Freedom of Information Act Ombudsman Not Yet at Full Force, Report Finds

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) doesn't have a plan for conducting comprehensive reviews of federal agencies Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies or their compliance with the law.

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Justice Department Raises the Standards for the Freedom of Information Act, One Step at a Time

Oversight of how federal agencies implement the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is critical to ensuring the public has robust access to government records. The Justice Department's Office of Information Policy (OIP) recently issued its annual assessment of how well agencies are processing FOIA requests and announced plans to substantially improve its assessment measures next year. The more robust assessment tool will better hold agencies accountable for providing information to the public.

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More Transparency Could Help Fight Fraud and Strengthen Medicare

On Sept. 5, the Center for Effective Government, along with 13 other organizations, filed comments calling for the disclosure of Medicare payments to medical providers. Releasing the amounts of Medicare funds paid to providers could help fight fraud and strengthen Medicare.

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Whistleblower Reveals U.S. Spy Agencies' Secret Budget

Details on the secret U.S. spy budget spilled into the public realm yesterday after The Washington Post published selective pages from the 16-agency intelligence community’s fiscal year 2012 congressional budget justification, leaked by former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden.

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Fixing Chemical Security after West, Texas

In the aftermath of the West Fertilizer explosion in April, Congress and the Obama administration are looking for ways they can better address chemical plant security and safety. A congressional hearing on Aug. 1 focused on how the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) chemical security program missed problems at the West Fertilizer plant. On the same day, President Obama issued a new executive order instructing federal agencies to form a working group to identify and fix any regulatory or informational loopholes.

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Could Secrecy Caps Reduce Over-Classification?

Government officials from both parties have decried the excessive secrecy rampant in the executive branch for decades. For instance, in 2005 then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal where he stated “I have long believed that too much material is classified across the federal government as a general rule.”

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Improving the FOIA Rules at HUD

Agency rules for implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) should streamline processes, improve service, and further transparency. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has recently proposed new FOIA regulations to update their rules.

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Florida Propane Plant Explosion Highlights Exemption in Risk Management Program

On Monday night, explosions at a propane plant in central Florida injured nine workers, including five critically, and required the evacuation of residents within a half-mile of the plant. Though the exact cause of the incident is being investigated, the plant explosion raises serious questions about the need for more comprehensive risk management planning to inform and prepare communities near facilities with flammable chemicals.

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Tax Reform Should Not Happen Behind Closed Doors

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) pledged to their colleagues in the Senate earlier this month that their tax reform proposals—namely on tax breaks and loopholes, both of great concern to corporate interests—would be kept secret for 50 years. In contrast, presidential records become accessible to the public after 12 years with certain exceptions.

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Congress Says Special-Ops Budget Too Secret

While details on spending on specific national-security programs are sometimes kept from the public, such secrecy is not supposed to extend to Congress. Lawmakers are supposed to have detailed information on executive branch activities so they can knowledgeably exercise their constitutional power of the purse.

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