Tag Archives: First Amendment

Survey: Only half of federal agencies have better FOI procedures

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

A report from the Knight Open Government Survey found that, despite some progress, federal agencies are only halfway there when it comes to delivering on the president’s day-one promise to improve FOIA procedures and openness across the board.

There is some cause for optimism there, as last year that number was about 14 percent. For the curious, Knight also provided a full PDF of how the 90 different agencies in the survey stacked up.

But before I highlight a few health-related entries, I can’t resist pointing out the survey’s methodology section, which will help explain how the results are organized.

The 2011 Knight Open Government Survey team filed FOIA requests with the 90 federal agencies that have chief FOIA officers, asking for copies of concrete changes in their FOIA regulations, manuals, training materials, or processing guidance as a result of the “Day One” Obama memorandum, and the March 2010 White House memorandum from then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House Counsel Bob Bauer. The Emanuel-Bauer memo told agencies to 1) update all FOIA material, and 2) assess whether FOIA resources were adequate.

The key takeaway then is that this is a measure of administrative regulation, and not one focused on responsiveness to actual FOIA requests beyond the one used to create each data point. With that in mind, here’s how our friends at health-related agencies stack up.

Concrete action on two steps

  • DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
  • OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY & HEALTH REVIEW COMM.
  • DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

Concrete action on one step

  • OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY
  • DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD
  • FEDERAL MINE SAFETY & HEALTH REVIEW COMM.
  • NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

No final response to FOIA request

  • COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
  • PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE

No acknowledgement of FOIA request

  • CHEMICAL SAFETY & HAZARD INVESTIGATION BRD.

Freedom of Information Audits and Government Transparency from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Sunshine Week poll: U.S. government is secretive

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Americans think the U.S. government is “secretive” or “very secretive,” according to a poll released in conjunction with National Sunshine Week.sunshine-week

The poll, part of a five-year series of studies into public attitudes toward government openness commissioned by the American Society of News Editors, “found that 70 percent believe that the federal government is either ‘very secretive’ or ‘somewhat secretive.’ The largest portion of respondents, 44 percent, said it is ‘very secretive.'”

Attitudes on the openness of the federal government have changed in recent years. In the first poll conducted for National Sunshine Week in 2006, 22 percent of respondents said they believed the federal government was “very secretive.” It rose to 37 percent in 2007, 44 percent in 2008 and then dropped slightly to 40 percent in 2009 at the beginning of the Obama administration.

State and local governments fared better in the public mind: “Only 36 percent believe their local governments are very or somewhat secretive. Forty-eight percent said the same of their state governments.”

The survey was conducted from Feb. 3 to March 9 at the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University under a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation. The poll has a margin of error of about 4 percentage points.

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