Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Celebrate International Right to Know Day: Sept. 28!

Correction and apology: October 11, 2010: I received an e-mail from Daniel Metcalfe, the Director of the FOIA center at American University, below, Collaboration on Government Secrecy. When I first visited the site, I failed to notice a small white note in the lower center of their large dark blue center panel, just below the name block. The white letters simply spell "Continue." If the visitor presses that link, you then come through into the real meat of the site, which I missed on my first visit! I apologize, and am humbled. The site actually has a great deal to offer. If Professor Metcalfe's Dean's Fellow had not spotted this post and alerted him to it, we would have missed out on this site's value. There is an impressive list of relevant U.S. Code citations, which link the reader to the full text provided by govtrack.us, a non-partisan website which credits official and credible sites like Thomas and Legal Information Institute for bill and statute texts. There are also Attorney General Memoranda regarding FOIA, a report on how the Obama administration is doing on transparency, which includes lots of links to full text of Executive Orders, press releases, and many other texts. There are lots of reports from the Center itself on many aspects of government secrecy, documents from conferences and programs they have held. They have a list of amendments to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), with links to full text of the bills. And they have reports from their center analyzing the effects of each amendment. Each fall and spring, they issue a thumbnail of FOIA in the Supreme Court, and then provide links to any decisions of the Court, including Certiorari, Amicus briefs, briefs, and related articles analyzing the decision. There is a special analysis of FOIA post-9/11, focusing on non-Supreme Court litigation. They offer an analysis of National Security classification of government materials, organized by administration, looking as far back as F.D.R. The analysis is very in-depth. , and includes lots of full text links to official documents as well as to reports. There is a section on States Secrets Privilege, and another on Pseuosecrecy. And finally, a report looking at transparency worldwide. I apologize for giving such a very rich site short shrift!

FOIAdvocates.net is an international network of private individuals and organizations interested in freedom of information, transparency from governments:

The Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet)is an international information-sharing network of organizations and individuals working to promote the right of access to information. Members of FOIAnet are civil society organizations with active programmes to promote the right to know. FOIAnet also runs a discussion list for news and debate on the right of access to information; there are currently over 400 people on this list, including CSO representatives and lawyers, academics, information commissioners and others with a specialised interest in the right to information. The network launched and promotes International Right to Know Day which takes place on 28th September of every year.
They list members from all around the world. And they have a fun world map with "push pins" showing the location of Right to Know Day events, on their home page. It only shows a few events in upper North America. One is happening in our building, and I was surprised to find it registered on their map. But there are dozens all through Mexico, Central and South America. There are a good few around Europe and into Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, a number in Bangladesh, and India, and a few scattered across Africa. None in the far East.

This website offers some resources, links to organizations' websites in various countries which vary a great deal in what they have available when you follow the links. It's worth exploring though. Sometimes, it's just a list of people studying the issue of government secrecy, as with the disappointing American link, http://www.wcl.american.edu/lawandgov/cgs/, "Collaboration on Government Secrecy," at American University. Some, like the Scottish link to University of Dundee, Centre for Freedom of Information, will eventually bring you to FOI Seminars, which has some reports that may be useful. Likewise, the Argentinan Unversidad de Palermo Centros y Programas de Investigacion, if you can read Spanish fluently, provides lengthy reports at the first link on the top left, written by law faculty members. The IST (Stockholm-based International School for Transparency)includes a link for a court decision out of South Africa about Zimbabwe, and a number of news reports. And the South Africa link, Open Democracy itself is a rich source, with links for legislation, information on recent litigation, training information and news, organized by topic. It's a bit of a come-uppance, actually, to realize that the U.S. site, rather like our current administration, which has trumpeted its "transparency," only to disappoint us in so many ways lately, is not all that informative about Freedom of Information.

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