More evidence of Congress' ineffectiveness comes in its ongoing failure to keep its secrets actually secret. Its official policy is to keep the Congressional Research Service from publicly releasing the handy explainers it produces at taxpayer expense. Thanks again to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project for unauthorized publication of these reports.
The federal government offers a launch pad for a range of journalistic projects, giving you one-click shopping for online state data portals where they exist. These portals bring together links to data from multiple agencies in a single state. Now, the nonprofit Center for Data Innovation has catalogued and rated state open-data policies.
In an August 15 email, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming said EPA Science Advisor Bob Kavlock would review complaints from journalism (including SEJ) and open-government groups that scientists on EPA advisory panels were being told not to answer news-media or congressional inquiries without permission.
Journalism and science groups, including SEJ, protested an August 12, 2014, "don't talk" memo from EPA's chief of staff. The memo makes it clear: members of the agency's many science advisory panels are not to talk to the news media or Congress without permission. Attached to the memo was an "EPA Policy" restricting communications between Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committee members and parties outside EPA.
Here are some recent explainers of interest to environmental journalists from the CRS, which Congress does not allow to be released to the taxpaying public who paid for them. The WatchDog thanks those who leaked them and the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy for publishing them.
"The Obama administration [Friday] released a final policy to guide government scientists in determining whether wildlife species deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act, making a substantive change to a draft policy released 2½ years ago."
For some years now, under multiple administrations, journalists who have called EPA scientists and other experts asking to talk to them about matters large and small have almost universally been told something like, "I'm not allowed to talk to news media without Press Office permission." Yet EPA officials maintain they do not have a press policy. SEJ's WatchDog filed June 10, 2014 the first of what will be an ongoing series of FOIA requests to get to the bottom of this ironic situation.
SEJ invites U.S. journalists and educators to apply for fellowships to attend this expenses-paid Specialized Reporting Institute, June 22-24, 2014 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Come learn about an issue that regularly grabs national, regional and local headlines. The deadline to apply is April 15, 2014.