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Eye Opener: Is Obama's government open enough?

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! The Obama administration's first year of efforts to improve access to government information have yielded mixed results, according to an audit of freedom of information act requests set for release on Monday. The report also found that the oldest FOIA requests date back to 1992.

The report by the National Security Archive at George Washington University comes at the start of Sunshine Week, the annual effort by good government groups and news organizations to promote better access to government information.

President Obama issued new guidelines on government transparency on his first full day of office, ordering agencies to "adopt a presumption in favor" and laying the groundwork for the eventual release of reams of previously undisclosed government information on the Internet.

But less than a third of the 90 federal agencies that process requests for information have made significant changes in their practices since Obama's initial orders, the report said. The departments of Agriculture, Justice, the Office of Management and Budget and the Small Business Administration earned especially high marks for either completely or partially fulfilling more requests and denying fewer of them during fiscal 2009. The departments of State, Transportation, Treasury, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have fulfilled noticeably fewer requests and denied more of them in the same time period.

Monday's report offers no clear trends however since it found a a wide variety of changes in each agency's decision to release or deny access to information. White House officials took exception to parts of the report, saying it was too early for an assessment.

Annual FOIA progress reports due to the Justice Department this week will demonstrate more pronounced progress in implementing Obama's transparency orders, said Norm Eisen (a.k.a. "Mr. No."), special White House counsel for ethics and government reform, who has helped oversee the administration's transparency efforts.

"The official data that we will release will show the trends are more positive, for example that there were many more full and partial FOIA releases, although we agree its too soon for a final judgment," Eisen said. He will represent the Obama administration at a series of Sunshine Week events.

The report also found that the National Archives and Records Administration and Defense Department have the oldest FOIA requests, dating to late 1992. The Central Intelligence Agency and Treasury Department also have unanswered requests more than ten years old. Despite those figures, agencies have closed the gap on longstanding requests since a similar 2002 study.

A Washington Post analysis published in January found that more people sued the government for access to government records in the first year of the Obama administration than in the final two years of the Bush administration. Critics argued that little has changed since the Bush years since agencies still often fight disclosure requests, a point disputed by Obama administration officials.

So what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rebukes Israel over East Jerusalem settlements. Obama's likely picks for the Federal Reserve signal a more activist approach. Henry Kissinger hospitalized, then released while in South Korea. Self-taught NASA photographer William Paul Taub dies at age 86. The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas joins a tea party group.

Census forms on their way: This key moment ultimately will decide the cost and success of the government's $14.5 billion effort to count every U.S. resident.

Legoland gets in on 2010 Census action: The U.S. Census Bureau has recruited the Lego toy company to help raise awareness for this year's decennial headcount.

At Afghan outpost, Marines gone rogue or leading the fight against counterinsurgency?: They're pushing into previously ignored Taliban enclaves. They have set up a first-of-its-kind school to train police officers. They have brought in a Muslim chaplain to pray with local mullahs and deployed teams of female Marines to reach out to Afghan women.

Obama: Revise No Child Left Behind law: Students would still be tested every year in reading and math under Obama's proposal, but scores in other subjects could also be used to measure progress.

Internet fraud losses, complaints jumped in '09: The Internet Crime Complaint Center logged 336,655 complaints in 2009 compared with 275,284 the year before, Reuters says. Nearly 12 percent involved sellers failing to ship merchandise or buyers failing to pay for it, while 10 percent were people who paid money upfront for rewards that never materialized.

FDA targets processing of spices in bid to make supply safer: In the middle of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella illness linked to black and red pepper federal regulators met last week with the spice industry to figure out ways to make the supply safer.

FEMA's sale of Katrina trailers sparks criticism: Consumer advocates and environmentalists are outraged that the government resold products it deemed unsafe to live in, saying warning stickers attached to the units will not keep people from misusing them.

Critics: Military trial of terror suspects could open cases to legal uncertainty: Lost in the rhetorical firefight have been the drawbacks of such an approach in a military system that resolved only three cases during the Bush years, one with a guilty plea.

U.S. citizen accused in Yemen killing had been under FBI watch: Sharif Mobley, a U.S. citizen accused of killing a hospital guard in Yemen, is believed to be a homegrown radical who left this country to make direct contact with al-Qaeda.

OPM's Berry blasts Washington Times editorial on federal pay: He picked it apart during an emotional radio interview on Friday.

Coburn wants to repay furloughed DOT workers from Congress's account: The Oklahoma Republican wants to pay the workers back with $1 million from the congressional budget, rather than tapping the federal coffers.

U.S. consular aide and husband killed in Mexico: President Obama expressed outrage at the “brutal murders” and in a statement from the White House vowed to “work tirelessly” with Mexican law enforcement officials to bring the killers to justice.

Unemployment rate for young veterans hits 21.1 percent: The number was well above the 16.6 percent jobless rate for non-veterans of the same ages, 18 to 24. It was significantly higher than the 2008 unemployment rate among veterans in that age group: 14.1 percent.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 15, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Oversight  
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Next: Andy Rooney on the struggling U.S. Postal Service


obama's goverment is hiding alot...
how sad our goverment is being transformed from a Republic to something else...

Posted by: DwightCollins | March 15, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

You mean you don't believe Pelosi? Transparent, what a joke!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | March 15, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

The more things change, the more they stay the same. If we could find out what is really going in, we'd really be outraged!!

Posted by: frustratedprophet | March 15, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

NO he is a liar a huge liar tell him show your BIRTH CERTIFICATE IN PERSON !!!!

Posted by: yourmomscalling | March 15, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

What a joke.

Posted by: corrections | March 16, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

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