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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DOJ Letter Shows Need for Stepped-Up Enforcement of Freedom of Information Act

A new letter by Department of Justice (DOJ) officials reveals the department is engaged in limited enforcement activities under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The letter responds to an inquiry from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to DOJ's Office of Information Policy (OIP), which oversees agency compliance with FOIA.

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Disclosure of NSA Surveillance Programs Underscores Need for Increased Transparency of National Security Activities

As more facts come to light about the massive, ongoing surveillance affecting millions of Americans, it is imperative that the government bring greater transparency and accountability to national security programs. We need a new national debate about personal privacy and security and where we as a country will draw the line.

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Transparency is Key for Sustainable Growth, Global Panel Says

Open and accountable government is key to successful development, according to a report by a United Nations (UN) panel released May 30. The report, titled A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development, was produced by a panel of global dignitaries at the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The report's emphasis on transparency represents the growing consensus among world leaders in favor of open government and could bolster support for transparency within the U.S.

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Improving Rules on Implementing the Freedom of Information Act

Up-to-date Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules that support transparency are important for ensuring agencies are properly implementing the law. Last week, the Center for Effective Government submitted comments to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) on its proposed FOIA implementation regulations and encouraged the agency to expand online disclosures, improve communication with requesters, clarify fees and fee waivers, and improve the process of submitting and processing administrative appeals.

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