Coalition Says US Failing to Fulfill OGP Commitments

1 October 2015

A pro-transparency coalition in the United States has said in a report that the Obama administration is not living up to its commitments regarding freedom of information.

OpenTheGovernment.org reviewed activity on the current U.S. National Action Plan prepared as a member of the Open Government Partnership.

It found that “despite commendable efforts and some meaningful progress, the United States government is not poised to fulfill many of its open government commitments.”

“While there has been some progress on each commitment, the broader picture remains one of minor change unfulfilled potential,” pointing to the latest OGP Independent Review Mechanism Progress Report, which said that just two of the United States’ 26 commitments have been completely fulfilled, with less than four months remaining for implementation.

Initiatives such as the consolidated Freedom of Information Act portal and the Office of Special Counsel Whistleblower Certification Program “have fallen vastly short of their potential,” the coalition said.

“In some cases, such as the commitment to make agency reports on privacy and civil liberties compliance more accessible to the public, agencies have failed to meet their legal requirements, much less make meaningful progress,” according to the evaluation. “Some areas have even seen regressive trends despite OGP commitments, such as the initiatives on foreign assistance transparency, where the Departments of Defense and the Treasury have become less transparent on foreign aid information than they were prior to the second Plan.”

It also commented, “Although the Administration continually meets with civil society on many aspects of the Plan, the government has neither incorporated nor indicated whether it is considering many civil society recommendations.”

The report also says:

Moreover, in the general context of U.S. government transparency, certain areas of secrecy continue to cast a dark shadow over the entire OGP process. These include continued secrecy surrounding U.S. national security issues such as domestic and global surveillance programs, targeted drone killings, torture programs, and the use of secret law to shut the public out of the debate on these issues. In order to convince the U.S. public and the globe that the U.S. government is truly committed to openness, the Administration needs to demonstrate greater commitment to transparency on these issues before this President leaves office.

OpenTheGovernment.org separately called on the Obama administration “to adopt meaningful commitments and support legislative reforms that would significantly improve the Freedom of Information Act.”

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