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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.

New GPO IG report includes troubling findings regarding fugitives and FDLP

“although the exact number of USDA publications could not be determined, the amount would be a small percentage because GPO focuses most of its efforts on congressional publications.”

We just came across this recent report of the GPO Inspector General (IG) called “Additional Information Needed for Ensuring Availability of Government Information Through the Federal Depository Library Program” (archived copy). Though this report was published the week before the recent Fall ’17 Depository Library Conference, it was not mentioned at all at conference, though there was information within the report which would have been incredibly useful for the Title 44 discussion held over the bulk of the first 2 days of conference.

There were some positives mentioned in the report. For example, I hadn’t known that GPO and the Library of Congress are currently working on a project to develop new strategies for increasing discovery and access to Government information across federal agencies. the project’s goals are to identify “top-level agency stakeholders in agency publishing,” make agencies aware of their Title 44 responsibilities and work on preservation policies for agency publications and especially born-digital materials.

Additionally, according to GPO, the approach it takes in finding agency publications is a “proactive” one. In general, the approach consists of: 1) providing a web presence and means for agencies to notify GPO of published documents; 2) directly contacting agency representatives, 3) reaching out to agency customers, and 4) web harvesting.

Key findings:

  1. “Some” Agencies Did Not Provide List of Publications to GPO, as Required (my quotes, the report did not specify a number.)
  2. GPO Policies and Procedures Need to be Detailed to Support Program Goals
  3. Strengthening Processes that Capture Government Publications

Although the GPO Inspector General “consider[s] management’s comments responsive to the three recommendations, which are considered resolved but will remain open until implementation of the proposed corrective actions,” we’re disturbed by some of the IG’s findings, especially in regard to the seeming nonchalance of GPO toward executive agency fugitive documents in general and the USDA in particular.

Though GPO has a supposedly “proactive” approach to capturing government publications, it seems that an inordinately large amount of executive publications are not made available to the FDLP, or otherwise collected, described or preserved (see the IG report’s analysis of USDA). Their Web harvesting program only has 6 Web archived USDA publications. And their outreach to agency customers is woefully inadequate as it seems from this report that very few agencies — or even the federal librarians working in those agencies! — are aware of their Title requirements, OMB Circular No. A-130, and other governing compliance requirements, have been contacted by GPO staff or even know that GPO exists. Case in point, on page 10 of the report, the Chief Collection Development Librarian for the U.S. National Agricultural Library had “identified and provided OIG with a list of 3,299 publications he believed should be included in the FDLP. The Librarian told us the information was not provided to GPO and that GPO had not contacted the Library for a list of issued publications.”

On a side — equally disturbing — note, we also found that a) none of the GPO IG’s investigation outcomes and only a very small percentage of the audits are available online; b) only the GPO IG’s semiannual reports to Congress are available on the new Oversight.gov site whose tagline is “all federal Inspector General reports in one place;” and c) even more worrying, NONE of them are cataloged in the CGP though they are hosted on GPO’s Website and presumably are within the scope of the FDLP. It seems like a no-brainer for ALL GPO IG REPORTS to be hosted on govinfo.gov in the GPO Collection.

We hope that GPO will be taking all necessary steps to implement the proposed corrective actions laid out by the IG. We will be sending this post and the IG report to Depository Library Council in the hopes that DLC can stress to GPO the ongoing importance of both digital and physical collection development activities to libraries and the public.

“Congress established the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) to provide free public access to Federal Government information. Creation, distribution, retention, and preservation of information has evolved from a simple tangible, paper-based process to now include digital processes managed primarily through various information technologies. Regardless of format, FDLP publications must conform to the definition of Government publications as defined in section 1902, title 44 of the United States Code (44 U.S.C. § 1901), GPO policy, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130, that is, generally all published Federal information products, regardless of format or medium, that are of public interest or educational value or produced using Federal funds.

The transition to digital information raises a number of issues resulting in more diverse responsibilities for GPO. In that context, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review to determine the steps GPO took for ensuring information developed at the expense of taxpayers was made available to the public through the FDLP. To address our objective, in general, we tested compliance with select sections of Title 44, reviewed program goals and achievements, and tested processes used to capture Government publications at a select agency—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).”

The mystery of the suspended U.S. government Twitter accounts

here’s a strange story unfolding. Our End of Term project friend Justin Littman from George Washington University, was doing some maintenance on the official US government twitter accounts that had been captured for the End of Term crawl, and noticed a number of .gov twitter accounts had been suspended. Account suspension happens when an account is sending spam or has been hacked or compromised in some way. I’ll let Justin explain below, but I’ll be really interested to find out how the folks running the U.S. Digital Registry are going to respond.

…When collecting a large number of Twitter accounts, the list of accounts requires occasional maintenance, as sometimes Twitter accounts are deleted or protected. It’s understandable how U.S. government accounts would be expected to change over time as agencies and initiatives change. However, when I was doing maintenance earlier today, I noticed something odd: a number of the accounts were suspended, not deleted or protected.

Curious, I exported the tweets from some of the suspended accounts. Really odd – the tweets were in Russian.

Then I checked back in the U.S. Digital Registry. The U.S. Digital Registry is supposed to be the authoritative list of the official U.S. government social media accounts…

…Still, there are some immediate take-aways:

  • While the U.S. Digital Registry is a very important service for promoting trust and transparency in the U.S. government and invaluable for those of us attempting to archive the web presence of the U.S. government, it desperately needs a scrubbing and quality control processes put into place.
  • The U.S. government needs to take full advantage of verified status on Twitter (i.e., the blue check), perhaps even requiring it.
  • Twitter needs to deal with the problem of recycled screen names. A person or organization should be able to delete an account without the fear of being impersonated. In particular, for organizations such as government agencies, this is critical.

via Suspended U.S. government Twitter accounts • Social Feed Manager.

GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks Departs Federal Service

GPO director Davita Vance-Cooks GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks is leaving GPO for the private sector. Congratulations to Ms Vance-Cooks. The first African-American and first woman to lead the agency, she did so ably for 6 years.

While this shouldn’t be a surprise — GPO directors (nee “public printers”) are political appointees named by Presidents after all — the timing of this announcement is perhaps problematic given that the community is in the midst of discussions and possible legislation to change Title 44 of the US code, impacting both FDLP libraries and the operations and funding of GPO itself.

With that context in mind, the position of GPO director is extremely important in helping to drive positive legislative change while mitigating the possible negatives that always come out in the legislative process. The current GPO policies that are supportive of FDLP could literally change overnight with a different director. This makes the Title 44 negotiations all the more critical as the code is the force of law which tells GPO what they can and can’t do. So it’s important to keep the momentum going and get good policy into Title 44; and not just Chapter 19, but ALL of the chapters which have implications for GPO budgets and ability to continue to maintain FDLP activities.

The naming of Jim Bradley — a good ally to the FDLP program! — as acting director will hopefully ease the transition. And, since he’s been active in the title 44 debate, GPO and the FDLP hopefully won’t miss a beat.

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) Director Davita Vance-Cooks has announced her departure from Federal service to accept a job in the private sector. By law, GPO Deputy Director Jim Bradley assumes the duties of Acting GPO Director until a replacement is appointed.

Vance-Cooks was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2013 to be the 27th Public Printer of the United States. Prior to confirmation, she served as Acting Public Printer for 19 months. A seasoned business executive with more than 35 years of private sector and Federal management experience, she was the first woman and the first African-American to lead the agency.

via GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks Departs Federal Service.

Walks through a sunken dream: the CIA report on life on Mars

Document of the day — perhaps of the decade!! Thanks MuckRock!

In 1984, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sent a psychic back in time to talk to Martians. This is not code language. The CIA sent psychics back in time to talk to Martians because the CIA had time-traveling spacefaring psychics. Nothing else we could say would make more sense given what the CIA had and did.

via Walks through a sunken dream: the CIA report on life on Mars.

Rev up your FOIA engines! Trump Admin’s first FBI Crime Report Missing 70% of data

This is definitely bad. Government data collection has always been political and driven by legislative requirements. The FBI has published uniform crime reports since 1930. but FiveThrirtyEight’s report about missing data in the 2016 FBI Crime Report is a new and troubling turn of events. The Trump administration is just ignoring long standing data collection and publication for blatantly political reasons. According to the report, approximately 70% of the tables from the FBI’s most important crime report have been taken offline. For example, there were 51 tables of arrest data in the 2015 report, and there are only seven in the 2016 report.

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) curates and archives this data for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). In fact, I’m told it’s usually the most downloaded data from their site. But they can’t collect and archive what’s not there. Hopefully someone will FOIA the FBI for the missing data, but get ready to have to explain to our users about data gaps across the US government from 2016 – 2020. 😐

These removals mean that there is less data available concerning a perennial focus of Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions: violent crime. Trump and Sessions have frequently talked about MS-13, a gang with Salvadoran roots, as a looming problem in the country. MS-13 has been cited in 37 Department of Justice press releases and speeches in 2017, compared to only nine mentions in 2016 and five in 2015. Sessions gave a speech on the organization last month, while Trump gave a speech on Long Island in July, saying the gang had “transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They’re animals.” Trump also frequently refers to gun violence in Chicago, and at the beginning of his presidency, he established a Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, which aims to study and promote awareness of crimes committed by immigrants who entered the country illegally.

Although the removal of the tables makes it more difficult to get information on one of the White House’s most prominent causes, it also seems like part of a trend in the Trump administration: the suppression of government data and an unwillingness to share information with the press and public. About two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the FEMA website stopped displaying key metrics relating to island residents’ access to drinkable water and electricity. The data was later restored. The early days of the Trump administration were marked by reports that federal agency employees had been instructed not to talk to the press and to restrict social media postings.

Since Trump took office, government watchdog groups have been concerned about access to government data and maintaining the integrity of that data.

via The First FBI Crime Report Issued Under Trump Is Missing A Ton Of Info | FiveThirtyEight.

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