So much to tell you about: Federal access round-up

There’s so much activity in the world of access at the federal level that we decided to round it up and put it in one place for you: 

 

Archives urged to reconsider decision on Bush Web pages
ICOG affiliate Openthegovernment.org and some other access watchdogs are trying to overcome a decision by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) not to record a “snapshot” of government web pages at the end of the current administration (as it did at the end of the Clinton Administration and of the 109th Congress). According to Openthegovernment.org, NARA contends that existing entities such as the Internet Archive already record federal pages and that a snapshot doesn’t possess enough historical value to warrant its capture.

Here are some excerpts of a letter to from the groups to Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States:

The work of organizations like the Internet Archive, while valuable, does not supplant the responsibility of our national government to protect and document its own history and the NARA snapshot is the critical component of the Nation’s historical record.  No other agency has both the public mandate and the public accountability necessary for protecting historical records.Moreover, depending on private, non-profit organizations to keep our Nation’s digital history poses serious risks. What guarantee is there that the Internet Archive or any similar organization, and the records they keep, will still exist 10, 15, or a hundred years from now?  How do we ensure that these records will be freely available and without limitations on their use?

A snapshot of federal web pages is, indeed, of great historical value. They provide the public with an image and understanding of the government at a particular point in time that can be then compared and contrasted with other such images over Administrations.  Such comparison is of immense historical value because it allows the public direct access to federal digital records at a given time in history.  As Congress and Federal agencies continue to move more and more of their work online, proactive and detailed digital archiving is essential for public awareness and government accountability.

For more details, see what dotgovwatch has to say on the issue, Computerworld’s coverage, or NARA’s response.

Sunshine in Government releases recommendations for FOIA ombudsman

Speaking of NARA, under the new FOIA, the agency is charged with setting up the independent Ofifce of Government Information Services to serve as a mediator of disputes in obtaining federal records. Sunshine in Government, a coalition of media groups, has some ideas for NARA that involve an initial focus on media groups.”This office could really break through some logjams,” said SGI Coordinator Rick Blum, “but it is important to set it up so it is not immediately overwhelmed with mediation requests from frustrated requesters. That is why we recommend OGIS at first focus on requesters whose purposes are to disseminate information to the public. It will gain experience and also help to fulfill FOIA’s real mandate: to make records public.”

Click on to read the entire set of recommendations.

Progress Report: How Agencies are Doing with the FOIA We Have
The Government Accountability Office has a new report monitoring federal agencies’ compliance with FOIA.  Click to read the full report.

Make Your Voice Heard in Shaping Proposed Disclosure Legislation
Yet another access watchdog group, the Sunlight Foundation, is out with a draft of proposed legislation it calls the Transparency in Government Act of 2008, a bill aimed at updating congressional disclosure requirements. It is posting the bill online so the public can get a glimpse and make suggestions before it seeks sponsorship from lawmakers.

The foundation invites you to offer your two cents, either anonymously or with your name attached, by clicking here.

How Much are those FEMA Records in the Window?
Well, $210,000, of course. That’s what the agency wants to charge a newspaper for records of its response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Click here to read Editor & Publisher’s accounting.

Go Ahead – Rummage Around in Uncle Sam’s Attic
Finally, here’s a link to a great site that longtime access advocate Michael Ravnitzky put us onto – Governmentattic.org. The site is archiving some fascinating documents, such as FCC game show complaints, FOIA case logs for various agencies, records from the National Reconnaissance Office and National Security Agency, and so forth. Poke around and learn a bit about what your government’s been doing in your name.