In time for Sunshine Week, the Center for Effective Government has issued this report on how the Obama Adminsitration is doing in meeting its pledge to be "the most transparent administration in history." According to the Center, there's good and bad. Here's a synopsis:
The Obama administration has dedicated more effort to strengthening
government transparency than previous administrations. The president
entered office offering a grand vision for more open and participatory
government, and this administration used its first term to construct a
policy foundation that can make that vision a reality, issuing an
impressive number of directives, executive orders, plans, and other
actions aimed at bolstering government openness. With the notable,
glaring exception of national security, the open government policy
platform the Obama administration built is strong. However, the actual
implementation of open government policies within federal agencies has
been inconsistent and, in some agencies, weak.
The Center makes 10 recommendations to improve government transparency, as follows:
Create agency environments that support open government
- The administration should assign a senior official in the White
House to oversee the implementation of open government policies and
ensure that individual has the authority to carry out the attendant
responsibilities of implementation.
- Agency heads should develop and make public implementation plans for
key open government policies and assign a senior official the
responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the agency plan.
Additionally, the interagency Open Government Working Group should serve
as a central forum to explore ways to improve overall implementation of
open government policies.
Congress should play a more active role in supporting
open government practices by passing legislation to codify open
government reforms, such as the DATA Act and reforms of FOIA and
declassification. Relevant committees should improve oversight of
current open government policies and implementation. Transparency needs
to be established by law.
Improve the accessibility and reliability of public information
- Agencies should modernize their IT systems to create and manage
information digitally, and the administration should establish benchmark
requirements for electronic records that all agencies must achieve over
the next four years.
- The administration should launch an aggressive effort to improve
agency compliance with its guidance on fulfilling Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) requests – speeding up processing, reducing backlogs, and
increasing disclosure. The Justice Department should work with agencies
to avoid FOIA litigation whenever possible and argue positions that are
consistent with the president’s transparency principles when in court.
- The administration should make proactive disclosure of public
information the norm and establish minimum standards for disclosure that
all agencies should adhere to, such as releasing communications with
Congress and posting FOIA request logs. Additionally, agencies should
continue to expand the datasets posted online and release inventories of
Reduce national security secrecy
- The administration should establish a White House steering committee
on classification reform, initiate an oversight review of agency
classification guides, and pursue policy and statutory reforms to
streamline the declassification process.
- The administration should revise its state secrets policy to require
independent court reviews of secret evidence and work with Congress to
permanently reform the state secrets privilege through legislation.
Additionally, the Department of Justice should issue a public report on
Inspector General investigations into complaints of wrongdoing that were
dismissed because of state secret claims.
- The Justice Department should renounce the use of criminal
prosecution for media leaks and protect the First Amendment rights of
- The administration should order an end to secret legal opinions,
memos, and directives that are used to shield controversial decisions
from oversight and legal challenge.