White House Responds to Open Access Petition

February 27, 2013

by Elizabeth

Last spring, AALL members joined nearly 28,000 people in signing the “We, the People” Whitehouse.gov petition calling for open access to taxpayer-funded research. As a result of the petition and input from scientists, public interest groups and publishers, late last week John Holdren, director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, released a Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies titled “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research” (pdf) in response.

The Obama Administration has demonstrated that open access to federally funded research could be a high priority for this term. The White House memo calls on Federal agencies investing in research and development to create clear and coordinated policies for increasing access to federally funded, published research and digital scientific data within 6 months. The timing of the memo is also opportune: less than two weeks ago, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) (H.R. 708/S. 350) was introduced in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support. That bill, which AALL strongly supports, would require research funded by the U.S. government freely accessible online to American taxpayers. While the President’s memorandum has the force and effect of law and is in many ways similar to FASTR, action by Congress would ensure the Memorandum would not merely be overturned by the next president.

AALL recently joined twelve national and regional library, publishing, research and advocacy organizations in thanking the sponsors for introducing FASTR. FASTR will help broaden access to important research that is now unavailable to the public at a time when the demand for wider access— especially to federally funded research— is reaching a critical high.  Urge your Representative and Senators to cosponsor FASTR using our Legislative Action Center today.

Save the Date! Sunshine Week 2013

February 20, 2013

By Elizabeth

The 9th annual Sunshine Week will take place from March 10-16th with events held around the country. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.

Here in Washington, DC, AALL will again co-sponsor a Sunshine Week webcast with OpentheGovernment.org, to be held on the morning of Friday, March 15.  This year’s program will celebrate National Freedom of Information Day at the Newseum, with a specific focus on the future of open government. Four small panels will feature topics like FOIA and proactive disclosure, spending transparency, declassification, and ethics disclosure. Speakers will outline how the Obama Administration could make real progress in the short-and medium-term and a government or a former government employee will be on hand to respond. In the afternoon, the program will feature clips from the upcoming documentary, “War on Whisteblowers,” and a discussion with featured journalists and whistleblowers.

Want to get involved? AALL chapters have held many compelling open government events during Sunshine Week in years past. If you or your chapter is interested in holding a Sunshine Week event, we recommend checking out Michele Finerty’s excellent guide on creating a Sunshine Week Program and contacting the GRO for help.

Visit the recently updated Sunshine Week website for information about events in your area. The site is designed to help continue the dialogue on open government year round.  You’ll find a Reading Room with highlights from reports and commentary, a Toolkit and Idea Bank to facilitate brainstorming, and a helpful FOI Resources section offering information on a wide-range of open government topics.


New Executive Order on Cybersecurity Makes Good on Privacy

February 15, 2013

By Elizabeth

As highlighted in his State of the Union address, on Tuesday night President Obama signed a new Executive Order (EO) aimed at bolstering the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure. While focusing primarily on methods for increased information sharing between the U.S. government and private corporations, the Executive Order includes important protections for individual privacy and civil liberties that AALL welcomes into the conversation on cybersecurity.

Though much attention was paid to cybersecurity in the 112th Congress, little progress was made. The Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House and stalled in the Senate over serious concerns over Internet privacy. Congress further deadlocked over whether to give chief authority to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a civilian agency, or the National Security Agency (NSA), a military agency.

Though similar to CISPA in its goals, the Executive Order’s focus on individual privacy and civil liberties make it a vast improvement over the proposed legislation. Section 4 of the Executive Order sets out cybersecurity information sharing practices that direct agencies to share the information they already lawfully collect with companies. The Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and Secretary of Homeland Security are tasked with creating a system to share threat information to critical infrastructure owners and operators. But unlike CISPA, the EO includes necessary protections about the flow of information (emphasis added):

Sec. 5. Privacy and Civil Liberties Protections. (a) Agencies shall coordinate their activities under this order with their senior agency officials for privacy and civil liberties and ensure that privacy and civil liberties protections are incorporated into such activities. Such protections shall be based upon the Fair Information Practice Principles and other privacy and civil liberties policies, principles, and frameworks as they apply to each agency’s activities.

(b) The Chief Privacy Officer and the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shall assess the privacy and civil liberties risks of the functions and programs undertaken by DHS as called for in this order and shall recommend to the Secretary ways to minimize or mitigate such risks, in a publicly available report, to be released within 1 year of the date of this order. Senior agency privacy and civil liberties officials for other agencies engaged in activities under this order shall conduct assessments of their agency activities and provide those assessments to DHS for consideration and inclusion in the report. The report shall be reviewed on an annual basis and revised as necessary. The report may contain a classified annex if necessary. Assessments shall include evaluation of activities against the Fair Information Practice Principles and other applicable privacy and civil liberties policies, principles, and frameworks. Agencies shall consider the assessments and recommendations of the report in implementing privacy and civil liberties protections for agency activities.

(c) In producing the report required under subsection (b) of this section, the Chief Privacy Officer and the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of DHS shall consult with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and coordinate with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

(d) Information submitted voluntarily in accordance with 6 U.S.C. 133 by private entities under this order shall be protected from disclosure to the fullest extent permitted by law.

The EO counters concerns about making information sharing too easy by directing the Department of Homeland Security, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) and the Office of Management and Budget to evaluate current interagency information sharing. Agencies will in turn be held accountable to the Fair Information Practice Principles, which set rights and responsibilities in the collection and use of personal data like transparency and choice. While PCLOB will certainly require increased staff and funding to complete this assignment, this task gives the board an important and fitting role in cybersecurity.

On Wednesday, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), reintroduced CISPA (H.R. 624) in the same privacy-threatening form in which it appeared in 2012. While the legislation is cause for concern, Tuesday’s Executive Order is a clear signal that the White House supports strong privacy and civil liberties protections in its cybersecurity policy. It remains to be seen if CISPA’s supporters will find compromise with the administration, but it is clear cybersecurity will be high-profile issue again this year.

Operational Review of GPO Suggests Charging Users to Access Online Government Information

February 14, 2013

By Emily

The National Academy of Public Administration recently released the results of its 10 month independent operational review of the Government Printing Office (GPO), which was mandated by the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 112-74). A panel of 5 Academy fellows reviewed past reports; interviewed stakeholders in Congress, the printing industry and the library community (including me and AALL’s Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Task Force chair Sally Holterhoff); and conducted an online survey of FDLP libraries. Ultimately, the Panel made 15 recommendations that are “designed to position the federal government for the digital age, strengthen GPO’s business model, and continue to build the GPO of the future.”

AALL supports several of the recommendations, including that Congress should establish a collaborative interagency process to develop and implement a government-wide strategy for managing the lifecycle of digital government information (Recommendation 1); that GPO should work with depository libraries and other library groups to develop a comprehensive plan for preserving the print collection of government documents (Recommendation 3); and that GPO should continue to work with the depository library community to develop a strategic plan for the FDLP (Recommendation 5). We were also pleased to see the Panel’s repeated acknowledgment of the public’s need for permanent public access to authentic government information in tangible and electronic formats.

However, we are very concerned about Recommendation 4, which states that “GPO and Congress should explore alternative funding models for the Federal Digital System in order to ensure a stable and sufficient funding source.” Funding models include reimbursement for services; fees for end users; dedicated appropriations; and/or an automatic charge to agencies, depending on size, to encourage agencies to take advantage of GPO’s existing infrastructure and cover the cost of the services being provided by GPO. By far, the suggestion to charge the end user (the public) to access FDsys content receives the longest explanation and causes the most concern. Charging for FDsys violates AALL policy that digital government information disseminated via government websites must be available at no cost. Implementing user fees for FDsys content would be a giant step backward in GPO’s efforts to promote democracy and “Keep America Informed.” As the report itself states, “free access of government information is an important tenet of a democracy.”  We agree, and strongly oppose any effort to charge the public for digital content created by the federal government.

Overall, the NAPA report supports GPO’s ongoing transition to “reboot” itself for the digital age and commends the agency for its progress in meeting the needs of 21st century government information users. AALL will continue to work with GPO, members of Congress, and our allies to ensure GPO has the support it needs to “produce, protect, preserve, and distribute documents of our democracy.”

Progress Report: UELMA in 2013

February 13, 2013

By Elizabeth

The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has seen significant progress in recent weeks in state legislatures across the country. Since we last reported, UELMA was introduced in Nevada, bringing the total number of introductions to 6 states thus far this year.  Here’s a rundown of the current status of UELMA in those legislatures:

  • In Connecticut, the Joint Committee on Judiciary will hear SB 235 today. AALL Past President Darcy Kirk, Connecticut Bar Association Law Library Section Chair Jon Stock, and SNELLA Past President Nancy Marcove will testify at the public hearing.
  • In Hawaii, HB 18 passed the House on February 8. The bill is awaiting consideration by the Senate, having been reported by the Committee on Judiciary and Labor on January 31.
  • In Massachusetts, bill HB 38 awaits a hearing, having been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary in early January.
  • In Minnesota, the Senate Judiciary and House Judiciary Committees voted to pass SF 157 and HF 278, respectively. AALL’s 2012 Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) Award winner Michelle Timmons testified in support of the bill at both committee hearings on February 12. It’s likely the bill will soon be taken up on the floor of both houses.
  • In Nevada, SB 105 was introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on February 11. AALL advocates in that state plan to testify when a hearing is scheduled.
  • In North Dakota, the House voted to pass HB 1129. On February 12, the Senate referred the bill to its Judiciary Committee.

With the majority of legislatures’ regular sessions convening into May and adjourning as late as July, we expect several more states will introduce UELMA this year. AALL chapters and members will continue to work in conjunction with the Government Relations Office to support enactment of UELMA by coordinating with the Uniform Law Commission, working with members of their legislatures, providing testimony, and submitting letters of support for the act. Stay tuned to our 2013 UELMA Bill Tracking Chart for the latest status reports from legislatures across the country.

“Making Sense of the Federal Budget Process” Online Training Feb. 27th

February 6, 2013

Does the federal budget process seem like an insiders’ game? You don’t have to be a policy wonk to understand the budget cycle and its impact on libraries! Join the Government Relations Office for a 30 minute advocacy training to learn about the budget process and how you can make a difference for libraries and your community.

“Making Sense of the Federal Budget Process”

February 27, 2013

12:00 – 12:30 pm EST

Register here.

Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren and Public Policy Associate Elizabeth Holland will walk you through the twists and turns of the federal budget process and help you understand where your voice is most needed.  We’ll help demystify the budget process by answering questions like: How does the budget process work? Is there a timeline for appropriations bills? What’s the difference between discretionary and mandatory spending?

This training is available at no additional cost for AALL members and chapter members. Register by February 25th.

House, Government Printing Office Increase Access to Legislative Data

February 4, 2013

By Emily

The Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives has expanded its docs.house.gov site to include committee information such as committee rules, bills and resolutions to be considered, recorded votes, meeting notices, witness lists and testimony. Visitors can subscribe to Committee RSS feeds and download the XML for reuse. In addition, the Government Printing Office (GPO) is now making bills in XML format available for bulk download through FDsys, from the 113th Congress forward. These efforts advance the transparency goals put forward in the 112th Congress by the House leadership and House Report 112-511, which established the Bulk Data Task Force.

AALL submitted feedback to the Bulk Data Task Force late last year, recommending that a disclaimer and link to FDsys be included along with any legislative information that is posted for bulk download. We urged the Clerk to follow the example set by the White House, GPO and the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of the Federal Register in adding a disclaimer to the XML of the Federal Register on Data.gov, which clearly states that the XML is not official. We are pleased that the new Help section of docs.house.gov includes the following questions along with a “Legal Status and Authenticity” section as part of the FAQ:

Q. What is available on docs.house.gov?

A. Text of legislation that may be considered on the House Floor is posted on docs.house.gov. Committee documents in accordance with the standards adopted by the Committee on House Administration are posted on docs.house.gov.

If available, both the PDF version and XML version of a document are posted. Documents follow the House’s document naming convention. If the documents have been processed by U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), there may be direct links to GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDSys).

 Q. What is the authenticity of data files from docs.house.gov after they have been downloaded to another site?

A. We cannot vouch for the authenticity of data that is not under the control of the U.S. House. The U.S. House does not endorse third party applications, and does not evaluate how our original content is displayed on other sites. Consumers should form their own conclusions as to whether the downloaded data can be relied upon within an application or its enriched results that were not necessarily the original reason for producing the raw source data.

AALL supports access in many formats. We commend the Office of the Clerk for clarifying the authenticity of the XML files and for recommending that committees link to FDsys where possible. We also applaud GPO for making XML files available on FDsys through the Bulk Data Repository, along with the authenticated PDFs. This affirms GPO’s status as a trusted repository of official, authentic, digital and secure information and allows other entities to add value to government information.

February Washington E-Bulletin

February 1, 2013

The February Issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.

Vol. 2013, Issue 02





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