The President’s Award is the highest honor that ASAP grants recognizing distinguished and sustained contributions in the furtherance of the public interest with respect to access, privacy, and fair information laws, policies, and practices. ASAP noted Miriam’s work in FOIA at the Justice Department and then in the National Archives General Counsel’s office during the 1990’s, as legislative counsel for the American Library Association and then UNESCO in Paris. Special recognition was focused on her work to establish and head OGIS, created by the 2007 amendments to the FOIA. In accepting the award, Miriam pointed out that she had grown up along with the FOIA and that OGIS represents the maturity of a law that is one of the hallmarks of open government… [ Read all ]
The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) at the National Archives has been hard at work this year developing recommendations to the President of the United States to transform the national security classification system. PIDB is an advisory committee established by Congress to advise and provide recommendations to the President and other executive branch officials on the identification, collection, review for declassification, and release of declassified records of archival value. In addition, PIDB advises the President on policies regarding classification and declassification of national security information.
Through their “Transforming Classification” blog, they have solicited hundreds of public comments and ideas on ways to reduce inefficiency and increase public access to improve our classification and declassification system.
The work of the PIDB embodies the principles of open government, transparency and participation, and I encourage you to provide your feedback on their blog as they continue to tackle the challenge of improving the national security classification system, especially as it relates to digital records.
On Thursday, December 6th, the Public Interest Declassification Board will host an open meeting to discuss its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System. The full Report to the President will be published online on December 6th . The meeting will focus on the Board’s fourteen recommendations, centering on the need for new policies… [ Read all ]
The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) of the National Archives is responsible to the President of the United States for policy and oversight of the Government-wide security classification system. An open society in which the American public is informed and holds our government accountable is a defining factor of our democracy. Our ability to share information must be balanced by the need to hold certain information in confidence for periods of time to protect from harm our citizens, our democratic institutions, and our participation in the community of nations. ISOO ensures the development and application of policies which balance the disclosure, sharing, and protection of information related to national security.
President Obama issued Executive Order 13526 in December of 2009 calling for the first ever comprehensive Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR) of classification guidance across the Executive Branch of the government. These reviews are conducted to ensure that classification guidance reflects current circumstances as to what needs to remain classified and to identify classified information that no longer needs protection and can be declassified.
The first FCGR has now been completed and the agency reviews summarizing their reviews are available at http://www.archives.gov/isoo/. Altogether, 3,103 classification guides were reviewed and 869 were either cancelled or consolidated.
This review is an investment in the future health of the classification system. It provides a… [ Read all ]
Last Saturday I spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of Wikimedians at the Wikimania 2012 Conference here in Washington. Over 1400 people from 87 countries came together to talk, hack, and share their expertise and experiences at the week-long event. I was glad to share in their joie de vivre and to talk about our common missions at the closing plenary session.
Check out the enthusiasm for the National Archives at Wikimania 2012:
So you may be asking why the Archivist of the United States is so interested in working with the Wikimedia Foundation. As I noted at the conference, 42% of Americans turn to Wikipedia for information.* It is a terrific way to make Archives content more transparent and available. If we are serious as an agency about our mission to provide access to permanent federal records, and indeed we are, then we must consider working with the community and using the power tools available through the Wikimedia Foundation.
Our Wikipedian in Residence (pictured above) has already worked with our staff to upload over 90,000 digital copies of our records to the Wikimedia Commons for use in Wikipedian articles. We have several more projects in the pipeline, too, all in an effort to increase access to our records.
Here’s what I said to the crowd Saturday afternoon:
On his first day on the job President Barack Obama told his Senior Staff,
“Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that Government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know. And that’s why, as of today, I’m directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans—scientists and civil leaders, educators and entrepreneurs—because the way to solve the problems of our time, as a nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.”
Knowing we don’t have all the answers, we’re changing the way we think about our work at the National Archives and Records Administration. We’re shifting our perspectives to reflect the fact that we do not have all the answers. The principles of open government – transparency, participation, and collaboration – help us draw on what citizens know.
Today, we release our updated Open Government Plan for 2012-2014. Looking back over the past two years, I’m proud of our accomplishments in strengthening open government in our agency and in our society. We set an ambitious path, accomplishing almost 70 tasks. Over the next two years our work will include:
Almost 100 years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote: “Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant. If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.”
I like to think that we celebrate Sunshine Week every day at the National Archives. We have a unique role, which we describe as “preserving the past to protect the future.” The beautiful sculptures designed by Robert I. Aitken and chiseled by the Piccarelli Brothers of the Bronx at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance echo this. “The Past” is represented by an ancient bearded man with a scroll and “The Future is a young women with a book. She sits atop a pedestal inscribed with “The Past is Prologue.” That is the spirit which embodies the function we serve.
It also embodies the Freedom of Information Act which we celebrate this week. FOIA was passed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on the Fourth of July in 1966. Since its passage it has been used by scores of people to learn more about how our government works. In 2010 alone, the government received more than 600,000 requests for records under the FOIA. We are proud to have the original text of the FOIA as it was signed into law in 1966. And we are especially proud to… [ Read all ]
Today I am writing in from Toledo, Spain. I am pleased to be attending the 2011 Conference of the International Council on Archives (ICA). This morning I spoke on a panel with the National Archivist of Belgium, Karel Velle, and Director-General Arquivo Nacional Brazil, Jaime Antunes da Silva, for the ICA’s first plenary meeting on Open Government.
One of the contributions of the National Archives to the Administration’s National Action Plan for Open Government is to explore hosting a meeting of the national archivists of the eight founding members of the International Open Government Partnership to discuss our vital role in ensuring open government at the national level. Today’s meeting is a first step in that direction.
Here’s what I told the gathering:
Open Government Panel—the View from Washington
The philosophy of Open Government is embedded in the creation of the United States. Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris in 1789, said: “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government…that whenever things go so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
From the first day of his administration, President Obama has made Open Government a priority. In a meeting with his senior staff on the day after his inauguration in January of 2009 he said: “Transparency
Iodite of potassium, sulphate of iron, nitrate of silver, rice starch, ferro cyanite of potassium, and even lemon juice. These are some of the ingredients necessary to reproduce the secret writing techniques described in the six documents declassified by the CIA last week as part of the work of the National Declassification Center (NDC). The Center was established within the National Archives at the direction of the President in late 2009 with the mandate to review more than 400 million pages of classified records by the end of December 2013.
The job is difficult and complex because a single document can contain classified information drawn from several agencies, and each one of these agencies may have its own standards for classifying and declassifying documents. The process has benefited from having representatives of the agencies at our facility in College Park, Maryland, so these referrals and decisions can be made quickly.
The review process has very much been driven by user demand. The prioritization of records to be reviewed was established after public meetings and online review by the user community. The results are posted on the NDC website.
So far the news is good. More than 84 million pages have passed the quality review process, the first step. Of the 14.5 million pages which have been fully reviewed, 91% were declassified and made available… [ Read all ]
This week, public interest groups, media organizations, government agencies, and citizens celebrate Sunshine Week and the Annual Freedom of Information Day. As part of Sunshine Week the White House has launched a new “Good Government” portal as a resource for citizens. At public events and congressional hearings this week, leadership of the National Archives — including myself — are participating in the dialogue around open government and freedom of information.
At the National Archives, open government is an ongoing commitment to strengthen transparency, participation, and collaboration in order to better serve the American people.
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives is an important symbol of both the Obama Administration’s commitment to Open Government and Congress’s vision of a better Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OGIS serves the American people by providing mediation services to resolve FOIA disputes as well as reviewing agencies’ FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance. Their role is to advocate for the proper administration of the Freedom of Information Act itself.
I’m a big fan of Wikipedia. It’s often the first place I go for information. According to a recent Pew Internet report, I’m also not alone. Forty-two percent of all Americans also turn to Wikipedia for information online.
Every month, almost 80 million people visit Wikipedia and more than 91,000 active contributors have worked on more than 17 million articles in more than 270 languages. Altogether there have been almost 450 million edits!
Wikipedia is an impressive, awe-inspiring resource. In my previous role as Director of the New York Public Libraries, I encouraged staff to contribute to and use Wikipedia. For some librarians and a few archivists — Wikipedia is sometimes not readily embraced. I’ve heard the concerns about accuracy and reliability, but there have been comparative studies that show errors do not appear more frequently in Wikipedia than its printed counterparts. By design, errors can be corrected and neutrality contested. The power lies with you to flag or change content you find incorrect or biased.
On January 22, the National Archives hosted over 90 Wikipedians at WikiXDC, the Washington, D.C. celebration of Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary. This daylong event featured lightening talks, unconference sessions, and behind-the-scene tours of the stacks of the National Archives. During the event, National Archives staff introduced our records and online resources to Wikipedians,… [ Read all ]
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