Our mission

Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Patrice McDermott posts Draft letter re DOI records disposition request to NARA. Requests comments

We posted about the Dept of Interior records schedule request to NARA and have been actively working on this issue for a few weeks now. Patrice McDermott, Director of Government Information Watch — many of you will have known Patrice from her ALA Washington Office days or laster as director of Open The Government — just posted the request below to govdoc-l so I thought I’d share beyond the govt documents library community. Please check out the draft letter that Patrice and several others in the FOIA/open govt communities have penned. Send any comments or concerns her way. And if you’d like to copy/paste anything from her letter — or from Stanford UL’s letter to AOTUS Ferriero for that matter — for your own comment to NARA, please do so BY NOVEMBER 26!

Here is a DRAFT letter/comments to NARA. Many thanks to the folks who have been working on this – this letter draws heavily on your work.

Thoughts, edits – and specific concerns about particular sets of records – welcomed. Please send to me [email protected]

It dawned on me that T’giving week is almost upon us… I plan to send this Friday 23 November. It is open to both organizational and individual signatories.

Background:

As you may know, the DOI has put in a request to NARA for disposition authority for a large # of record groups. Disposition does not equal immediate destruction; mostly the records would be marked Temporary — with ‘disposal’ dates that vary greatly based on the records, what they document, etc. Very few govt records (1-3%, according to NARA) are designated as Permanent/Archival.

The request is confusing to read & follow because DOI — following NARA guidance of recent years — has moved what used to be discrete series of records with discrete records schedules (as permanent or temporary) into what are being called ‘big buckets.’ The DOI request is essentially cross-walking discrete records series to their new bucket. And made the request for all of the buckets at one time.

The volume aside, there are a number of concerning aspects to this request.

I pulled together an annotated version of the NARA appraisal memo to get a handle on what was requested – and provisionally approved by NARA. I highlighted language in the Appraisal Memo (Blue=Good retention; Green = NARA comments worth noting; Orang(ish) = Concerning), and indicated the #s of Records Groups (not #s of records) covered in each NARA appraisal entry.

One aspect that has troubled me is from DOI’s Request for Records Disposition Authority

Methodology:

This change to a departmental schedule, from individual bureau schedules, moves disposition authority for Record Groups 022 (FWS), 049 (BLM), 057 (USGS), 075 (BIA), 079 (NPS), 115 (BOR), 471 (OSMRE),
473 (BSEE), and 589 (BOEMRE) to 048. (which is Office of the Secretary (OS) – Record Group 048)

Regardless of who the Secretary of Interior is or may be, it gives me pause to put authority for requesting disposal for these sensitive records in the office of a political appointee. So, there is a potential question for NARA (or its Hill overseers).

I am really troubled by the repeated language — by NARA — about “interest to NARA Researchers” (as opposed to??), and that records “do not document significant actions of federal officials”.

The legal definition of Records (44 U.S.C. Chapter 33)§ 3301) is:

RECORDS DEFINED.-
(1) IN GENERAL.-As used in this chapter, the term “records”-
(A) includes all recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, made or received by a Federal agency under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the United States Government or because of the informational value of data in them

I would welcome your thoughts on particular sets of records/buckets and how they have been appraised — where the appraisal may fail to address the research/legal/etc needs of other communities (other than “NARA researchers”), where data, on which ongoing datasets are built, might be irretrievably destroyed, etc.

EPA eliminates its climate change websites

Mashable reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has eliminated more than 80 climate change web pages. This according to a new report from the Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI). The EDGI report notes that while NASA maintains a number of informative and frequently updated climate change websites, the EPA’s sites have been gradually obscured, and now eliminated. It certainly would be a public service if Congress would investigate why the EPA, supposedly charged with protecting the environment (it’s in its name!), would obfuscate and delete critical environmental information and data.

Sometime during the night of Oct. 16, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) eliminated more than 80 climate change web pages — many of the last vestiges to the agency’s online recognition of climate change.

…”There’s no indication now that there was even a climate change website,” Eric Nost, the EDGI report’s lead author, said in an interview.

…The EPA did not respond to multiple attempts for comment about why the public webpages were deleted and if they might return.

…Of note, both the EPA and NASA are sprawling federal agencies directly answerable to the office of the president. Yet, while NASA maintains a slew of informative, diligently updated, and visually-rich climate change websites, the EPA’s sites have been gradually obscured, and now eliminated.

…NASA is a research agency, emphasized Stan Meiburg, the former Acting Deputy Administrator of the EPA, in an interview. It largely exists to perform science. Conversely, he noted that the EPA — which is responsible for protecting human health and the environment — is primarily a regulatory agency, writing and enforcing environmental rules.

… Right now, the environmental agency hopes to enforce a slew of new rules that would, among a variety of things, significantly roll back fuel-efficiency standards for new vehicles and replace Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Stanford UL’s letter to AOTUS Ferriero re Dept of Interior draft records schedule

Last week, we posted a story “Holes in History: The Dept of Interior request to destroy records” in which we raised issues concerning NARA’s records scheduling process in general and the DoI request in particular.

Today my University Librarian Michael Keller sent a Letter to Archivist of the US David Ferriero re the DoI records destruction request (text attached and below). We strongly recommend that all of our readers submit comments to NARA by November 26, 2018 (Be sure to say that you’re referring to DAA-0048-2015-0003). Here’s the address:

  • [email protected]
  • fax: 301-837-3698
  • NARA (ACRA), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park MD 20740-6001.

(more…)

Holes in History: The Dept of Interior request to destroy records

[Editor’s note: please scroll to the end of this post for a sample letter to submit to NARA. Thanks!]

[Update: 10/30: I added another point about disposition authority. JRJ]

Remember, we have until November 26, 2018, to make comments to the National Archives. (Be sure to say that you’re referring to DAA-0048-2015-0003.)

  • [email protected]
  • fax: 301-837-3698
  • NARA (ACRA), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park MD 20740-6001.
  • Last week, Russ Kick announced that The Department of the Interior (DOI) was requesting permission from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to destroy documents about oil and gas leases, mining, dams, wells, timber sales, marine conservation, fishing, endangered species, non-endangered species, critical habitats, land acquisition, and lots more. The request includes documents from every agency within the DOI, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and others. Please read Kick’s whole post for context and comments.

    This is a massive proposal. As Kick notes:

    This covers already-existing documents going back more than 50 years. Thousands of cubic feet of paper documents. Gigabytes of digital documents. Besides existing documents, as usual the proposed schedule will also apply to all future documents created in these categories (whether on paper or born digital).

    (more…)

    Happy 60th birthday NASA!

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), created when President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (Public Law 85-568 or 72 Stat 426-2), began on this date in 1958. Check out some of the resources that NASA has put together to celebrate their 60 years. And if you really want to get into the nitty gritty details about NASA, read this new book “The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration” edited by space historian John Logsdon.



    NASA formally opened its doors on October 1, 1958, and it turns 60 years old today. The nation’s space agency has marked the diamond anniversary in various way and anticipates a bright future.

    However, given heated talk of a Space Force, military “domination” of space, and the rise of commercial companies, it is reasonable to pause at this moment to ponder NASA’s durability. A review of the space agency’s early history validates concerns about NASA’s relative fragility. In the late 1950s, the US Air Force resisted the removal of human spaceflight activities to a new civil space agency, and it has quietly been pushing back ever since. Even 60 years later, this war may not yet be lost by the military.

    This tension, and more, is revealed in a new book titled The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration, edited by space historian John Logsdon. The book presents some of the seminal documents from the creation and evolution of NASA over the last six decades. It reflects what Logsdon describes as “30 years of immersion in primary documents and reflects my judgment on a mixture of what’s most important plus some that are human interest and fun.”

    via On NASA’s birthday, a reminder that we can thank Nixon for the agency | Ars Technica.

    Archives