The Historical Advisory Committee to the Department of State (HAC) released a report assessing both improvements in publishing the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series by the Office of the Historian (HO), and the pitfalls of NARA's declassification process. The report concludes with mixed results, noting that while it will remain difficult, if not impossible, for the HO to publish its FRUS series documenting events within 30-years of their occurrence as mandated by law, HO has made robust and encouraging progress and the office continues to increase the number of publications it releases.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) website news.science360.gov gathers news "from wherever science is happening." This includes government sources that you might expect (National Science Foundation science and engineering centers, government agencies that fund scientific research) but also includes non-government sources such as individual scientists, college and university press offices, popular and peer-reviewed journals, dozens of not-for-profit organizations and private industry.
Migration Declassified is a product of the Mexico/Migration Project at the National Security Archive, an independent research center and repository of declassified documents based at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. It supports the rights of migrants in North America by increasing transparency around security and law enforcement institutions in Mexico and the United States. The site serves as a dissemination point for recently declassified documents that shed light on such issues as migration policy, border enforcement, migrant detention programs, and deportation policies. Its blog will feature commentary on migration-related news items and links to related resources.
This week the White House announced an early beta version of a revised data.gov web site (next.data.gov), promising many improvements. The improvements include examples from data communities of how data are used, a new powerful search engine, rotating data visualizations, a flexible design that displays well on tablets and smart phones, and more. It is all built with open source tools (WordPress, CKAN, SOLR) and meant to be easily scalable.
"The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that digital mapping files known as geographic information systems must be released under the state's public records law.
"The decision could make it easier for media organizations, advocacy groups and others to obtain government GIS databases, rich collections of data that can be used to display and analyze multiple layers of geographical information."
- Digital mapping files are public records, state Supreme Court rules, By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times (July 8, 2013).
Forty-seven of California's 58 counties already provide GIS parcel maps as public records for a nominal fee, said Dean Wallraff, an attorney for the Sierra Club. Los Angeles County charged the group less than $10 for a disk containing the files, he said. Monday's court ruling should compel Orange County to do the same.
Steven Aftergood describes Presidential Policy Directives and discusses how and why they are not usually posted to the White House website -- even when they are not classified and are available elsewhere.
- Presidential Directives Mostly Withheld by White House, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (July 12, 2013).
The Obama Administration has issued more than 20 Presidential Policy Directives (PPDs), many of which are collected or listed on the Federation of American Scientists web site.
But with few exceptions (PPD 14, PPD 19) most of these cannot be obtained from the White House.
In October, the healthcare.gov website will be the site millions of Americans use to choose their health insurance. The new site has been built in public for months, iteratively created on Github using cutting edge open-source technologies. Healthcare.gov is the rarest of birds: a next-generation website that also happens to be a .gov. It will use Jekyll, which allows developers to build a static website from dynamic components. This will make the website faster and more efficient. A fascinating story!
A recent battle in the California Legislature over public records has a lesson for all of us who work with government information. A story in the Los Angeles Times sums up the issue exactly: "In the end it wasn’t really about public records or the people’s right to see them. It was about money."
Labor Does More With Less on Streaming Data, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (June 25, 2013).
When the White House directed agencies to make at least two data services available through a streaming process known as application programming interfaces in 2012, most tech and transparency savvy agencies focused on releasing as many APIs as they could.
The Health and Human Services Department, for example, released 61 APIs connecting to 61 datasets.
The Labor Department took a different tack, releasing 175 datasets through a single API.
Security expert Bruce Schneier makes a strong case, with lots of links to background material:
- Government Secrets and the Need for Whistleblowers by Bruce Schneier Crypto-Gram Newsletter (June 15, 2013).
The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.
Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal -- or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law -- but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we're living in a police state.
[This essay originally appeared in The Atlantic.]
CRYPTO-GRAM is written by Bruce Schneier. Schneier is the author of the best sellers "Liars and Outliers," "Beyond Fear," "Secrets and Lies," and "Applied Cryptography," and an inventor of the Blowfish, Twofish, Threefish, Helix, Phelix, and Skein algorithms. He is the Chief Security Technology Officer of BT, and is on the Advisory Boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He is a frequent writer and lecturer on security topics. See http://www.schneier.com.