"Action" may be too strong a word. For that matter, "open" may be too strong a word. The Obama administration Tuesday unveiled its third "National Action Plan" at the international Open Government Partnership in Mexico. But note that many items are held over from the second plan because they have not yet been accomplished.
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has for years suppressed full disclosure of the National Inventory of Dams, once a key tool for journalists reporting on dam safety — or the government's failure to ensure it. Now that tool is back in the toolbox ... mostly.Region:
Several data resources can help journalists who want to develop stories about still-hazardous sites in their locality or region, including EPA's National Priorities List, CERCLIS database and state agencies.
Access to water quality data was an issue at one highly politicized House hearing on the August 5, 2015, toxic spill from a long-abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado, where New Mexico Secretary of Environment Ryan Flynn accused EPA of refusing for weeks to share data on the quality of waters fouled by the spill.
Federal agencies sometimes wait years to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, then ask if they are still interested in receiving the requested information. Now the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy has issued an official "guidance" that frowns slightly on overuse of the "still interested?" practice.
SEJ, which has complained about press-office restrictions for years, joined over 50 other journalism groups in signing an Aug 10, 2015 letter requesting government transparency — again. The groups had sent a letter to the White House in July 2014, a followup in Aug 2014, resulting in a non-response response from the WH later that month.
EPA's Plan, approved back on January 15, 2009, mandates giving "understandable, timely, accurate, and consistent information to the public." The plan laudably emphasizes coordination with other agencies — but it also leads to strong message control.
When a stealth legislative move to dismantle Wisconsin's open records law was revealed this month, a statewide uproar caused sponsors to back off. Appropro that the old lesson "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" would be taught once again around July 4, 2015.Topics on the Beat:Region:
A new pilot program would make available to the public automatically and immediately any information released to an individual FOIA requester. But some journalists would rather not have their pending scoops revealed before they are ripe. Image source: U.S. government.
The WatchDog has long whined about Congress' mystifying refusal to let taxpayers read Congressional Research Service reports the taxpayers have paid for. A June 17, 2015, editorial in the New York Times called the situation "absurd," expressing hope that a new director of the Library of Congress (home of the CRS) would manage to get the policy changed.