The National Freedom of Information Coalition and a host of open government groups offered their support of a message to President Obama in an op-ed written by OpenTheGovernment.org’s executive director Patrice McDermott and published January 31 in The Hill.
"The administration has made progress toward proactively releasing more information online, including on such sites as data.gov, recovery.gov and USAspending.gov," the op-ed states. "But more yet can be done toward achieving transparency."
It criticized the administration for excessive secrecy “under the guise of national security” and called for new measures and policies to protect leakers and so-called “whistleblowers” who expose government waste, fraud and abuse, noting that whistleblowers “often make our government more effective and accountable,” and asserted that they should be protected from punitive job actions and prosecutions.
It also chided the President for using so-called signing statements that offer “the same type of vexing rationalizations” he denounced as a U.S. senator and as a candidate for president.
A few of the suggestions:
- A deadline for agencies to update Freedom of Information Act regulations, with a focus on making it easier to obtain information.
- Agencies should be pushed to join the multiagency shared service, FOIAonline.
- FOIA needs to become a vehicle of last resort, not the first, by requiring federal agencies to post information that helps the public better hold them accountable.
- A plan is needed to increase data quality on USAspending.gov, and to make it possible for other databases, such as those about tax compliance.
- New tools need to be developed to allow recipients of federal funds to create electronic reports that can be used to show how those funds flow.
The president sets up the PIDB-recommended White House-led Security Classification Steering Committee.
Make it clear to government managers and supervisors that there is a zero-tolerance policy for suppression and retaliation.
- An additional directive to criminal justice leaders discouraging overreaching prosecutions and prosecutorial threats also would be appropriate.
- The limits of each branch’s powers and full transparency in the exercise of government are the best tools for openness and accountability.