Tags: transparent | information | Ralph Nader | government

Ralph Nader: Government Must Lift Veil of Secrecy

By    |   Thursday, 27 March 2014 12:48 PM

President Barack Obama said his administration would be the most transparent in history.

"Unfortunately, despite lofty initial campaign promises by the Obama administration, widespread government secrecy has only worsened in recent years and access to information by journalists and activists is disturbingly limited," asserts consumer advocate Ralph Nader in an article for the Huffington Post.

Nader cited several areas needing improvements. First on the list is putting the full text of government contracts online.

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"When it comes to government spending and government contracts, the devil is in the details. Unfortunately, these details are often unavailable to the public," he says, arguing that putting contracts online would hinder corruption and lead to savings for taxpayers.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act passed by the House has good intentions, but it does not require contracts to be put online, Nader says, urging Congress to amend the act.

Voting records of members of Congress must also be accessible online, he says.

"In an age where there is a simple app for nearly everything, the lack of easy, searchable voting records on the websites of each member of Congress is unacceptable. If citizens can easily donate to electoral campaigns from their cell phone, they should be able to monitor the voting record of their representatives with equal ease."

The administration, Nader argues, must respond to Freedom of Information requests faster. The Obama administration has denied a record number of FOI requests, most frequently citing national security concerns.

"This lack of access should be considered unacceptable to all citizens who believe in a free democracy."

The public should be able to obtain reports from the Congressional Research Services, now usually only seen by members of Congress and staff, he adds. Plus, the U.S. Government Printing Office should print more government documents for the millions of people who lack broadband Internet access.

The Center for Effective Government's 2014 FOI scorecard found that out of 15 agencies, none earned exemplary scores and only eight earned a passing grade.

"The results are sobering," the center's report states. "Unfortunately, since its passage in 1966 and reform in 1974, federal agencies have failed to implement the law consistently, which can make it challenging for citizens to gain access to public information as the law guarantees."

Seven agencies, including the Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Homeland Security and State, received an overall failing grade. The State Department had the worst score overall, with a particularly low score for processing FOI requests.

Poor scores were not due to high standards, and implementing the FOIA is possible, the center states.

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President Barack Obama said his administration would be the most transparent in history.
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Thursday, 27 March 2014 12:48 PM
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