Obama Transparency Pledges Unfulfilled, NSA Report Says

14 March 2011

 The Obama administration is only about halfway toward its promise of improving Freedom of Information responsiveness among federal agencies, according to the new Knight Open Government Survey by the National Security Archive, released March 14 for Sunshine Week at www.nsarchive.org.

On his first day in office, January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum instructing federal agencies to “usher in a new era of open government.” In March 2010, however, the 2010 Knight Open Government Survey found that only 13 out of 90 agencies had actually made concrete changes in their FOIA procedures. The resulting national headlines sparked a new White House call to all agencies to show concrete change.

This year, the 2011 Knight Open Government Survey found that a few more than half of the federal agencies have complied — up from 13 to 49.

“At this rate, the president’s first term in office will be over by the time federal agencies do what he asked them to do on his first day in office,” commented Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which funded the study. “Freedom of information laws exist to help all of us get the information we need for this open society to function. Yet government at all levels seems to have a great deal of trouble obeying its own transparency laws.”

Modeled after the California Sunshine Survey and subsequent state “FOI Audits,” the Archive’s series of Knight Open Government Surveys started in 2002 and use open government laws to test whether or not agencies are obeying those same laws. Recommendations from previous Knight Open Government Surveys led directly to laws and executive orders which have: set explicit customer service guidelines, mandated FOIA backlog reduction, assigned individualized FOIA tracking numbers, forced agencies to report the average number of days needed to process requests, and revealed the (often embarrassing) ages of the oldest pending FOIA requests.

“The Obama administration told us last year that one year was too short a time to show real change,” said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive. “This year’s Knight Survey reveals a glass half full of open government, and some persisting deep problems including FOIA requests marooned for years in never-ending referrals among agencies.”

Follow the link below to read the 2011 Knight Open Government Survey.

http://www.nsarchive.org

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