Campaign: Records Management

Public FOIA archive on every agency website

In the United Kingdom, FOIA documents are not only sent to the researcher who asks for them, but posted publicly on agency websites. FOIA archives on British websites often serve as a sort of FAQ for people interested in the activities of an agency, and prevent unnecessary duplicate FOIA requests. It would require little to no effort for the United States to do the same thing. In fact, we could one-up the UK by creating ...more »

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Campaign: Legal & Policy Challenges

Make documents produced by government contractors in their role as gov't surrogates subject to FOIA

The president should direct agencies that when they outsource any of their duties, not limited to records management duties, the contracts should contain provisions specifying that the records produced by the company in its function as a government surrogate belong to the agency and available, as agency records, under FOIA. On Dec. 31, 2007, President Bush signed the OPEN Government Act of 2007 (S. 2488), which includes ...more »

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Campaign: Making Government Operations More Open

Promote Open Government and Protect Privacy

We have open government laws and privacy laws for the federal government. Individual privacy and government transparency are complementary ideals in a democratic society. Open government helps ensure transparency and enhance public participation. Privacy protections bolster public confidence in the government’s treatment of citizens. Citizens are better able to participate in government initiatives when they are certain ...more »

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Campaign: Legal & Policy Challenges

Place Everything Public Online Unless the Law Says Otherwise

Right now the discretion to place legally public government information online lies with agencies and not the law. Switch this premise around by adding a legal category that says, "public but online dissemination not required. If it is not limited by the law, then put it online for all by default. Period. This would not change access to legally protected/national security information. Piecemeal legislation to require ...more »

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Campaign: Making Government Operations More Open

Time to update the Freedom of Information Act

The government's own statistics and various studies from the National Security Archive and others have shown the massive delays in processing FOIA requests. Drafting and application of FOIA exemption claims and classification policy has been demonstrated to depend too heavily on the attitude of the particular administration towards openness. Governments frequently confuse what they perceive to be the interest of the ...more »

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Campaign: Legal & Policy Challenges

The administration should curb new exemptions from FOIA

According to government agencies themselves, every year federal departments and agencies cite roughly 140 statutes to deny thousands of requests for information; our coalition (the Sunshine in Government Initiative) estimates that more than 240 are on the books. The agencies themselves are often the originators of these new legislative loopholes. Recommendation: Any new statutory exemptions proposed or supported by ...more »

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Campaign: Making Government Operations More Open

Prohibit agencies from canceling FOIA requests

Agencies regularly send out letters to requesters saying, "Your request has been pending for so long that we wonder if you still want us to answer it. If you don't reply, we will pretend you never filed this FOIA request." This lets them sneakily evade requests. It's fine for agencies to ask requesters if they'd like to voluntarily cancel their FOIA requests. What isn't fine is for agencies to cancel the requests ...more »

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Campaign: Making Government Operations More Open

Require Agencies to Affirmatively Disclose Information to the Public, as Mandated by E-FOIA

The Electronic Freedom of Information Act (E-FOIA) offers a starting point for affirmative and proactive government transparency efforts. The law requires agencies to make available online basic information about agency practices and policies and, most significantly, information requested or likely to be requested frequently under FOIA. Unfortunately, many agencies have not complied fully with E-FOIA, have interpreted ...more »

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Campaign: Making Government Operations More Open

Opening our past, cutting secrecy at the source

Only a few pieces of recent legislation have had any impact on the efforts to release the growing classified archives that mark the theft of our own history by the national security state. The Nazi War Crimes Records Act and the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Act have released over 15 million pages of classified documents relating to key pieces of our history, and have far outstripped the ineffective Freedom of ...more »

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Campaign: Making Government Operations More Open

Sunset all classified /non FOIA information

At some point, everything the governement says, does, or produces should become public record. All classified information, all the President's papers, everything should *eventually* become public knowledge. When it becomes public would depend on the content. Initially maybe many things are allowed to stay classified. But as that classified information gets older and older, it should be harder and harder for the government ...more »

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Campaign: Making Data More Accessible

Empower the National Archives and Records Adminstration to enforce the JFK Records Act

The JFK Records, passed unanimously by Congress in 1992, was a landmark in open government. To quell controversy about the causes of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the Congress mandated that the government release all assassination-related records in its position. The Congress also created an independent Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) to insure compliance with the law. The ARRB did an excellent ...more »

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Campaign: Making Government Operations More Open

Real penalties for agencies that violate FOIA time limits

Congress has set time limits for agencies to respond to FOIA requests, but many agencies deliberately flaunt these limits by failing to fund their FOIA offices, building up multi-year backlogs that serve the agency's desire to keep its operations secret. The courts let the agencies get away with it under a theory that they're doing the best they can. The FBI and NSA are two egregious exploiters, each of which lets FOIA ...more »

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