Back on September 18, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee chaired by John Conyers (D-Michigan) held a hearing entitled "Warrantless Surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act". In that hearing, Conyers posed some questions to the Justice Department to get at the Department’s views on the legal framework governing electronic surveillance under the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- we've been tracking FISA for some time on FGI. The Committee hearing volume (pdf) was published in June 2008 without the Justice Department’s answers to these questions, because they were provided to Congress too late to be included in the published record.
As you might remember, back in December, 2005 the NY Times broke a story about the Bush administration secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials. FAS as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other civil liberties organizations have been tracking the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.
Many thanks to Steven Aftergood and the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) for submitting a FOIA request to make public Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein's written responses to those questions posed about this important program and bringing to light the legal perspective that held sway within the Bush administration's Justice Department.
“If the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) was perfectly legal as has been claimed, why would companies who cooperated in it need immunity?” the Committee asked. (To protect classified information, among other reasons, the Department responded.) “Is the President free to disregard any provisions of FISA with which he disagrees?” (No, not exactly.) “If an individual in the United States is suspected of working in collusion with persons outside the United States–such that an investigation of one is in effect the investigation of the other–under what circumstances, generally, would you use criminal or other FISA wiretaps?” (Targeting of persons in the United States can only be done under FISA procedures.)
3/1/2010 - Updated to add criteria of non-distribution of tangible product to FDLP.
Thanks to some documents reported to FGI's Lost Docs Blog last month, the Lost Docs blog has a new category that needs explaining. The category is called "Explanation Needed."
GPO lost docs receipts submitted to lostdocs.freegovinfo.info will be assigned this category if:
1) Cataloging records exist for both tangible (Paper and/or microfiche) and online versions of the item submitted that were added to the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) earlier than the datestamp on the lost docs receipt.
2) The catalog record for the tangible version indicates that GPO cataloged the tangible version within five years of the publishing date of the item.
3) There is clear evidence from the bib record or depository librarian testimony that the tangible item was NOT offered to Federal Depository Libraries.
We have a five year limit because GPO Acquisitions staff have indicated they rarely have success in finding depository copies of tangible items more than five years old.
We at FGI don't insist that GPO distribute a tangible item when that item is solely available in an online format, but when a tangible item is available and fits the program, it should be distributed. GPO's policy on dissemination, SOD 301, states (emphasis mine), "When the product is available both online and in a tangible format, GPO will disseminate the online version to depository libraries. Tangible versions will be offered as well, budget permitting." Hopefully this means that most of the time the budget will permit this. If an item wasn't distributed for budget reasons, GPO should note this in the print record.
Until the non-distribution of these tangible items is explained and obviously noted in the cataloging record for a given item, it will keep the "Explanation Needed" tag. However, we will also continue to tag such items as "false positive" since we believe the primary focus of "lost docs" is documenting government publications that have escaped the National Bibliography GPO is required to maintain and because people do have access (at least for now) to the online version.
We encourage depositories to report non-distribution of CGP-Cataloged documents through GPO help and not through the Lost Docs form.
Open source intelligence -- not to be confused with Open-source software -- is "a form of intelligence collection management that involves finding, selecting, and acquiring information from publicly available sources (my emphasis) and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence." Libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program have since the early 1940s received output from this process in the form of Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) materials *for free*. FBIS materials offered translation of foreign news sources, and via the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) foreign language books, newspapers, journals, unclassified foreign documents and research reports. FBIS became the World News Connection in 1996, but it is a severely limited version (about half) of what's available for internal government use.
All that background as context to a very troublesome turn of events as described by a recent post on the govdoc-l list (see the email below stripped of personal information). This important piece of the govt information universe is now only available via a very expensive commercial database (World News Connection), depriving the academic and larger research communities of full access to all that is done by FBIS at taxpayer expense. Please help us by contacting the Open Source Center (OSCinfo@rccb.osis.gov 202-338-6735, or 1-800-205-8615) and Robert Tapella (PublicPrinter@gpo.gov) at the Government Printing Office and request that the Open Source Center offer free access of opensource.gov to depository libraries. Thanks!
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 10:25:58 -0600
Subject: OpenSource.gov access
Has any library successfully gained access to OpenSource.gov?
For those who are unfamiliar with this resource, here is the what their web page says about them:
"OpenSource.gov provides timely and tailored translations, reporting and analysis on foreign policy and national security issues from the OpenSourceCenter and its partners. Featured are reports and translations from thousands of publications, television and radio stations, and Internet sources around the world. Also among the site's holdings are a foreign video archive and fee-based commercial databases for which OSC has negotiated licenses. OSC's reach extends from hard-to-find local publications and video to some of the most renowned thinkers on national security issues inside and outside the US Government. Accounts are available to US Government employees and contractors. Register today to see what OpenSource.gov has to offer."
When we tried to register, they informed that we would have to justify why we needed access to the information and that we could get the information through World News Connection (via Dialog) OR, and I quote:
"In addition to the World News Connection, individuals may be able to access OSC products through university libraries, or the Federal Depository Library Program. Many Depository Libraries received CDs from the US Government Printing Office that contain select Open Source Center products." [The CDs that they are referring to are the FBIS materials (PREX 7.10/3:)]
In our response, we informed them that WNC was an expensive database they we could not afford and that their information regarding OSC being distributed through the FDLP was sorely out of date since the CDs have NOT been distributed for over 5 years.
In their response, they say they are considering adding additional agencies such as the Federal Depository Library (FDL) as part of the approved list of agencies in OpenSource.gov., but such a review would take a considerable amount of time to do. (I took this to mean, when 'ell freezes over.) Now here is the strange part--they think the FDLP is under the Dept of Interior and we could sign up that way--but our email address would need to have .gov or .mil in it. I am not sure, but I think they are actually referring to the Natural Resource Library in the U.S. Dept of Interior, which is a federal depository library, with which we are not associated, so this is NOT an option.
At this point I am stymied as to how we can have access to information that was formerly available FOR FREE through depository but is now only available through commercial ($$$) means. I know that GPO is aware that the CDs are no longer being distributed because of the creation of the OpenSource database. The only message I could find about this situation via the GOVDOC-L archives was from 2007 when they said "FDLP is still working with the agency OSC to get an agreement with how we are going to access their database." It is now 3 years later and we still do not have access to this information.
In the meantime, we have a professor on campus doing research in Middle East affairs and would like to have access to more recent information than what we have in our library via microfiche and CDs. We can not afford WNC, so I don't know what else we can do--except get access to OpenSource.gov. If anyone has been successful, I would be happy to hear how you did it.
The site Cryptome has been shut down over a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice from Microsoft alleging copyright infringement after Cryptome published a 22-page Microsoft document outlining how the company stores private user data in its web-connected servers. The document also explains how government agencies can access that personal data. John Young has put up an alternative website while the original domain is locked by Network Solutions. Wired news blog "Threat Level" and ReadWriteWeb have more context.
Feel free to download the document entitled "Microsoft® Online Services Global Criminal Compliance Handbook" (.pdf).
Good thing libraries have collected Cryptome archives on CDROM and have harvested the site as well!
Announcement: publication of A Guide to Distributed Digital Preservation
Authored by members of the MetaArchive Cooperative, A Guide to Distributed Digital Preservation is the first of a series of volumes from the Educopia Institute describing successful collaborative strategies and articulating specific new models that may help cultural memory organizations work together for their mutual benefit.
This volume is devoted to the broad topic of distributed digital preservation, a still-emerging field of practice for the cultural memory arena. Replication and distribution hold out the promise of indefinite preservation of materials without degradation, but establishing effective organizational and technical processes to enable this form of digital preservation is daunting. Institutions need practical examples of how this task can be accomplished in manageable, low-cost ways.
This guide is written with a broad audience in mind that includes librarians, archivists, scholars, curators, technologists, lawyers, and administrators. Readers may use this guide to gain both a philosophical and practical understanding of the emerging field of distributed digital preservation, including how to establish or join a network.
Readers may access A Guide to Distributed Digital Preservation as a freely downloadable pdf and/or as a print publication for purchase. Please visit http://www.metaarchive.org/GDDP to download or order the book.
The MetaArchive Cooperative provides low-cost, high-impact preservation services to help ensure the long-term accessibility of the digital assets of universities, libraries, museums, and other cultural memory organizations. In addition to preserving members' digital content in a distributed digital preservation network, the Cooperative also offers consulting and education services to institutions that seek training in digital preservation planning, policy creation, and implementation, including setting up and running Private LOCKSS Networks (http://www.lockss.org).
For more information, please contact Program Manager Katherine Skinner (email@example.com).
A snapshot of income disparity. Opinion, by Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times (February 24, 2010).
[I]n 1992, the Clinton administration asked the Internal Revenue Service to begin tracking the incomes and tax payments of the country's 400 richest households. During the George W. Bush years, the IRS continued to collect the data, but -- you'll be shocked to know -- didn't release it to the public.
But the data are now available:
- The 400 Individual Income Tax Returns Reporting the Highest Adjusted Gross Incomes Each Year, 1992-2007, Internal Revenue Service, Statistics of Income Division. December 15, 2009.
Rutten notes that the IRS figures show that in just one year (2006-2007) "the average income of the country's 400 top taxpayers rose 31%." He continues:
That's all of a piece with trends documented by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, whose research into global income patterns shows that between 1992 and 2007, America's 400 richest households increased their average income by 399%, while the bottom 90% of the country's households gained just 13%. (Those percentages, by the way, reflect inflation-adjusted dollars.)
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a new document that addresses agencies using "cloud computing":
- Frequently Asked Questions About Managing Federal Records In Cloud Computing Environments.
The purpose of this FAQ is to provide agency records officers with a basic overview of cloud computing, its benefits and concerns, and records management implications that agencies will need to consider when implementing cloud computing services.
Addressing records management implications associated with cloud computing, NARA notes that, "Various cloud architectures lack formal technical standards governing how data is stored and manipulated in cloud environments. This threatens the long-term trustworthiness and sustainability of the data."
See also: NARA Addresses Cloud Record Keeping, By Elizabeth Montalbano, InformationWeek (February 22, 2010).
The New York Times announced today the release of version 3 of its "Congress API."
- Introducing Version 3 of the Congress API, By DEREK WILLIS, New York Times Open Blog (February 23, 2010).
The Times gets raw data directly from the U.S. House and Senate Web sites and Thomas, the Library of Congress public web site with legislative information. It parses and stores the data on its own servers and provides an API (Applications Programming Interface) to the data so that programmers can query the data, get results, and easily provide the data to users in interesting and unique ways.
This is an excellent example of treating government information as "data" rather than as "documents." Rather than having a PDF file that lists all members of Congress (a document-centric way to deal with information), a database of all members of Congress with an API front-end to the database (which treats information as data) allows developers to build software that allows users to get a list for a state or district. When combined with other information such as voting records, bill-sponsorship, party affiliation, and so forth, users can get the information they need assembled in response to a specific information request. To the user the end result looks like a "document" but the document is built dynamically from the data.
Developers at the NY Times and elsewhere are using this to create interesting web sites and applications. See, for example, Your Government - The Oregonian, and Congress Speaks, and the Times' own Represent, which combines Federal and State information to allow users to find elected representatives in New York City.
I found this NPR story this morning very interesting. The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments today in a case that pits an individual's right of free speech and association against USAPA. The case is being brought by the nonprofit Humanitarian Law Project. Too bad the briefs for this case aren't publicly available yet (at least not on FindLaw :-( ). This would be a slam dunk for the Humanitarian Law Project if their name was followed by "LLC."
"The Federal Communications Commission released its National Broadband Plan Consumer Survey, Broadband Adoption and Use in America, which found that affordability and lack of digital skills are the main reasons why 93 million Americans -- one-third of the country -- are not connected to high-speed Internet at home." (from the February 23, 2010 press release 93 MILLION AMERICANS DISCONNECTED FROM BROADBAND OPPORTUNITIES):
- Broadband Adoption and Use in America, OBI Working Paper Series no. 1, By John B. Horrigan, Federal Communications Commission, 2010. (52 pages. PDF)
The FCC conducted a survey of 5,005 Americans in October and November 2009 in an effort to understand the state of broadband adoption and use, as well as barriers facing those who do not have broadband at home....
The main dividing lines for access are along socioeconomic dimensions such as income and education....
There are three primary reasons why the 35 percent of non-adopting americans do not have broadband: cost, lack of digital literacy and broadband is not sufficiently relevant for them to purchase it...
See also: FCC Survey Shows Need to Teach Broadband Basics, By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, New York Times (February 23, 2010).
There's an App for That, by Emily Long, Tech Insider (02/19/10).
MultiEducator Inc., a multimedia software developer, earlier this month released American Dreams, [$2.99] an iPhone/iPod application that compiles historical documents, speeches and Supreme Court decisions. The program [has] text versions of 480 speeches (including every inaugural address), 90 Supreme Court rulings and 18 audio recordings, which will expand as events occur and other historical documents are deemed worthy of inclusion.
...A quick search of the iTunes app store revealed [another app] U.S. Historical Documents [By Standard Works LLC, $.99, with "over 200 of the most influential documents in U.S. history"], which lets users search, bookmark and create inline notes. Other related apps compile information on members of Congress, presidents and famous speeches.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Rulemaking Gateway, which "provides information to the public on the status of EPA's priority rulemakings" could be a model for tracking rulemaking, according to an article in NextGov:
- EPA Web site paving the way to transparency, by Aliya Sternstein, NextGov (02/19/2010).
EPA has committed to releasing rulemaking plans earlier than in the past. As soon as an agency regulatory policy officer determines it is appropriate to start developing a rule, information will be posted on the gateway, officials said. A regulation could appear on the site months or even years before a file is created on the governmentwide rule-tracking site Regulations.gov.
It has user-friendly searches and is closely tied to Regulations.gov.
Next Generation Connectivity: A review of broadband Internet transitions and policy from around the world, The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. (February 2010).
On July 14, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University would conduct an independent expert review of existing literature and studies about broadband deployment and usage throughout the world and that this project would help inform the FCC's efforts in developing the National Broadband Plan. The Berkman Center's Final Report was submitted to the FCC on February 16, 2010.
Our most prominent initial findings, confirmed and extended in this final draft, were that U.S. broadband performance in the past decade has declined relative to other countries and is no better than middling. Our study expanded the well known observation with regard to penetration per 100 inhabitants, and examined and found the same to be true of penetration per household; subscriptions for mobile broadband; availability of nomadic access; as well as advertised speeds and actually measured speeds; and pricing at most tiers of service.
The Center has made the full datasets behind their research available for download.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) techniques are bad enough when applied to digital content, but this article notes that when there is not even a standard for DRM, the difficulties and problems that DRM creates are multiplied:
- E-books need a common language, By Troy Wolverton, San Jose Mercury News, (02/14/2010)
I never need to worry about whether I can read a book. As long as a book's a book, that is — printed on paper, in English. I know I can pick it up and read it no matter how long it sits on my shelf after I bought it. But as we move into the era of e-books, that assumption no longer holds.
There is more on Apple's decision to impose DRM on ebooks, after dropping DRM from music, here:
- Digital handcuffs for Apple ebooks?, by Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times "Jacket Copy" blog. (February 16, 2010)
Apple's old digital rights management software (DRM), FairPlay, is slated to make a comeback with the e-books it will be selling on its iBook Store. While music users have been free of these "digital handcuffs" for the last year, Alex Pham reports that readers will not be.
The new report from the National Telecommunications And Information Administration (NTIA) on broadband availability in the U.S. is now available. The most dramatic finding is that approximately 40 percent of all persons in the U.S. have no broadband access at home.
- DIGITAL NATION: 21st Century America’s Progress Towards Universal Broadband Internet Access "An NTIA Research Preview" (February 2010). (PDF, 1.3 MB)
The good news is that "broadband Internet connectivity by households has grown dramatically" with 63.5 percent of U.S. households (not persons) having acces to broadband service at home -- a 25 percent increase from two years ago.
We have to temper even this good news, however, when we realize that the definition of "broadband" is both vague and slow. The survey only asks respondents to differentiate between "A regular ‘dial-up’ connection" (not broadband) and everything else ("DSL, cable modem, fiber optics, satellite, wireless (such as Wi-Fi), mobile phone or PDA, or some other broadband"). (See: Survey Instrument, October 2009 CPS Internet Use Supplement.)
A separate survey by SpeedMatters.org (2009 Report on Internet Speeds in All 50 States) reports that the average download speed for the nation was 5.1 megabits per second (mbps) and the average upload speed was 1.1 mbps and that the United States ranks 28th in the world in average Internet connection speeds.
The NTIA report also notes that, while "virtually all demographic groups have increased their adoption of broadband services at home over time," there are still "demographic disparities" of internet broadband access that have persisted over time.
Like previous NTIA reports, this one is based on data collected in the Census Bureau's in the Current Population Survey. This time the survey used was conducted in October 2009 an had a sample size of approximately 54,000 households and 129,000 citizens. The last report was two years ago, Networked Nation: Broadband In America 2007. (See: NTIA says we are "reaping the rewards" of government's broadband policy.)
An Associated Press story on the NTIA report (New data: 40 percent in US lack home broadband, By Joelle Tessler, Seattle Post Intelligencer, February 16, 2010) quotes FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying that "he wants 100 million U.S. households to have access to ultra high-speed Internet connections, with speeds of 100 megabits per second, by 2020. That would be several times faster than the download speeds many U.S. homes with broadband get now - 3 megabits to 20 megabits per second."
See also: Survey: 40 percent in U.S. have no broadband, by Lance Whitney, CNet (February 16, 2010).
The Economic Report of the President is available from the White House web site in 3 formats: PDF, Kindle, and the open ePub format which Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony's Reader, and other ebook-reader-software can use. The epub format, being an open, non-proprietary standard is, potentially, much easier to preserve for the long-term than proprietary formats like Kindle and PDF.
I looked at the Kindle version, the ePub version using the Stanza application on a Macintosh laptop and on an iPhone, and the PDF version on my laptop. The PDF looks the way the printed book looks with accurate page formatting and layout. The ePub and Kindle formatting is not perfect, but is readable. Table of Contents links did not work at all in Stanza, but did on the Kindle -- including links to individual statistical tables in the appendix. The PDF version has a navigation sidebar for the chapters, but not for the statistical tables within the appendix.
Statistical tables are complete and accurately formatted in the epub and Kindle versions. They are tiny on the iPhone, but re-sizable, so the tables are readable. I doubt many people will want to read those tables on their phones, however. On the Kindle, the statistical tables are not resizable and I found them very hard to read, even when I rotated them to "landscape" orientation. The tables did not appear at all in the Stanza app on the Macintosh.
This is a welcome first step for making digital government information more widely available. The digital publishing community needs to do more work on the open ePub format to handle formatting and links better and the hardware and software manufacturers need to work toward better usability. After working recently to produce a book in Kindle, epub, and PDF formats, I know that publishers (including whoever formatted these for ebook readers [GPO?]) can do a better job even now with what they have. But, this is a good first step.
See also: White House embraces e-book readers, By Nate Anderson, ars technica (February 15, 2010).
Carl Malamud announced yesterday the inaugural meeting of the International Amateur Scanning League (IASL) (I'm already imagining cool swag!). Malamud is taking FedFlix program to the streets! Fedflix, a joint venture between the National Technical Information Service and Public.Resource.Org, digitizes NTIS video and makes them available on YouTube, the Internet Archive, and the public.resource.org Stock Footage Library.
Well now a gang of volunteers including members of DC CopyNight and Smithsonian employees working on their own time are going to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and copying over 1,500 DVDs to be uploaded to the net.
What makes this grassroots digitization effort so remarkable is that it has the full support of the government. Indeed, David Ferriero, the U.S. Archivist, joined me in the initial meeting where we taught volunteers how to rip DVDs!
Kudos to Malamud and the IASL!
And this makes me think that more libraries and librarians should be doing the same thing for govt documents. Why not set up your own scanning operations in your depository library (Book Liberator or DIY Book Scanner can show you how to digitize on the cheap!) and then deposit those scans into the Internet Archive's US Documents Collection (don't forget to follow FDLP digitization standards!). Scans could also be ingested into FDSys (when they've got that capability working ;-)). So get to it; what are you waiting for?!
The Government Printing Office (GPO) has posted their recent session on reporting fugitive documents at their OPAL archive:
Helping GPO Identify Fugitive Publications presented in January 2010 by Joe McClane, Manager of Content Acquisitions, and Linda Nainis, Acquisitions Librarian, U.S. Government Printing Office.
If you have any interest in the fugitive document problem -- agencies publishing information that slips between the cracks -- I highly recommend this session. This is an informative and frank discussion about GPO's efforts to address this problem and how librarians and other interested govinfo types can help contribute to the solution. Or at least one solution among many.
White House Makes Full Copyright Claim on Photos, by Kathy Gill The Moderate Voice (Feb 6th, 2010).
The U.S. government policy on photographs and copyright is pretty straightfoward: photos produced by federal employees as part of their job responsibilities are "not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no U.S. copyright restrictions on reproduction, derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work."
Why, then, is the Obama White House asserting that no one but "news organizations" can use its Flickr photos? Why is it asserting that manipulation is prohibited? Why is it asserting that photos may not be used in "commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House"?
The recent "alliance" between the National Security Agency, (one of the most secret and secretive members of the U.S. intelligence community), and Google has brought up more questions than answers. Here are some recent stories:
- Google to enlist NSA to help it ward off cyberattacks, By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post (February 4,
"The world's largest Internet search company and the world's most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity."
- Google Asks Spy Agency for Help With Inquiry Into Cyberattacks, By JOHN MARKOFF, New York Times (February 4, 2010).
'By turning to the N.S.A., which has no statutory authority to investigate domestic criminal acts, instead of the Department of Homeland Security, which does have such authority, Google is clearly seeking to avoid having its search engine, e-mail and other Web services regulated as part of the nation’s "critical infrastructure."'
- 'Don't Be Evil,' Meet 'Spy on Everyone': How the NSA Deal Could Kill Google, By Noah Shachtman, Wired (February 4, 2010).
"The company pinkie-swears that its agreement with the NSA won’t violate the company's privacy policies or compromise user data. Those promises are a little hard to believe, given the NSA's track record of getting private enterprises to cooperate, and Google’s willingness to take this first step."
- Google, NSA ‘alliance’ has privacy advocate alarmed, By Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story, (February 4th, 2010).
- EPIC Seeks Records on Google-NSA Relationship, Electronic Privacy Information Center (February 4, 2010).
See also: Privacy: "I have nothing to hide".
[UPDATE: I added the slides for Tom Bruce's talk]
Shinjoung and I submitted a panel on the future of govt information for iConference 2010 in Champaign, IL. We had a good far-reaching discussion with Tom Bruce (Cornell Legal Information Institute), Daniel Schuman (Sunlight Foundation) and Cindy Etkin (GPO). Below are my slides and notes. I've also attached the notes and abstract as PDFs. As Tom tweeted, "World's problems: solved."
If the other panelists agree, I'll post their notes/slides as well. This is of course an ongoing conversation so please feel free to leave comments, questions, rants etc.
--that is all!
3:45 - 5:15 pm Thursday, February 4, 2010
Roundtable 4 : : Technology Room
"Gone today, Here tomorrow: assuring access to government information in the digital age." ShinJoung Yeo, University of Illinois; and James R. Jacobs, Stanford University
- Shinjoung Yeo, Moderator
- James Jacobs, Stanford University Library
- Thomas Bruce (Legal Information Institute, Cornell University)
- Daniel Schuman (Sunlight Foundation policy director)
- Cindy Etkin (Govt Printing Office)
[SLIDE 1: govt documents]
Right up front, I'm a librarian and a collaborator in the LOCKSS distributed digital preservation project (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe). I've been in academia/education my whole life as a student, teacher, librarian and technologist. I've been a government information/FDLP librarian since 2002 and currently am serving a 3 year term on the Depository Library Council, the body which informs and advises the Govt Printing Office regarding issues of the Federal Depository Library Program (which Cindy talked about). So my mindset/perspective/bias is from one who assists in the scholarly communication process, one who believes that libraries have a place in the digital information landscape, and one who believes strongly in the idea that access to govt information is a fundamental right. As Ralph Nader has said, “There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.” And there can be no citizenship without access to government information.
[SLIDE 2: mmm documents]
With that in mind, I'd like to talk about the underlying historical ideals of the FDLP, discuss how those ideals have been under fire from both within and without the library community and argue that those ideals applied to today's information landscape give us the best chance at access to and long-term preservation and assurance of govt information.
[SLIDE 3: FDLP logo]
The federal depository library program (FDLP) has been around since 1813 in one form or another. The basis underlying the need for an FDLP is to give the public free access to government information. Depository libraries have long safeguarded the public's right to know by cooperating with and receiving for free the govt publications published by the Govt Printing Office (GPO), organizing, maintaining, and preserving those publications, assisting users in accessing said information in a geographically dispersed system and most importantly, assured that govt information is freely available and tamper-proof -- think Napster for govt information. Taken together, the collections of the 1238 depository libraries make up the historic corpus of govt information available for free to every citizen. Jessamyn West of librarian.net, recently called the FDLP the longest running open source project. I would add that it's the longest government-run public-centric open-source project to support the democratic ideal.
[SLIDE CHUCK QUOTE]
Over the last 20-30 years, developments in publishing and Internet technologies have affected the way government information is produced, disseminated, controlled, and preserved. These changes have affected the policies and procedures of the GPO and, in turn, have affected the depository library program. Despite the often-heard promises that Web technologies will bring more information to more people more quickly and easily, the actual effects have been decidedly mixed. The highly visible, short-term successes of rapid dissemination of single titles directly to citizens (e.g., the large number of downloads of the 9/11 report) mask the loss of a secure infrastructure (GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys) notwithstanding) for long-term preservation of and access to government information as more and more agencies publish content on their own Web sites rather than using the GPO conduit (which librarians call "fugitive documents") and very few agencies publish to any standards or have policies in place that deal with archiving and preservation. As Chuck Humphrey, a data librarian friend of mine, once said, “there seems to be an inverse relationship between convenience of dissemination and preservation standards.”
In addition to this lack of a secure infrastructure, the growing din of the call for digitization of historic govt publications (most recently the Ithaka/ARL report "Documents for a Digital Democracy: A Model for the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st Century"), while no doubt a boon for access today, is somewhat of a red herring that makes library administrators believe that they will soon be able to dispose of their physical collections and use that space for today or tomorrow's buzz word. This call for digitization may instead have the deleterious affect of damaging the long-term preservation of govt publications.
Lastly, the growing trend toward privatization of govt information has actually caused a decrease in public access despite it's digital nature. This is not a new trend. Herbert Schiller noted this in 1986 in his book "Information and the Crisis Economy." Speaking of machine readable formats, he wrote that, "Library information capability is greatly enhanced. Yet this benefit is accompanied by the abandonment of libraries' historical free access policy. User charges are introduced. The public character of the library is weakening as its commercial connection deepens. No less important, the composition and character of its holdings change as the clientele shifts from general public to the ability-to-pay user."
[SLIDE: GAO contract]
We've seen over the last 30 years a disturbing rise in Federal Agencies entering into contracts with private companies whereby public domain govt documents are digitized and then taken out of the commons via licensing agreements. See for example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO)'s deal with Thomson-West whereby Thomson-West digitized the GAO's 20,597 legislative histories of most public laws from 1915-1995 and in return received exclusive license to sell access to the content. GAO received nothing in return but an account on Thomson's service while the public received nothing at all.
Rapid technological change and the misplaced assumption that "it's all in google" have caused some in the FDLP community to question the need for the FDLP and some others to drop out of the program altogether. I believe that the inherent nature of digital information actually increases the need for a distributed network of dedicated, legislatively authorized libraries. It would be prudent to draw upon the existing infrastructure of FDLP libraries and the almost 200 years of cumulative experience of these institutions in assuring preservation of and access to government information. We must reinforce FDLP’s traditional mission of selection, collection, free access, and preservation of government information in the digital era in order to assure free access to this information into the foreseeable future. Some in the depository community, like my library, are doing just that by participating in the LOCKSS-USDOCS network, harvesting digital govt information -- for example, harvesting openCRS that Daniel mentioned along with other sites that post CRS reports -- and yes digitizing parts of their collections. But we need more libraries not less.
[SLIDE: FDLP ecosystem]
Nobody knows for sure how to preserve digital content for the long-term. This means to me that a loosely coupled, independently administered, distributed ecosystem is the best way to assure long-term preservation -- many organizations with many funding models and a distributed technical infrastructure(s) have a better shot at preservation than 1 or 2 organizations -- especially if one of those organizations has a tenuous budget, or is a private corporation etc.
Imagine if you will 2 future govt information systems: on the one hand, the system where there are one or two digital collections (say for example GPO's Federal Digital System (fdsys) and Portico, the dark archive currently housing digital journals); and on the other hand, one with many digital collections in fdlp libraries. How would each of these deal with or react to different stress situations or threat models (e.g., reduced budgets, increased demand for privatization, increased demand for censorship or control or removal of information, media/hardware/software/network failure, natural disaster, organizational failure etc.)? It's easy to see that a highly replicated, distributed FDLP model of preservation would deal with these situations much better than a centralized model. A web is much stronger than a silo.
[SLIDE: Federal Register XML]
law.gov, Carl Malamud’s proposal for a registry and repository of all legal information -- from what I've seen and heard and read, is a compelling proposal for a significant piece of the federal (and state) legal information ecosystem. What we ought to be doing is a) figuring out how to make law.gov a reality; b) figuring out how to expand it beyond legal materials to include ALL federal information -- information from all 3 branches of government, federal agencies as well as the regional and local offices of those agencies, data and statistics, the entire Congressional/legislative process including the funding that goes into that process to grease the skids so to speak, and making sure public information stays in public control; and c) MOST IMPORTANTLY from my perspective as a librarian, figure out how to preserve that ecosystem for the long term so that the public can inform itself not just today or tomorrow but 100 years from now. Now the 4 of us on this panel are just 4 players with dogs in this fight. But if we agree on the goals, then we ought to work together to proceed toward them and mobilize our communities and the public to support this endeavor.
It's going to take the government (and not just GPO) being serious about transparency and funding the necessary changes in its own federal information distribution system to include open format standards with no DRM, bulk data channels, indexing, description, collection and authentication of information resources, multiple digital preservation strategies to not only assure preservation but also to insure against tampering and deletion of vital information (which, as I've stated earlier, the FDLP historically has done very well!). It's also going to take libraries being serious about and applying the ideals of the FDLP to build a distributed digital infrastructure that takes into account access to as well as preservation of digital govt information.
I agree with Tom and am absolutely convinced that the changes in the information ecosystem that are needed should not be left to the market because the information market leans heavily toward monopoly, proprietary standards, licensing restrictions, lack of access, "rights management" and the like.
If an evolving ecosystem that is free, open, standards-based, authenticated, and privacy-protecting is built and sustained correctly then citizens, libraries, non-profit watchdogs, hackers, activists, AND government will thrive.
[SLIDE 7: THANKS! lockss, archive-it]
digital changes a lot of things about information, but it doesn't change the need to fund it, collect it, share it, preserve it, and give access to it. As my friend and colleague Jim Jacobs recently stated, "lots of collections keep stuff safe!"
Here is a point-by-point comparison of the big new data dissemination initiatives by the U.S. and the U.K.:
- Data.gov.uk versus Data.gov. Flowing Data (Feb 4, 2010).
While Data.gov.uk was just recently launched publicly, it has many advantages over Data.gov. It's easier to use and geared towards developers, who, let's face it, are the only ones who are going to do more with the data than open it up in Excel. Data.gov has some catching up to do. Both still have a long way to go. Both are good steps in the right direction.
Hat tip to Kevin Taglang at Benton Foundation!
The U.S. National Archives joins the Commons!, Flickr blog, (February 1, 2010).
Please welcome the U.S. National Archives to The Commons, the world’s public photography archives on Flickr to which you can contribute information and knowledge.
With over 3,000 images in 49 sets uploaded already, perusing these important archival images should keep you entertained for a long time. Their four collections encompass important Americana, ranging from the famous Mathew Brady Civil War images to historical and iconic images of American history.
Significant highlights of the report include the consideration of the significance of climate change on national security; the greening of the Department of Defense, including efforts to make the military more environmentally friendly, to anticipate and prepare for environmentally driven crises and disasters, and to achieve energy security; and efforts to convert the nontactical vehicle fleet away from gasoline-dependence, and a Navy plan to deploy a carrier strike group running on biofuels and nuclear power by 2016.
For more analysis of what's inside the QDR, please see the following articles:
- Growing Pentagon Focus on Energy and Climate. Andrew C. Revkin. NY Times dOTEarth blog.
- What's inside the Quadrenial Defense Review. Robert Farley. Tapped: the group blog of the American Prospect
All of the strategic defense reviews are available at DoD Strategic Defense reviews including the Quadrenial Defense Review (QDR), Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) and the Space Posture Review (SPR).
Recently, when I have spoken about "data as evidence" in several academic settings, there has been a recurring question. Essentially it concerns the fact that dishonest people acting in bad faith will generate false, badly formed, or misleading data and propose it as evidence in support of predetermined (i.e. prejudiced / pre-judged) positions. To this day, parties or groups that base themselves in "values" or "beliefs" that are assumed a priori – i.e. values that are non-negotiable – in fact, not subject to discussion -- dominate our political landscape. One has only to watch the response of some of the Republican Congressional caucus to President Obama’s discussion there this past week to see clear evidence of this. A fundamental tenet for these believers is that compromise with any other set of beliefs represents moral "relativism" – which is equivalent to amorality (if not immorality).
I believe that much of the trouble we experience in contemporary civil discourse can be traced to a confusion, conscious or otherwise, of the distinctions between "Church" (institutionalization of religious belief) and "State" (government based on trust in a diverse and tolerant community). From the time of European settlement of this continent we have had problems in separating Church and State [See LoC for an excellent summary history ] AND, concomitantly, in maintaining the distinction between empirical knowledge as a basis for public policies and commitments to "truth" based in belief. The former can be understood as "objective and invariant" (as discussed previously) the latter as subjective and highly variable -- the phrase used by John Searle of UC Berkeley, "first person ontology" is well applicable.
With objective, scientifically based knowledge, we have the opportunity of arriving – through investigation and discourse -- at common agreements (within some bounds of reasonable, relative probability). Respecting contending "truths," based in belief, we have the very strong possibility of violence and conflict -- consider – Northern Ireland or South Asia? It is wrong and misguided to characterize the separation of Church and State as somehow inimical to one system of belief or another.
Separation of Church and State is fundamental to a diverse and inclusive society and protects religious freedom and the right of individual conscience. Without separation – and religious tolerance (as clearly expressed in the Bill of Rights) – a change in political power may result in murder. We are all too familiar – elsewhere in the world -- with the consequences of confusing government and religion.
And so we must return to the problem of objectivity and pragmatism in civil discourse. Today we are faced with a range of a priori values – beliefs that are considered "true" and above debate. On the right, the most fundamental of these a priori tenets is that "government is bad" [The Reagan/Thatcher formulation being: "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."] coupled with the corollary that raising funds to support government (taxing) is bad. Aside from the fact that this is fundamentally subversive (!) of the common welfare – it is also impractical and nonsensical. But I would also argue that on the left, there are similar a priori values – i.e. that government is good and corporations are bad.
All forms of human organization are subject to corruption and abuse – certainly this is true of government at all levels – but is absolutely true of corporate governance and is also true of private sector non-profit governance. I believe that the most stable and sustainable principle for our American system of democracy is justice based in the common value of fairness, and this value demands commitment to tolerant civil discourse embodying both rationality and science. It will be protected by an ongoing commitment to transparency and accountability in governance of all sectors: for profit, not for profit and public. (In recent years we have all seen flagrant examples of abuse in all three sectors. Journalism and publishing under first amendment protections together with free, open and effective access to data and information have been essential to the process of transparency and accountability.)
The previously mentioned GRI [SEE: http://www.globalreporting.org/ ] -- and similar initiatives working for transparency, accountability and rigorous standards of evidence –- present a clear alternative to organizational business-as-usual.
(As an aside, I will here note that expressions of anger – verbal or physical - as a part of political discourse – for example shouts of "You lie!" -- are signs of impotence, sure evidence of the abandonment of civil discourse, of the rational intention of serving the common welfare.)
As custodians of knowledge, as teachers and as advocates, librarians have always been primary defenders of fair and equitable access to knowledge for the common good. The World Wide Web is a technical fulfillment of the most basic ethos of librarianship. For the first time in human history, we have the technological means of sharing knowledge worldwide. But the existence of a global network does not assure that all people will have access, it does not assure that what flows across the network will be effectively useful in informing public discourse for the largest number of people.
We, librarians, have an obligation, in all our interactions to support the broadest possible access by all – freely, openly and effectively. We must maintain critical sensitivity to the practical usefulness of resources provided over global networks, to teach critical and evaluative skills and to assist wherever possible in interpreting and refining available resources.