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Category Archives: Freedom of Information

UK Report – Better Information for Better Government

Better Information for Better Government. 18 January 2017. Cabinet Office Digital Records and Information Management Team, working in collaboration with The National Archives and Government Digital Service.

“Managing information is critical for good government. Internally, information is the foundation of effective analysis and policy making. It provides the evidence to support decision making and it is a critical enabler of efficiency. Externally, it supports accountability of both civil servants and ministers through publications, audit, parliamentary scrutiny, freedom of information and ultimately through open public records. Information is one of the core assets of government. Like other assets, it needs to be managed well if we are to get best value from it. When information was predominantly held on paper, government was generally good at managing it. Files and filing were at the centre of how work got done: they were intrinsic to the flow of work, not an overhead on it. As a result, information could be organised and preserved and the lifecycle from initial creation through to long-term preservation and presentation was robust. As Sir Alex Allan noted in his 2015 Review of Government Digital Records, the transition from paper-based working to email and electronic documents undermined the rigour of information management across much of government. While little information has been lost altogether, much of what has accumulated over the past fifteen to twenty years is poorly organised, scattered across different systems and almost impossible to search effectively. This not only undermines government’s ability to structure and preserve long-term records, it also creates real and immediate risks for accounting officers, who may be unable to provide evidence for past decisions and actions or to meet their statutory obligations for public records and freedom of information. There is an immediate need to improve the organisation and management of departments’ accumulated digital records. Fortunately, the tools and techniques for doing so have improved rapidly in recent years and some departments are already making effective use of them. All departments need to be confident that they understand their digital information assets and have clear plans to ensure that they are managed in a way that addresses short term needs and risks and also supports long term preservation. There is also a need – and a great opportunity – to prevent the problem continuing to build up in future. The same tools and techniques will provide some help here too. The solution is primarily in the culture and work practices of the civil service. There needs to be clear accountability for information, as there is for other assets. Working practices need to recognise and value good information management with effective professional support for teams and projects. Getting information management right from the outset will deliver short term value through making better use of existing information and expertise and in doing so will deliver longer term value in managing information risks and creating a solid foundation for maintaining public records. This report, along with the programme of activity it describes, is the government’s response to Sir Alex Allan’s review. It sets an agenda for change and notes wider, structural issues that require further attention. As all departments are different, a single top-down approach will not succeed. Our focus is now on developing collaborative approaches across both departments and professional disciplines. We aim to test solutions and to promote the adoption of those which prove most effective.”

Welcome to the new CIA Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room

“The CIA’s declassified database is now online. Thanks to a MuckRock lawsuit and Mike Best’s diligence, you can now read over 13 million pages of Agency records – Back in December, we wrote about how the CIA would be placing its previously-inaccessible CREST database online. The move was a response to our lawsuit, handled pro… Continue Reading

Archive of public tweets, deleted by politicians around the world

“What is Politwoops? An archive of public tweets deleted by politicians. Explore the tweets they would prefer you couldn’t see.” Continue Reading

DOJ OIG Announces Initiation of Review of agency and FBI actions prior to election

News release: “Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today that, in response to requests from numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will initiate a review of allegations regarding certain actions by the Department of Justice… Continue Reading

Office of Government Ethics – status of presidential transition

“The plan the [president-elect] has announced doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the last four decades have met.We can’t risk the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for professional profit. Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict… Continue Reading

How Classified Presidential Library Records are Released to the Public

Nate Jones Via Redacted – This a version of this article originally appeared in The Federalist, Newsletter of the Society for History in the Federal Government “The Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA) established that the papers of U.S. Presidents legally belong to the American people. According to the law, the Archivist of the United States… Continue Reading

News Reporters Drive Growth in Media FOIA Litigation

“The number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases brought by reporters and news organization has substantially increased during the last four years. Media-filed lawsuits which represented 3.5 percent of total federal filings during earlier years jumped to comprise more than one out of every ten FOIA suits (10.8%) at their peak in FY 2015.… Continue Reading

Office of Government Ethics “has lost contact with Pence-Trump transition”

NBC News: “The office tasked with overseeing ethics and conflicts in the federal government struggled to gain access to leaders of the Trump transition team, and warned Trump aides about making decisions on nominees or blind trusts without ethics guidance, according to new emails obtained by MSNBC. Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub emailed… Continue Reading

Mobile carriers boost internet for U.S. inauguration events and demonstrations

Via AccessNow: “The largest mobile carriers in the U.S. have responded to a joint letter from Access Now and WITNESS asking them to provide adequate internet connectivity during the weekend of the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. The responses — from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular — indicate that the companies will boost capacity… Continue Reading

White House – New Lenses on the First Social Media Presidency

Joshua Miller via White House – “At the end of October, we shared our plans for preserving and passing on the digital history of the Obama administration, and invited the American people to “come up with creative ways to archive this content and make it both useful and available for years to come.” From the… Continue Reading

The Transparency Reporting Toolkit: Guide & Template

“The Transparency Reporting Toolkit is a joint project by New America’s Open Technology Institute and Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. The purpose of the Toolkit is to make it easier for companies to create better transparency reports about government requests for user data. Similarly, by providing a template and best practices,… Continue Reading

Intel agencies sued for records on Russian election interference

Follow-up to previous posting – Unreleased CIA assessment concludes Russia aided Trump – via The Hill – Lydia Wheeler, December 27, 2016: “A lawsuit has been filed against the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence seeking records pertaining to Russia’s interference in the presidential… Continue Reading