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Posts Tagged ‘Transparency’

If you missed “Building Transparency,” the live online forum last Friday about how the Obama administration is doing in terms of transparency and open government, you can watch the entire two-hour program online. (more…)

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A few weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration announced a new internal task force that would examine how the agency can become more transparent. The group would seek suggestions from employees, stakeholders and the public in an effort to reach the best conclusions about how the FDA could become more accessible. (For an overview of what the FDA does and does not regulate, see this Time article.)

Sure enough, the FDA has lived up to its promise. Today, Public Citizen’s own Dr. Peter Lurie, deputy director of our Health Research Group, is representing American consumers with testimony before the task force. While current FDA procedures favor secrecy so that drug companies can keep competitors in the dark about products being developed, Dr. Lurie will make three recommendations before the task force that will allow the FDA to become more open to the public.

First, Dr. Lurie will recommend that pre-approval documents should be made available to the public. This will prevent scientists from researching products similar to those that, unbeknownst to them, prior research has deemed unsafe, squandering time and money going down roads already proved to be dead ends. In addition, making this information public can save clinical trial participants from being put at needless risk by enrolling them in research likely to prove fruitless. (more…)

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President Obama’s first acts in office included issuing two memoranda and an executive order directing the government to embrace a new policy of openness and transparency. As someone who assists organizations whose requests under the Freedom of Information Act have been denied, these documents have the potential to make a world of difference.

As background, the Freedom of Information Act lists various categories of documents that are exempt from disclosure, but most of those categories are discretionary. That is, the government can choose to disclose documents that fall under these exemptions. But the Bush Administration’s FOIA policy directed the government to defend any discretionary withholding if there was a reasonable basis in the law to do so. That policy hardly reflects the presumption of disclosure that FOIA embraces.

President Obama, as he put it, is “usher[ing] in a new era of open Government.” He directed that “[i]n the face of doubt, openness prevails… The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.” In this way, President Obama’s memoranda implement many of the suggestions made by Public Citizen, joining over 60 other organizations, in transition recommendations. I believe this directive will have practical effect. (more…)

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More than four years and $10 million later, 14 million “lost” computer files from the Bush administration will be transferred to the National Archives, a Justice Department lawyer told a federal judge, according to The Washington Post.

Of course, this statement came only after the federal judge had ordered people who worked in the president’s executive office to search e-mail archives and recover portable hard drives in a search for files created between 2003 and 2005, the years that the bulk of the files appeared missing.

Meredith Fuchs, a counsel for one of the plaintiffs in the 2007 lawsuit requesting these files, told the Post that the Justice Department’s statement was “striking” because it admitted that 14 million e-mails needed to be recovered, proving the “level of mismanagement at the White House.”

The files in question can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act once they are transferred to the Archives. Adding these files to the public record will help to eliminate much of the secrecy that the Bush administration became famous for and provide answers to the decisions made throughout his presidency.

With a new administration that is a supposed proponent of  government transparency, we’re hopeful that officials will no longer go out of their way to mask their actions from the public.

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