Month of December, 2011
The United States national elections are a year away, but the Library of Congress is already busy archiving presidential campaign websites and preparing to archive House and Senate campaign sites and more starting in March 2012.
- It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like… Election Archiving Season!, by Abbie Grotke, The Signal, the Library of Congress Digital Preservation blog (November 17th, 2011).
As a complement to Cory Doctorow's excellent talk about "The Coming War on General Purpose Computation" (see http://freegovinfo.info/node/3594), an article in Miller-McCune says we need a better understanding of technology before trying to regulate it.
- SOPA Debate Highlights Congress's Ignorance, By Emily Badger, Miller-McCune (December 29, 2011).
When members of Congress earlier this month considered the Stop Online Piracy Act -- better known to anyone who actually hangs out on the Internet as #SOPA -- the most notable feature of the debate turned out to be the sheer ignorance of the elected officials discussing it. One after the other, members of the U.S. House of Representatives professed -- nay, bragged about -- approaching this weighty legislation from the vantage point of someone who is not "a nerd" or a "tech expert."
The article highlights the book, The Information Diet by Clay Johnson, which discusses the relationship between power, authority, and information.
You have probably seen references to this presentation by Cory Doctorow, but if you have not taken the time to watch it (or read the transcript), I urge you to do so. He not only explains the issues and their importance, but why laws and regulations that sound reasonable to many people manage to fail in accomplishing their stated goals while simultaneously having disastrous unintended consequences.
- The Coming War on General Purpose Computation, by Cory Doctorow, [video of December 26 keynote at the 28C3, the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin; 55 minutes]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUEvRyemKSg
"[T]he copyright wars are just the 0.9 beta version of the long coming war on computation."
- transcript by Joshua Wise
The Library of Congress Digital Preservation blog The Signal has a brief biographical portrait of Mike Wash who was chief technical officer at GPO and is now chief information officer of the National Archives and Record Administration.
- Digital Pioneer: Mike Wash, by Mike Ashenfelder, The Signal (December 21st, 2011).
Happy Holidays from the Lost Docs Team-
In addition to our usual monthly report, we at the Lost Docs Project Blog will from time to time revisit, check, and update posted document receipts that at the time of their corresponding monthly reports were still classed as fugitives. The following report focuses on the receipts posted April-May, 2010.
Of the 54 fugitive document titles from receipts posted April-May, 2010, 37(69%) of the titles have had records added to the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP), as of this report. 17(31%) remain fugitives.
We are appreciative of those records that have been created and added to the CGP. Found documents can be viewed by looking at the blog posts with April and May, 2010 dates at http://lostdocs.freegovinfo.info/category/found/ and/or view a listing by visiting https://sites.google.com/site/founddocslisting/
39% of the items cataloged from the April and May 2010 posted receipts were cataloged between 50 and 100 days. A more detailed breakdown is provided below. Note: 38 items are represented below, as one of the receipts was for both the electronic and print versions of an item/title. Both formats have now been cataloged.
less than or equal to 15 days
>15 days but less than or equal to 50 days
>50 days but less than or equal to 100 days
>100 days but less than or equal to 200 days
>400 days but less than or equal to 500 days
If you report a fugitive document to GPO, please send your e-mailed receipt to email@example.com. We welcome any item reported to GPO in the past month. It is best if you can send us the receipt the same day you receive it from GPO. Some e-mail programs will support auto-forwarding. If so, please consider autoforwarding items where the subject contains "lostdocs submission."
State of the Federal Web Report, .gov Reform Task Force (December 16, 2011).
This report presents a summary of data and findings about the state of Federal websites, collected as part of the .gov Reform Initiative. The report is intended to highlight--for the first time--the size and scope of websites in the Federal Executive Branch, how agencies are managing them, and opportunities for improvement. Though not a comprehensive assessment of every Federal Executive Branch website, this data provides a high-level overview and is the first step to more effectively collecting data to make better decisions about our Federal web operations. The .gov Reform Task Force and its partners will use this data to develop a Federal Web Strategy and create tools, best practices, and other resources that will make Federal websites more efficient and useful for citizens.
hat tip to Sabrina I. Pacifici!
Here is an interesting set of census data, digitized from print. The dataset documentation (The 1967 Census Of The West Bank And Gaza Strip: A Digitized Version Dataset Documentation, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, Joel Perlmann, Project Director, November 2011) also presents a detailed description of the methods used to create accurate, usable, digital statistical tables from print.
- The 1967 Census of the West Bank and Gaza Strip: A Digitized Version, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.
In the summer of 1967, just after the Six-Day War brought the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Israeli control, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) supervised a census in these territories. The census included an impressive array of questions about individuals, households, and the quality of residences—about age, sex, religion, place of residence, educational attainment, occupation, industrial sector, income, household structure, health, female fertility, and housing conditions. Moreover, it asked two crucial questions about refugee status: Had the individual lived prior to the 1948 War in the area that became the State of Israel? And, Was the individual living in or outside of a refugee camp at the time the census was taken?
The ICBS prepared seven volumes of reports based on this enumeration—the first modern census reports on the Palestinian population. Yet these volumes have not been used extensively in the writing on the evolution of the occupied territories. One reason is that they are not widely available, and even when at hand they are subject to all the limitations of older volumes published as quickly as possible in order to be of use at the time.
For this reason, the Levy Economics Institute is offering, for the first time and free of charge, the content of six of these volumes (the seventh to be added shortly) in machine-readable form, in the hope that the data can be exploited by researchers interested in a fuller understanding of the social history of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. Bard student volunteers contributed appreciably to this project.
Just a reminder to all my docs librarian peeps: The American FactFinder's old interface (which many think is easier to use than their new interface!) is going away and American FactFinder2 will be the default interface to access data and statistics from the US Census Bureau. I hope FactFinder2 will make links to the 1990 census and older data sets (see the list below) VERY transparent. It's a real shame that those older data sets won't be accessible via the new search interface but only via FTP.
The Census Bureau will be ending the legacy version of American FactFinder on January 20. Any deep links into the discontinued system will no longer work, including links to:
- 1990 Census
- 2000-2004 American Community Survey
- 2000-2001 Supplementary Survey
- 1997 Economic Census
- 2003 Annual Survey of Manufactures
- 2003 Nonemployer Statistics
These products will only be available through an archived FTP format. All other current and previous year data from the American Community Survey, Puerto Rico Community Survey, Annual Population Estimates, Economic Census, and Annual Economic Surveys are available in the new American FactFinder. Access the how-to guide for Building Deep Links into the New American Factfinder to learn how to create links.
The NY Times reported yesterday that the USDA has reversed a decision to end farming reports. Evidently, when an industry group(s) complains, the US Govt listens. So why hasn't the Census Bureau changed their decision on killing the US Statistical Abstract?
In an abrupt about-face, the United States Department of Agriculture has decided to reverse a decision to eliminate dozens of long-standing statistical reports on a wide range of farming activities, including beekeeping, hop growing and flower farming. The agency’s statistics service said in October that it was forced by budget constraints to cut the reports and that doing so would save $11 million a year.
That led to an outcry from farm groups that said the information collected by the agency was essential. Farmers rely on the reports to decide how much to plant and how many animals to raise; they use the information to persuade bankers to lend them money and to advocate for other types of government support.
So now the Agriculture Department has reinstated most of the reports that had been given the ax. Saved are the reports on trout farming, catfish farming, floriculture, sheep and goats, bees and honey production and mink farming, among others.
Mitt Walker, director of the Alabama Catfish Producers, said the sudden switch was probably “a result of the outcry from the affected commodities,” a reference to farm trade groups.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in their year in review, summed up 2011 as the year that secrecy jumped the shark. A sad state of affairs for the Obama Administration, which was supposed to be the most transparent ever.
- Government report concludes the government classified 77 million documents in 2010, a 40% increase on the year before. The number of people with security clearances exceeded 4.2. million, more people than the city of Los Angeles.
- Government tells Air Force families, including their kids, it’s illegal to read WikiLeaks. The month before, the Air Force barred its service members fighting abroad from reading the New York Times—the country’s Paper of Record.
- Lawyers for Guantanamo detainees were barred from reading the WikiLeaks Guantanamo files, despite their contents being plastered on the front page of the New York Times.
- President Obama refuses to say the words “drone” or “C.I.A” despite the C.I.A. drone program being on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers every day.
- CIA refuses to release even a single passage from its center studying global warming, claiming it would damage national security. As Secrecy News' Steven Aftergood said, “That’s a familiar song, and it became tiresome long ago.”
- The CIA demands former FBI agent Ali Soufan censor his book criticizing the CIA’s post 9/11 interrogation tactics of terrorism suspects. Much of the material, according to the New York Times, “has previously been disclosed in open Congressional hearings, the report of the national commission on 9/11 and even the 2007 memoir of George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director.”
- Department of Homeland Security has become so bloated with secrecy that even the “office's budget, including how many employees and contractors it has, is classified,” according to the Center for Investigative reporting. Yet their intelligence reports “produce almost nothing you can’t find on Google,” said a former undersecretary.
- Headline from the Wall Street Journal in September: “Anonymous US officials push open government.”
- NSA declassified a 200 year old report which they said demonstrated its “commitment to meeting the requirements” of President Obama’s transparency agenda. Unfortunately, the document “had not met the government's own standards for classification in the first place,” according to J. William Leonard, former classification czar.
- Government finally declassifies the Pentagon Papers 40 years after they appeared on the front page of the New York Times and were published by the House’s Armed Services Committee.
- Secrecy expert Steve Aftergood concludes after two years “An Obama Administration initiative to curb overclassification of national security information… has produced no known results to date.”
- President Obama accepts a transparency award…behind closed doors.
- Government attorneys insist in court they can censor a book which was already published and freely available online.
- Department of Justice refuses to release its interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act, a public law.
- U.S. refuses to release its legal justification for killing an American citizen abroad without a trial, despite announcing the killing in a press conference.
- U.S. won’t declassify legal opinion on 2001’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.
- National Archive announced it was working on declassifying “a backlog of nearly 400 million pages of material that should have been declassified a long time ago.”
- The CIA refused to declassify Open Source Works, “which is the CIA’s in-house open source analysis component, is devoted to intelligence analysis of unclassified, open source information” according to Steve Aftergood.
- Twenty-three year State Department veteran gets his security clearance revoked for linking to a WikiLeaks document on his blog.
- The ACLU sued asking the State Department to declassify 23 cables out of the more than 250,000 released by WikiLeaks. After more than a year, the government withheld 12 in their entirety. You can see the other 11, heavily redacted, next to the unredacted copies on the ACLU website.
- The ACLU said it sued the State Department in part to show the "absurdity of the US secrecy regime." Mission accomplished.
[HT to Glen Greenwald]