President Promises Modest Steps toward Surveillance Transparency

In a widely anticipated speech today, President Obama laid out his position on reforming surveillance activities in the wake of disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Today’s announcements outlined modest steps to better protect privacy and bring greater transparency to the U.S. government’s surveillance activities, but more remains to be done.

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Medicare Spending Data May Be Publicly Available Under New Policy

On Jan. 14, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new policy that could bring greater transparency to Medicare, one of the largest programs in the federal government. CMS revoked its long-standing policy not to release publicly any information about Medicare’s payments to doctors. Under the new policy, the agency will evaluate requests for such information on a case-by-case basis. Although the impact of the change is not yet clear, it creates an opportunity for a welcome step forward for data transparency and open government.

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Groups Call on President to Keep Campaign Promise and Require GMO Labeling

The use of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) has increased enormously over the last decade but still lacks any labeling requirement or significant government oversight. Today, more than 200 organizations and businesses, including the Center for Effective Government, urged President Barack Obama to address this gap and require labeling of GMOs.

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Key Transparency Fund Survives in Spending Bill

The House and Senate appropriations committees today released a new spending bill which contained good news for a key fund for government transparency programs. The Electronic Government Fund (E-Gov Fund) will receive a slight boost in funding from recent years, while still falling short of the administration’s funding request.

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Planning Ahead to Keep Government Information Online

During the October 2013 federal government shutdown, several important public information sources were shuttered, which weakened government transparency during that time. But – short of averting the shutdown itself – could anything have been done differently?

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Fracking Law Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned parts of a controversial 2012 state law, called Act 13, which allowed gas companies to drill anywhere in the state without regard to local zoning laws. The Court’s decision upholds the ability of local governments to establish quality-of-life protections their constituencies want.

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Administration Pledges, Again, to Update Nine-Year-Old Website Policy

Attentive readers of the administration’s 2nd Open Government National Action Plan will notice a familiar commitment related to reforming government websites.

Here’s the administration’s first plan, from September 2011:

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Chemical Risks Remain as We Wait for Federal Chemical Safety Reforms

Chemical incidents and injuries steadily continue as we wait for federal efforts to improve chemical safety and security to bear fruit. Last Friday, two employees were burned in a chemical explosion and fire at a petrochemical plant in Alsip, IL. This explosion is one of several across the country that have caused injuries and deaths in recent months.

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Judge Rules Against "Secret Law" in Center for Effective Government Lawsuit

A federal judge ruled yesterday in favor of the Center for Effective Government, ordering the federal government to release documents we requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Specifically, the court ordered the government to disclose the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, a 2010 document also known as PPD-6.

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Reining in “Controlled Unclassified” Information: Time to Get the Job Done

The administration’s 2nd Open Government National Action Plan, released Dec. 6, includes a welcome commitment to implement the reforms laid out in President Obama’s 2010 executive order on controlled unclassified information (CUI).

Background

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