Mostly Cloudy During Sunshine Week
To coincide with Sunshine Week, the Sunlight Foundation released their Open Legislative Data Report Card. Some states are doing well, many aren’t, with most scoring a Gentleman’s C or below.
Grades are based on what Sunlight calls the Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information. For this report card, their criteria is based on six: completeness, timeliness, ease of access, machine readability, use of commonly owned standards and permanence.
The Society of Professional Journalists takes a different tact to explore government openness as they examine what obstacles reporters face when interviewing employees of federal agencies:
[A] survey of journalists who cover federal agencies found that information flow in the United States is highly regulated by public affairs officers, to the point where most reporters considered the control to be a form of censorship and an impediment to providing information to the public. According to a survey of 146 reporters who cover federal agencies, conducted by the Society of Professional Journalists in February 2012, journalists indicated that public information officers often require pre-approval for interviews, prohibit interviews of agency employees, and often monitor interviews. Journalists overwhelmingly agreed with the statement that “the public was not getting all the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists’ reporting practices.”
Meantime, over at the Washington Post, Josh Hicks gives a rundown of what’s going on with FOIA requests:
The Center for Effective Government said Wednesday that the administration’s rate of response to FOIA requests had improved in 2012 but that the percentage of replies with redacted information had grown.
“While processing has gone up, we see a record-setting rate of partial grantings,” said Sean Moulton, the center’s director of open-government policy.
Federal agencies averaged a “C-minus” grade for FOIA compliance in Cause of Action’s analysis, also released Wednesday.
The group sent identical FOIA requests to 16 federal agencies in April. In its report, it said that one-quarter of the agencies provided no information and that the average response time for the others was 75 business days — more than double what the law requires.
Reporters filing FOIA requests with the Commerce Department have to wait even longer. The average turnaround time there is 239 days.
And then there’s national security and whistleblowing. We’ll let the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald take it away. The gist of it runs like so:
Along with others, I’ve spent the last four years documenting the extreme, often unprecedented, commitment to secrecy that this president has exhibited, including his vindictive war on whistleblowers, his refusal to disclose even the legal principles underpinning his claimed war powers of assassination, and his unrelenting, Bush-copying invocation of secrecy privileges to prevent courts even from deciding the legality of his conduct.
Looking for more opinion and updates on Sunshine Week? Visit The SPJ or SunshineWeek.org’s opinions page.
Images: Screenshots, best and worst of the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Legislative Data Report Card. Select to embiggen.