Today in OpenGov: FOIA reform in Congress close, but not headed to POTUS yet


TOP STORIES: Sunlight’s Noel Isama identified three big themes from the 2016 What Works Cities Summit: the need for institutional support, how data can help solve problems and the internal use of open data. “Open data policy can help further each of the three broad themes discussed above, showing commitment to executive and institutional support, defining goals and problems first, and ensuring departmental participation,” he concluded.

Dear @POTUS: Charles Clarke reported that while FOIA reform looks close, it “isn’t a done deal” in Congress. As he noted in his story, the Sunlight Foundation joined 46 other groups in sending President Barack Obama a letter during Sunshine Week expressing our deep concern that the Justice Department was lobbying against FOIA reform in Congress in secret. [Government Executive]

If you’re interested in what’s in the bills and how they differ, the Congressional Research Service published a new report on those very topics. [CRS]

WHAT ARE YOU READING? We enjoy CJ Ciaramella’s weekly FOIA Rundown newsletter, which takes the pulse on what’s happening around the U.S. with Freedom of Information Act cases, stories, lawsuits and tomfoolery. Tell us what you’re reading at


  • 60 Minutes asked whether Members of Congress are becoming telemarketers. What they found will probably not surprise you. [60 Minutes]
  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a revised rule that amended excessive fees “that would have restricted the ability of the public to request the declassification of classified ODNI records.” [OpenTheGovernment]
  • A Freedom of Information Request by Brad Health revealed that the FBI warned its agents not to share the technical details of its operations with federal prosecutors. [USA TODAY]
  • The White House Police Data Initiative more than doubled participation in its first year. That still leaves some 18,000 police departments yet to join. Onwards! [Govtech]
  • Google has a close relationship with the White House, from lobbying to staff moving to or from the search engine giant. [The Intercept]
  • Congratulations to the Project on Government Oversight for winning a Sigma Delta Chi award for its reporting on weakness in Food and Drug Administration Oversight. [POGO]

State and Local

  • “What’s really exciting is the culture that open data is bringing to government,” said Philadelphia chief data officer Tim Wisniewski. “For a government agency to put data out there on the Web and say, ‘Here, have at it, do what you want with it,’ and then be interested in what happens with it and what people do with it, this is a mind-set that leads to a more open government and enables government to adopt the innovations of the public.” [Wall Street Journal]
  • Vermont lawmakers are wrangling over the proposed deletion of email from former staffers that may be relevant to ongoing federal and state enforcement actions. [Seven Days]
  • James Fallows wrote about some award-winning civic engagement projects. [The Atlantic]
  • Here’s a look at how 5 cities are leading in urban innovation. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Boston City Council is experimenting with using Google Hangouts for testimony at hearings. [Universal Hub]


  • Failures to share data between countries are hindering the fight against Boko Haram in Africa. Important example of how open government and opening data internally applies to national security. [New York Times]
  • CERN released 300 terabytes of open data. [TechCrunch]
  • The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists condemned the prosecution of French journalist and ICIJ member Edouard Perrin and two whistleblowers by officials in Luxembourg. [ICIJ]
  • At last week’s What Works Cities Summit, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lamented the impact of social media on governance. Robert Colvile explored the issue in more depth, in a European context. [Politico]
  • Making Ministers of Parliament exempt from anti-money laundering checks will undermine the ability of the United Kingdom to criticize other nations or urge them to embrace transparency for their representatives. [Mirror]
  • Drawing on his experience in the United Kingdom, Tom Steinberg argued that “over-politeness is the fatal flaw in the open data movement.” As Sunlight’s John Wonderlich noted, however, recent advances in open data didn’t happen because advocates limited themselves to asking nicely. There’s also more happening with open data than the portals nations, states and cities stand up and (all to often) neglect. [Civicist]
  • An article exploring “why governments and organizations are so scared to release their data” doesn’t fully grapple with how power, security or privacy concerns factor in, nor provide data to support the contention that the progress of open data has “stalled.” We recommend reading Emily Shaw on how governments are safety opening up data. [Information Age]
  • Charles Kenny asked for feedback on his book on aid, donors and corruption. [Center for Global Development]
  • The Open Data Institute is also looking for feedback on a draft set of principles for personal data, in the context of the UK’s recently concluded consultation. [ODI]


  • The Data Coalition is hosting a breakfast forum on using open data for oversight tomorrow morning in Crystal City, Virginia.
  • Do Good Data” is happening in Chicago from April 27-29, including a session on “Peak Civic Tech.”
  • The Obama administration cancelled this week’s consultation with civil society groups on the next iteration of federal agency open government plans and quietly announced an extension of the deadline for updating them. We’re tracking to see when they reschedule the event.”The Administration is still finalizing the guidance and will be extending the deadline for agency Open Government plans and we want to have the most meaningful exchange possible,” wrote Meredith Stewart, a program analyst in the Office of Innovation in the U.S. National Archives. “As part of the rescheduled session, we will explore how to incorporate remote participation, so that civil society could participate in lightning talks both in person and remotely.”

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