Coalition Letter on Government Transparency

May 18, 2009

Dr. Beth Noveck
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
725 17th Street Room 5228
Washington, DC 20502

Dear Dr. Noveck,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations concerned with government transparency, we write to request you announce a formal process for public input on developing recommendations to make government transparent, collaborative, and participatory. Additionally, given President Obama’s determination to create "an unprecedented level of openness in Government," we ask you make publicly available comments received from agencies, agency employees, or the public related to the development of an Open Government Directive.

As advocates for government openness, we are heartened by President Obama’s commitment to make the federal government transparent. We are especially pleased that on his first day in office, President Obama issued his "Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government." We are deeply concerned, however, that of the 120 days given to develop recommendations in President Obama’s "Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government," almost 90 percent of the allotted time has passed with no structured process for public input. We understand that the process for gathering public input on the Open Government Directive was delayed until President Obama named a new Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Now that Mr. Aneesh Chopra has been named to the position, we believe it is crucial that you announce a structured process as soon as possible. We also ask that you consider requesting the President to extend the deadline, to give the wider stakeholder community time to engage and allow further public participation.

It has been reported the White House intends to disclose recommendations on the Open Government Directive to the public for comment using social media technologies. While we appreciate and support the administration’s innovative use of technological venues to increase participation, we urge you to also undertake a formal 60-day notice and comment process, as used during both the regulatory review and scientific integrity processes. The formal 60-day process using the Federal Register is the typical comment process; publishing the recommendation in the Federal Register will also increase participation among members of the public who are not comfortable with social media technologies.

We understand some agency employees collaborated and shared ideas about specific issues regarding the Open Government Directive using the Office of Management and Budget’s MAX system. Agencies may also have provided formal input on the development of the Directive. In the interest of transparency and collaboration, we urge you to make the comments from agencies and agency employees public, along with any other suggestions you have received so far. We believe the release of these comments to the public would be helpful in understanding the positions held within and outside the government, and better identify problems and solutions in a collaborative fashion. We also note that the administration’s new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidance encourages such records to be affirmatively disclosed on a discretionary basis. Such action would demonstrate a commitment to the principles set forth on open government by the administration.

We appreciate your attention to these issues, and we look forward to working with you on developing recommendations to make the federal government transparent, collaborative, and participatory. Representatives of our organizations would be happy to meet with you or your staff to discuss our requests in more detail.

Sincerely,

Patrice McDermott
OpenTheGovernment.org

Gary Bass
OMB Watch

David Swanson
After Downing Street

Mary Alice Baish
American Association of Law Libraries

Chris Finan
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

Caroline Fredrickson
American Civil Liberties Union

Lynne Bradley
American Library Association

Chip Pitts
Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Terry Francke
Californians Aware

Ari Schwartz
Center for Democracy and Technology

Anne Weismann
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Michael Surrusco
Common Cause

Bob Fertik
Democrats.com

David Sobel
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Marc Rotenberg
Electronic Privacy Information Center

Judy Braiman
Empire State Consumer Project

Martin E. Visnosky
Erie County Environmental Coalition

John Richard
Essential Information

Bob Cooper
Evergreen Public Affairs

Tirso Moreno
Farmworker Association of Florida

Suzanne A. Delaney
Feminists for Free Expression

Mark P. Cohen
Government Accountability Project

Rick Hind
Greenpeace

John Chelen
Hampshire Research Institute

J.H. Snider, MBA, Ph.D.
iSolon.org

Nancy Tate
League of Women Voters of the United States

Michael Ostrolenk
Liberty Coalition

Mary Treacy
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information

James Landrith
The Multiracial Activist

Joan Bertin
National Coalition Against Censorship

Charles Davis
National Freedom of Information Coalition

Meredith Fuchs
National Security Archive

Duane Parde
National Taxpayers Union

Susan Maret
Progressive Librarians Guild

Danielle Brian
Project on Government Oversight

David Banisar
Privacy International

Elizabeth O’Nan
Protect All Children's Environment

Peter Suber
Public Knowledge

Dave Aeikens
Society of Professional Journalists

Doug Newcomb
Special Libraries Association

Ellen Miller
Sunlight Foundation

Tim Donaghy
Union of Concerned Scientists
Scientific Integrity Program

Dane vonBreichenruchardt
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation

Stephen Buckley
UStransparency.com

Kathy Van Dame, Policy Coordinator
Wasatch Clean Air Coalition

Toby Nixon
Washington Coalition for Open Government

Bill Will
Washington Newspaper Publishers Association

Ricci Levy
Woodhull Freedom Foundation

Individual signatories, additional information for identification purposes only

Eric Bender, Reference Librarian
LA Law Library

Richard Doherty M.D., ret.
University of Rochester and Stanford Medical Schools

J. William Leonard, Former Director,
Information Security Oversight Office
Leonardtown, MD

Holly Gale
Law Librarians of Puget Sound

Romola Georgia
Palo Alto, California

Anne R. Grady
Natick, MA

Dwight Hines, Ph.D.
IndyMedia

Faye E. Jones, Director and Professor
The Florida State University,
College of Law Research Center

Karen Lasnick, Manager of Library & Research Services
Bryan Cave LLP

Cliff Li
CEO, CommerNet, Inc.

John F. Necci, Law Library Director and Associate Professor of Law
Beasley School of Law at Temple University

Naraya Stein
Haiku, Hawaii

Virginia Swain
Institute for Global Leadership, a Service of Excelsis

Lisa Thornton
Lisa Thornton Inc.

Kiyul Uhm, Associate Professor Daegu University,
Director of the Freedom of Information Center

John W. Whitehead, President
The Rutherford Institute

Caitlin Wills-Toker, PhD
University System of Georgia Electronic Core Curriculum
Gainesville State College

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