A passion for access to government information may be an acquired taste, acquired by a select view. Still, an informed public depends on the hundreds of journalists, public servants, watchdog agencies, librarians, scholars and others meeting this week in our Nation’s Capitol during Sunshine Week to advocate for transparency throughout the federal government. A host of public pronouncements and discussions reflect how the federal government is living up to the Administration’s commitment to transparency. Though most of us will never file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, it matters that FOIA is in place and that someone cares.
The National Security Archive, one of the major watchdog agencies in DC, is out today with their critical assessment of transparency circa 2013. The title of their report sets the tone: Freedom of information Regulations: Still Outdated, Still Undermining Openness.
According to the NSA report “the majority of [federal] agencies have not updated FOIA rules to meet either Obama’s 2009 Order or Congress’s 2007 Law.” The assessment is based on a survey of 100 federal agencies conducted by the NSA.
Anticipating progress on transparency in the second Obama Administration the NSA offers a checklist of “Top Ten Best FOIA Practices” for agencies to work off as they update their frequently outdated regulations. Basically, the best practices promote direct communication between agencies and requesters, eliminate foot-dragging and other delays, make the entire process itself more transparent and incorporate an appeals process.
NSA itself maintains a lively website tracking requests and progress in opening the files of the federal government to the public. The Archive blog, Unredacted, offers a regular – and fascinating – glimpse into what an informed public needs to know.