government Accountability Office

Patrice McDermott

The hearing will take place at 2pm in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building. According to Committee staff, a live webcast should be available on the Committee website.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

AALL and Others Urge Public Comment on Guidance for Sensitive But Unclassified Information

April 18, 2008

Last week, AALL signed onto a letter to the White House asking for a public review of proposed new rules governing the designation of Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information.

Sensitive But Unclassified information, sometimes referred to as “Pseudo-Classified Information” or Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), describes unclassified information that is governed by a varying set of restrictions that allow government officials to keep the information out of the public’s reach. As OpenTheGovernment.org‘s Secrecy Report Card 2007 states, “These designations fall entirely outside the national security classification system, governed by executive order, and are subject to none of its constraints or timelines.” In a 2006 report, the Government Accountability Office identified 56 SBU designations. As the Secrecy Report Card 2007 discusses, there are likely many more of these designations, most of which are not governed by any government-wide policy or procedures.

Opportunities for public comment on proposals dealing with SBU information and information sharing have been promised for several years. In 2003, AALL signed onto a letter urging then-Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to allow public comment on procedures that were being developed that might have restricted the public dissemination of “homeland security information,” including information that is “sensitive but unclassified.” When the process for developing new rules governing SBU information was moved to the Office of the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment, interested groups were assured several times that there would be opportunity for public comment.

The SBU designation often acts as an unrestricted barrier to the disclosure of unclassified information. Without clear guidance, the number of SBU designations has skyrocketed. It is important that the plan for guidance of SBU designations be available for public comment so that experts and stakeholders, including state and local government representatives, can have an opportunity to review the plan before it is finalized. AALL joined 33 other groups on this letter to White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton, which was organized by OpenTheGovernment.org.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

EPA Seeks Comments: Help Improve Access to Environmental Information

April 14, 2008

What kinds of information do you look for from EPA and how do you use that information? What words do you use when you search for environmental information? How would you like to receive the information you need? Those are some of the questions EPA is asking as part of their National Dialogue on Access to Environmental Information, a new project that will help EPA develop a strategy to improve access to their diverse body of environmental information. Through June, EPA is inviting comments on their public discussion board or via email.

On its website for the new project, EPA says:

“One of our best options is to work with you and others who help us accomplish our mission: protecting human health and the environment. That much is clear from our work with other agencies, organizations and individual people.

What’s less clear is the best way to organize and make available what we have. We also want to give you access to our raw data so you can use it in ways we’ll never think of. That’s why we’re asking you to help.”

This is a great opportunity for law librarians and users of EPA materials to make sure the agency knows what kinds of environmental information you need today and in the future. We are pleased with EPA’s outreach efforts, especially after several years of discussions with the agency about the troubling shutdown of three of their regional libraries and their Headquarters and Chemical Libraries in Washington, D.C., and the recent news that the closed EPA libraries will reopen by September 2008 [see the National Library Network Report to Congress].

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Explore Hundreds of Daily Newspapers Online

April 8, 2008

This coming weekend, the Newseum, “The Interactive Museum of News,” becomes the latest museum to open on Pennsylvania Avenue. Even before the museum opens, you can take a look around their website for educational and fun resources. One that stands out is a searchable display of 616 daily newspaper front pages from 61 countries in their original, unedited form. You can sort the papers by region, scan through a list organized by state or click on a map to see the dailies covered.

Having already visited the Newseum for the First Amendment Center’s Sunshine Week event in March, I can tell you that the museum is a large, beautiful space filled with what promise to be all sorts of educational adventures.

Thanks to the Due Process: The Georgetown Law Library Blog for the tip!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

OMB Watch Launches Regulatory Resource Center

April 4, 2008

OMB Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting open government, accountability and citizen participation, recently launched its Regulatory Resource Center. The goals of the Resource Center are to educate citizens on how they can become involved in the regulatory process through its Advocacy Center and to inform the public about the workings of the regulatory process through its Policy Library.

The Advocacy Center provides instructions and links to find and comment on rules and file petitions for rulemaking. The Policy Library contains an in-depth explanation of the federal rule-making process, a look at the tools used by regulatory decision makers, a glossary of key terms, and more.

The Regulatory Resource Center serves as a valuable tool for those looking to understand the regulatory process for the first time and for those who want a more in-depth look at the background, rules, and procedures of federal rulemaking!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Update on Legislation to Access CRS Reports

April 3, 2008

Back in December, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007 (S. 2321), introduced by Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT). As we reported here in the Blawg, Chairman Lieberman introduced another piece of legislation at the hearing, S.RES.401, to provide the public with access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) publications online.

The proposal is now stalled in the Senate Rules Committee. Chairwoman of the Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) supports a scaled-back plan for public access to CRS reports, in which members would choose whether to make reports public. For details about this development, please see Dan Friedman’s article on GovExec.com and a summary of the issue at stake by Sunlight Foundation’s John Wonderlich at the Open House Project.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Edit Sunlight’s Transparency Legislation

April 1, 2008

The Sunlight Foundation is asking for your input on a new piece of draft transparency legislation – the Transparency in Government Act of 2008. Sunlight prepared and drafted the legislation, which draws on bills that have already been introduced and the work of the Open House Project. Before going to lawmakers for support, Sunlight has opened up the bill for comments, suggestions, and edits at PublicMarkup.org.

Here is how Sunlight describes the Transparency in Government Act of 2008:

The Transparency in Government Act of 2008 is a broad legislative effort intended to make the work of Congress and the executive branch more transparent by creating laws and regulations that would bring more information online and available to the public in a timely manner. The draft legislation is an amalgamation of bills that have already been introduced, along with new provisions. If enacted, it would create historic changes in the way the executive and legislative branches provide information to the public, and Sunlight believes it would foster a better and more complete understanding by the public of how the government works.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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