SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 3
January 11, 2010

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

NRC SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT ON OPEN GOVERNMENT

In a remarkable sign of how the ground is shifting in government information policy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has invited the public to suggest categories of NRC information that should be published on its web site, and to recommend other measures the Commission might take to improve transparency, public participation and collaboration.

A December 8, 2009 Open Government Directive issued by the Obama Administration ordered federal agencies to "identify and publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets" within 45 days (i.e. by January 22), and to take other steps "toward the goal of creating a more open government."

In a Federal Register notice published today, the NRC asked for public assistance to meet the requirements of the Open Government Directive.

"To aid the NRC's efforts to determine what data sets might be appropriate to publish and what transparency, public participation, and collaboration improvements it might include in its Open Government Plan, the NRC is soliciting public comments. Comments regarding publication of data sets are requested as soon as possible in light of the January 22, 2010, target date for publication of data sets," the NRC notice said.

In fact, anyone can propose high value data sets belonging to any agency for publication online, through a public comment page on the Obama Administration's data.gov web site.

We have suggested publication of the CIA's CREST database of declassified historical records, and of a broad selection of Open Source Center products that are not classified or copyrighted. Matt Schroeder of the FAS Arms Sales Project recommended improved, online publication of government data on U.S. arms exports (FAS Strategic Security Blog, January 8).


ACLU FILES SUIT ON BEHALF OF FIRED CRS OFFICIAL

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of Col. Morris D. Davis, a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, alleging that he was unlawfully fired from the Congressional Research Service because he made statements as a private individual that were critical of Obama Administration policy on military commissions. ("CRS Fires A Division Chief," Secrecy News, December 4, 2009.)

"Col. Davis has a constitutional right to speak about issues of which he has expert knowledge, and the public has a right to hear from him," said ACLU attorney Aden Fine.

The lawsuit names as defendants James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, as well as CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan, who is sued in his personal capacity.

At the root of the matter, ACLU argues, are ambiguous Library regulations and a problematic 2004 CRS policy on "outside activities" by CRS employees.

"Neither the Library's regulations nor CRS's policy establishes a standard for determining which outside speaking and writing is permissible and which is not. The regulations and policy afford the Library and CRS unfettered discretion to determine which speech to punish," according to the ACLU lawsuit.

"We maintain that the removal of Mr. Davis is justified," wrote Library of Congress General Counsel Elizabeth Pugh on December 14, 2009.

The case was assigned to Judge Reggie Walton of the DC District Court.


BOOK: THE WORLD BANK UNVEILED

"The World Bank Unveiled" tells the story of an attempt by World Bank researcher David Shaman and some of his colleagues to introduce greater transparency into the deliberations of the World Bank.

In 1999, at a time when the Bank was subject to intense controversy and public demonstrations, Shaman co-created the internet-based B-SPAN, which offered unedited videos of internal Bank discussions and debates. "We began B-SPAN as a way to increase the Bank's transparency. We believed by doing so we would increase people's understanding of what the Bank did, increase opportunities for the Bank to be more accountable to its critics, and thereby mute tensions on all sides."

The 688-page book details the devlopment of this transparency initiative from the author's perspective, and describes its early success as well as the opposition that it quickly engendered.

"I decided to write The World Bank Unveiled because I believe it will provide an opportunity for those who want a more open and accountable institution to overcome an internal culture wedded to secrecy and a bureaucracy married to the status quo," said Mr. Shaman. "If this should occur, the ultimate winners will be those millions who currently live in poverty because they will then have a more effective advocate on their behalf."

See "The World Bank Unveiled: Inside the Revolutionary Struggle for Transparency" by David Ian Shaman, Parkhurst Brothers Inc. Publishers, 2009:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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