Most Read: Politics

Read In

Now Viewing: People from around the country looking at Post Politics section

See what's being read across the country ›

Social Surface: Politics

Federal Eye
Posted at 07:18 AM ET, 03/14/2011

Obama administration defending its FOIA progress

Barely half of all federal agencies are meeting goals set by President Obama on his first day in office regarding Freedom of Information requests, according to a new study out today.

Eye Opener

As The Federal Eye reports in Monday’s Post, of 90 federal agencies equipped to process FOIA requests, 49 have taken at least some steps to fulfill Obama’s goal to improve government transparency, according to the study by the National Security Archive at George Washington University and the Knight Foundation.

Researchers submitted FOIA requests to each agency seeking information on any changes made since Obama ordered the government to “adopt a presumption in favor” of FOIA requests on his first full day in office in January 2009.

This year’s results are significantly better than last year, when just 13 of the 90 agencies responded to the study’s authors. A subsequent memo from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House Counsel Bob Bauer reminding agencies that they needed to improve their FOIA work appears to have jumpstarted the progress, said National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton.

“But it shouldn’t take a White House memo to get agencies working on these issues,” he said in an interview.

The Obama administration sees things a little differently. For one, it counts 93 agencies processing FOIA requests, not 90. The Justice Department keeps tabs on FOIA requests each year, and reports that requests are down slightly — thanks to agencies posting more information online to preempt FOIA requests. The government’s overall FOIA backlog — a long complaint of transparency advocates — is also down 10.9 percent from the previous year.

White House officials and the report’s authors also credited agencies for granting more requests for internal documents and drafts of memos and other agency documents.

And officials pointed to two examples of how agencies are anticipating significant requests. In response to last year’s Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, the Mine Safety Health Administration posted all related information in one spot on its Web site. “Despite being overwhelmed with FOIA and media information requests, [MSHA] was able to provide the mining community and the general public with access to information related to this major accident,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

The Energy and Interior departments did something similar in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.Interior established an “electronic library” with all related documents, while Energy coordinated real-time data releases, including information on oil and gas collection data and video footage of the oil leaks.

Read the full report here and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Postal labor negotiations continue: Despite twitter and blog rumors over the weekend, the U.S. Postal Service and American Postal Workers Union have yet to reach a deal on a new long-term labor agreement. “We feel that it is in everyone’s best interest to keep negotiations at the table rather that through the media,” USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said in an e-mail Sunday. “We have nothing to announce at this time, but be assured that we will update you as soon as we have something to announce.”

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama and Mitch Daniels score laughs at the annual Gridiron Dinner. Obama is also pushing for an overhaul of “No Child Left Behind.” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton heads to the turbulent Middle East while her spokesman P.J. Crowley resigns over comments he made about the military’s treatment of alleged Wikileaks leader Bradley Manning. The Supreme Court is siding more often with workers and underdogs. Former labor secretary Robert Reich is still considered about the American workforce. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson perpetually on the Capitol Hill hotseat.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:

U.S. military, aid teams headed for Japan: Navy ships, Marine forces and non-governmental relief teams are being dispatched to provide humanitarian assistance and to search for survivors.

Ex-Blackwater contractors found guilty in Afghan’s death: A federal jury found Justin H. Cannon of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Christopher Drotleff of Virginia Beach not guilty of murder and weapons charges on Friday that could have resulted in life sentences.

Defense shutdown plans outlined in draft memo: The 13-page memo lists specific divisions and activities that would be exempt from a government work stoppage caused by a failure by Congress to pass a 2011 budget bill or a continuing resolution.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:

Government uses new and old media to get its message out after Japan disaster: It’s using conference calls, Twitter feeds and blogs to disseminate information related to Friday’s earthquake.

NHTSA:

Federal car seat tests fall behind, partly because crash dummies don’t measure up: Parents who think their children’s car seats and belt-positioning boosters are fully covered by federal safety standards are assuming too much.

NOAA:

• In tsunami’s wake, Dems pounce on GOP’s call for NOAA cuts: House Republicans in February approved a continuing budget resolution that included a $410 million budget cut for the Commerce Department agency that runs the National Weather Service.

STATE DEPARTMENT:

Maryland contractor Alan Gross draws 15-year sentence in Cuba: Alan Gross, 61, a subcontractor on a U.S. Agency for International Development program, was found guilty of working on a “subversive” U.S.-sponsored project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist system.

TSA:

TSA to retest X-ray scanners emitting ionizing radiation: The agency is retesting every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.

Follow The Federal Eye on Twitter | Submit your news tips here

By  |  07:18 AM ET, 03/14/2011

Categories:  Eye Opener

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company