Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Restore Open Government Act

Returning from the 108th Congress is the Restore Open Government Act,
introduced once again by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on May 12, 2005. This bill
goes a little further than the Open Government Act in terms of substantive
changes proposed for FOIA and is intended to address many of the key actions
taken by the Bush administration that have restricted access to government
information. The bill specifically proposes:

  • Revocation of the “Ashcroft Memorandum” of Oct. 12, 2001, which directed
    heads of government agencies to observe the new standard by which the Department
    of Justice would defend the denial of a FOIA request in court.

  • Revocation of the “Card Memorandum” of March 12, 2002, relating to
    safeguarding of information on weapons of mass destruction.

  • Creation by the national archivist of a report on the use of
    “pseudo-classification” designations for government information (such as
    Sensitive Security Information, Sensitive Homeland Security Information,
    Sensitive but Unclassified, etc.). This report would be completed within nine
    months of the enactment of the act and would include information on:

    1. The
      names and number of various pseudo-classifications used by government agencies.
    2. Any guidance, instructions, regulations or directives used by the
      agencies in these areas.
    3. The number of documents categorized by each
      agency in the past three years.
    4. The number, level and experience of agency
      personnel authorized to make these designations.
    5. The cost of
      pseudo-classifying documents.
    6. The extent to which pseudo-classified
      documents have been released under FOIA.
    7. The extent to which
      pseudo-classifications have been used to withhold information that is not
      classified pursuant to an executive order.

  • Promulgation of regulations to ban the use of unnecessary

  • Overturning the Executive Orders issued by George W. Bush on Nov. 1, 2001,
    and by George H.W. Bush on Jan. 18, 1989, that have restricted access to
    government information under the Presidential Records Act.

  • Require publication of the names of members of Presidential Interagency
    Advisory Committees, which can now be kept secret as a result of the United
    States Supreme Court decision in Cheney v. U.S. District Court for the District
    of Columbia
  • Promotion of timely declassification of records.
  • Limiting the broad application of the FOIA exemption contained in the Critical
    Infrastructure Information Act of 2002.

  • The bill was referred to the Committee on Government Reform and the Committee
    on Homeland Security. Neither has taken action on it.