Posts Tagged ‘anniversary’

FOI DAILY DOSE: GAO turns 90; transparency problems apparent in White House, State Dept.

90 candles for the GAO

The Government Accountability Office can blow out 90 candles for its birthday this month.

Since its creation in 1921, the GAO has been keeping watch over government spending. It oversees how taxpayer funds are used and how money is spent on everything from the Iraq war to NASA’s latest project.

The GAO was known as the General Accounting Office for the better part of its existence before former comptroller David Walker changed its name to the Government Accountability Office in 2004.

Check out the anniversary video the GAO has released about its long history.

State Dept. slacking on FOIA requests

Despite President Obama’s calls for government agencies to become more efficient in responding to FOIA requests, some are still lagging behind in their response times – particularly the State Department, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

CPI received notices from the State Department asking it to withdraw requests from 2007 that have yet to be completed.

The documents in question were requested by former CPI reporter Devin Varsalona for a story on how Obama and other presidents traditionally provide diplomatic postings to major donors. Many of the journalist’s requests were still unfilled when the story was published in 2008.

This isn’t the first time the State Department has been called out for being unresponsive regarding transparency issues like FOIA requests. As of March 10, the State Department still had not provided a final response to Obama’s memo on open government according to a National Security Archive study.

White House meetings not as transparent as promised

The Obama administration is supposedly in favor of transparency – but not if they’re talking about debt reduction.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing June 30 that the executive branch was so serious about reaching a debt-reduction deal with Congress that it would hold meetings without notifying the press corps about them.

Carney did backtrack during the press briefing, saying that there aren’t meetings with major leaders that are kept secret even though not all presidential meetings are publicly noted.

Obama met with House Speaker John Boehner Sunday – but the White House meeting wasn’t on his public schedule. Politico writer David Rogers was the first to report the meeting on Tuesday, but Carney would neither confirm nor deny news of the meeting on Wednesday.

He also justified the secrecy surrounding meetings by arguing that reaching a solid budget deal was more important and that having up-to-date information on presidential meetings is of little concern to members of the general public, according to Politico.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).


FOI DAILY DOSE: Another birthday for FOIA, gov goes mobile

FOIA celebrates 45 years of openness

As children wielded sparklers and fireworks were shot off of rooftops to celebrate Independence Day on Monday, FOIA turned 45.

For four-and-a-half decades, the United States’ Freedom of Information Act has provided legal support for citizens when they asked for information the government was hesitant to provide. It has demanded that the government prove why information should be kept secret rather than force a journalist to prove why it should be disclosed.

Without FOIA, countless government injustices would have gone unnoticed.

FOIA has cast a light revealing information that would otherwise have been hidden in the shadows of government secrecy.

Implementation of FOIA isn’t perfect. There are disputes every day over whether people should have access to certain government information, especially where national security is concerned. The issue of how FOIA and technology should be used to provide searchable documents has also become a point of contention.

But with 45 years under its belt, FOIA is here to stay. It just needs some tweaking to ensure it keeps up with the fast-paced times in which we live.

Check out this article from the Sunlight Foundation also wishing FOIA a happy birthday. The National Security Archive commemorated FOIA’s anniversary as well with a Knight Open Government survey revealing some of the oldest unfulfilled FOIA requests and a list of 45 FOIA-related stories published this year.

Government mobile project launched

It’s time for government to go mobile.

At least, that’s what the U.S. General Services Administration is hoping to convince government agencies to do.

The GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies recently launched a new project called Making Mobile Gov. It aims to help federal departments collaborate on efforts to provide more government data to mobile devices like smartphones.

Government agencies will be able to use Web tools provided by the GSA program to help them create or revise their own mobile-sharing plans and to implement them successfully.

While advancing government openness to the mobile level is a great idea, OMB Watch published a June 30 blog post arguing that government agencies should first focus on making their websites more easily accessible for mobile devices before funneling the bulk of their resources toward creating cell phone apps that may not be as widely used.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

On 40th anniversary, Pentagon Papers finally released

Forty years ago today, The New York Times published parts of the Pentagon Papers, a 7,000-page secret government report on U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War released by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

In honor of that anniversary, the federal government officially released the Pentagon Papers for the first time in their complete, un-redacted form.

You can read the documents in online, searchable form at the Washington Post website.

Daniel Ellsberg is one of the most famous whistleblowers in American history. In leaking the Pentagon Papers, he revealed the deceptive actions of presidential administrations helmed by Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and others as they escalated the situation in Vietnam while keeping Congress and the public in the dark about what was really going on.

It may be 40 years late, but at least the Pentagon Papers are now completely available to the public.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).



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