Freedom of Information Act Reform Prevails over Last-Minute Holds

In the final days of the 113th Congress, the Senate successfully passed bipartisan legislation to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The measure prevailed after several senators placed holds on the bill, temporarily blocking a vote. The last hold, by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), was lifted Monday afternoon, and the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent. The House, which already passed a version of the legislation, now has a handful of days to approve the Senate bill and send it to President Obama for his signature. 

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Chemical Safety Report Opens Door for Improvements, but Strong Requirements Still Needed

On June 6, the interagency working group that President Obama formed in the wake of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion released its report to the president, conveying its recommendations for improving chemical facility safety and security. The report outlines many of the significant problems facing chemical facility safety in this country, including limited information sharing, incomplete and incompatible regulations, and the need for greater use of safer technologies. The recommendations on these problems point in the right direction but leave the details to the individual agencies to resolve as they move forward on possible regulations and policy changes.

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Disclosure of NSA Surveillance Programs Underscores Need for Increased Transparency of National Security Activities

As more facts come to light about the massive, ongoing surveillance affecting millions of Americans, it is imperative that the government bring greater transparency and accountability to national security programs. We need a new national debate about personal privacy and security and where we as a country will draw the line.

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Whistleblower Protections Moving Forward

On Oct. 10, President Obama issued a groundbreaking directive that will lead to new protections for federal employees who report misconduct in the intelligence community, which includes agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The new policy, which has been a long-sought goal of the open government community, will guard whistleblowers against retaliation. The directive delivers on the administration's commitment under the Open Government Partnership to work to strengthen whistleblower protections, and many in the open government community applauded the new policy.

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Yesterday, the White House launched, the administration’s long promised effort to provide a one-stop shop for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, travel, visitors, and other possible conflicts of interest issues for public officials.

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Government Status: Open

Late last week, the administration released a status report on their open government efforts over the past two and half years. Impressive progress has been made because of the hard work of public employees across the federal government.

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Administration Taking Recovery Accountability Government-wide

This morning, Vice President Joe Biden announced a major initiative to identify and eliminate government waste – the “Campaign to Cut Waste.” As Biden was announcing the initiative, President Obama issued a new executive order authorizing the main components of the campaign. The expansion of accountability measures for federal spending is a welcome and productive move by the administration.

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Congress “Fixes” SEC Secrecy

Following last week’s hearing in the House Financial Services Committee and action by the Senate Judiciary Committee on the broad and unnecessary Freedom of Information Act exemption for the Securities and Exchange Commission, Congress moved quickly to approve legislation that will fix the controversial provisions.

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Congress Looks to Reign in SECrecy

Yesterday, both the Senate and House addressed Section 929I of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which granted the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) a very broad exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would limit the exemption. Almost simultaneously, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing to explore the issue of the need for such a broad exemption.

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Administration Scores a ‘Shows Improvement’ on Secrecy Report Card

Today, released their annual Secrecy Report card, which tracks key indicators and statistics for executive branch secrecy. The Obama administration came into office placing a high priority on transparency and collaboration, promising to be the most open and accountable administration in history. The report, which covers the first 9 months of the Obama presidency, indicates the administration made noticeable progress in several areas.

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