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The Information and Access Program focuses on defending and advancing the public's right to know. Unfortunately access to government information is under near constant attack. This program tracks and analyzes policies that affect the public's right to know and works to improve them. Our goal is to increase the quality of, access to, and use of government information.

Information & Access News for 2005. For news from previous years, see the Archive.

SEC Wants Transparency in Wall Street Credit Gambling

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Christopher Cox recently emphasized the urgent need for transparency of currently unregulated credit transactions, called credit default swaps (CDS), that contributed to the ongoing economic crisis. Cox is using the SEC's program to modernize its electronic disclosure system as a platform to call for oversight while the agency investigates alleged fraudulent transactions. Meanwhile, two other federal agencies are vying for regulatory oversight of CDS and industry is lobbying to minimize the impact. At issue will be whether transparency is accompanied with any other forms of accountability. Read More

Mixed Grades for Government on Free Speech and Science
A recent report card grading 15 federal agencies found inconsistent policies for releasing scientific information to the public. The analysis also showed that several agencies stifle their scientists' communication, causing scientists to fear retaliation for speaking their minds. Although some agencies have satisfactory policies or recently improved media policies, it appears much still needs to be done to ensure scientific information gets to the public. Read More

Project Makes Transparency Recommendations for Next President
More than 100 groups and individuals from across the country have been working collaboratively to develop recommendations for the next president on how best to improve federal government transparency. The effort, the 21st Century Right to Know project, was organized by OMB Watch, and it involves organizations and individuals from across the political spectrum. A draft set of recommendations is now available for review and endorsement. Read More

EPA Doesn't Want to Know about Factory Farm Waste
In a Sept. 24 congressional hearing, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defended its proposal to exempt factory farms from reporting on airborne and chemical emissions from animal waste, even though the agency has no reliable information on public health impacts of the pollution. Without the reports, communities would not know when potentially dangerous animal waste releases occur. Emergency responders would also have less information when responding to citizens' reports of noxious odors. Read More

EPA Reopens Libraries
After two years, numerous protests by the public, a formal grievance from a government employee union, a critical governmental report, and congressional intervention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reopened agency libraries it closed as a purported cost-saving measure. The libraries generally are smaller and open fewer hours than before, are now controlled by a political appointee, and may have lost materials in the interim, but they are open to the public. Read More

Department of Justice Finalizes Enhancements of FBI Powers
Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently finalized changes to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) rules that increase the agency's ability to gather information on citizens without having prior suspicion of wrongdoing. The new rules cover the FBI's powers over criminal, national security, and foreign intelligence surveillance and have been criticized by civil liberties advocates and privacy groups. Read More

Telecom Surveillance to Receive Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless surveillance program, utilizing power granted in the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Read More

EPA's Assessments of Chemical Dangers -- Too Slow
A government investigation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) process for assessing dangerous chemicals concludes the agency is so slow and lacking in credibility that the system is in "serious risk of becoming obsolete." Read More

Senate and House Take Legislative Swings at Secrecy
The Senate introduced new legislation that would make it more difficult for the executive branch to establish secret policies. This effort followed the House's passage of legislation to reduce overuse of classification by security agencies. Read More

EPA Withholds Pesticide Information While Bees Die
A conservation organization has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to release information about a pesticide linked to dramatic declines in honeybee populations. The pesticide was approved on the condition that the manufacturer study the effects of the chemical on the bee species. The EPA has received the studies but refuses to release them to the public, even though a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed. Read More

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