ethics EO

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John Wonderlich

Jan 21, 2009, 2:18:39 PM1/21/09

Jon Henke

Jan 21, 2009, 2:27:27 PM1/21/09
Check the dig at the end of the Roll Call article: “The event announcing the new openness was closed to all reporters except the handful who are in the White House pool. The event was televised, though.”


Jon Henke

From: John Wonderlich <>
Reply-To: <>
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 14:18:39 -0500
To: <>
Subject: [openhouseproject] ethics EO

Can't wait to see the actual text, still not up on <> .

Robert Millis

Jan 21, 2009, 2:53:30 PM1/21/09
Irony comes in many flavors, but obvious is one of my favorites. Thanks for pointing that out, Jon.

John Wonderlich

Jan 21, 2009, 4:52:05 PM1/21/09
These text copies are being emailed around.  (wish they were online!)


                       THE WHITE HOUSE

                Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                         January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009


SUBJECT:      Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of
openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public
trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation,
and collaboration.  Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote
efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent.  Transparency promotes
accountability and provides information for citizens about what their
Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government
is a national asset.  My Administration will take appropriate action,
consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in
forms that the public can readily find and use.  Executive departments
and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about
their operations and decisions online and readily available to the
public.  Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public
feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory.  Public engagement enhances the
Government's effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions.
Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit
from having access to that dispersed knowledge.  Executive departments
and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to
participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the
benefits of their collective expertise and information.  Executive
departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we
can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in

Government should be collaborative.  Collaboration actively engages
Americans in the work of their Government.  Executive departments and
agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to
cooperate among themselves, across all levels of




Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and
individuals in the private sector.  Executive departments and agencies
should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of
collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the
Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the
Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by
appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of
recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the
Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to
take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this
memorandum.  The independent agencies should comply with the Open
Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or
benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by
a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or
entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

                            BARACK OBAMA

# # #


    Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                            January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009


SUBJECT:        Freedom of Information Act

A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.  As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."  In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.  At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.

The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption:  In the face of doubt, openness prevails.  The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.  Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve.  In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government.  The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public.  They should not wait for specific requests from the public.  All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government.  Disclosure should be timely.

I direct the Attorney General to issue new guidelines governing the FOIA to the heads of executive departments and agencies, reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency, and to publish such guidelines in the Federal Register.  In doing so, the Attorney General should review FOIA reports produced by the agencies under Executive Order 13392 of December 14, 2005.  I also direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to update guidance to the agencies to increase and improve information dissemination to the public, including through the use of new technologies, and to publish such guidance in the Federal Register.



This memorandum does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

                        BARACK OBAMA

                        # # #

Gabriela Schneider

Jan 21, 2009, 5:00:27 PM1/21/09
Well, now it is via TechPresident. Ok, I know that's not what you
meant, but wanted to share the link :-)

Jon Henke

Jan 21, 2009, 5:08:38 PM1/21/09

Micah Sifry

Jan 21, 2009, 5:14:31 PM1/21/09

David Weller

Jan 21, 2009, 5:34:43 PM1/21/09
Talk about cleaning house!  Sweep that broom!

Obama is proving to be a reformer first, and God grant peace among his constituents.

Josh Tauberer, your list of open government groups' feeds are a gold mine for qualified commentary and opinion. 

This is a new day for a more accountable executive branch..

David Weller
Hitch your wagon to a star.  -Emerson
David Weller
email, gtalk:
private library:
Abilene, TX Local Daily Info:
squidoo survey:
Holy San Marco! radio:
You Street (public financing of elections):

John Wonderlich

Jan 21, 2009, 6:21:34 PM1/21/09
This is extremely heartening; the memos are full of great passages, like this:

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public.  They should not wait for specific requests from the public.  All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government.  Disclosure should be timely.

Some of this isn't going to be easy, especially the idea of affirmative disclosure outlined above, which is likely only possible through affirmative designations applied across government records sets, with a careful eye to concerns of privacy, security, and the prerogatives of closed deliberation.  The CTO, OMB Director, AG, and GSA Administrator have quite an assignment for the next 120 days!

Another reason we should follow implementation of these memos closely: it's only too easy to rely on traditional procedures and distinctions for dissemination.  These memos, as far as I can tell, were circulated through a traditional and closed process, and there's still no access to primary sources online, from the White House Press secretary, the EO or Proclamation pages, or the blog of  This is emblematic of the challenges that are going to face President Obama and his administration as they strive to live up to the promise of a truly transparent, participatory, and collaborative government, as these memos describe.

To be clear, I'd rather have such fundamental changes announced exclusively on the inside of specially marked boxes of cigars than not at all.  These are sweeping pronouncements, and show enormous promise and the realization of campaign and transition promises.  For the open government announcements to come so quickly further cements trust and accountability as what we hope will be central themes of any governmental operations.

It's the Obama administration's first full day, and they deserve praise for taking a bold stand on open government issues.  Hopefully their Office of Public Liaison  (which is now accepting comments) and new media operations will take center stage as they ramp up operations, empowering the public in the same manner as these memos prescribe for the rest of government.

On Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 5:08 PM, Jon Henke <> wrote:

John Wonderlich

Jan 21, 2009, 6:31:48 PM1/21/09
linkable version also now on Sunlight's blog.

Michael Stern

Jan 21, 2009, 6:33:17 PM1/21/09

Has anyone seen the EO on lobbying?


Mike Stern


Michael Stern

Jan 21, 2009, 6:35:39 PM1/21/09

Never mind.  I see it is posted by the National Journal and linked to by Sunlight.

Michael Stern

Jan 21, 2009, 7:18:51 PM1/21/09

Also the Obama EO on Presidential Records may be found here

J.H. Snider

Jan 21, 2009, 8:55:07 PM1/21/09

Last Friday Senator Rockefeller, Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, sought to get the Senate to pass his digital TV transition delay bill without first posting it publicly.  By avoiding a committee vote, he was also apparently able to avoid a required Congressional Budget Office scoring of the cost of his bill to the private sector. 


The same day, Representative Waxman, Chair of the House Commerce Committee, announced a mark-up of his own digital TV transition delay bill.  The mark-up was scheduled for next Wednesday (today) at 1:30pm, and he posted a copy of his draft bill on his committee website.  I was pleased that Chairman Waxman was following a more transparent and accountable course of action than Senator Rockefeller.


Today at 12:30pm Chairman Waxman cancelled the Committee mark-up.  I was there and there was a large group of lobbyists and press that were very surprised by the last minute cancellation.  It seemed like every committee staffer you talked to had a different explanation for why Chairman Waxman cancelled the mark-up.  As soon as the mark-up was cancelled, the draft bill was pulled from the Committee website and it is no longer publicly available.


These are some of the issues raised by this incident:


1)      Chairman Waxman showed great disrespect for the public by canceling the mark-up at the last second and with no way to notify people of the cancellation.  I live about 75 minutes away from the Capital; it was quite a burden on me to drive to and from the Capital, go through security, etc., and then find that the so-called public meeting, announced five days before was canceled with no good reason.  Note that mark-ups aren’t televised and you can be forced to leave the room if you’re found attempting to record it.  (Note that canceling a public meeting at the last minute without consideration for the public may happen more frequently than some folks know.  A few years ago I left work in DC early to attend and speak at a public meeting to discuss charter revision in Anne Arundel County where I live.  A charter is like the constitution of a local government.  The meeting was canceled a few hours before it was supposed to start because one of the Commissioners couldn’t make it and didn’t want to miss it.   The commissioners not only had no way to notify the public ahead of time of the cancellation but no commissioner even showed up at the meeting to alert the few members of the public who did show up that the meeting was canceled.)

2)      As far as I can tell, any trace of the draft bill has completely disappeared from the Committee website and is no longer publicly available in any form.  It’s my sense that Chairman Waxman canceled the meeting because he realized at the last moment that the draft bill had some controversial sections in it.  Somehow I think that the draft bill, even though it hadn’t yet been dropped in the hopper and become an official, public bill, should still be public.   I for one was very interested in some of the special interest clauses included in the draft bill—clauses whose import Chairman’s Waxman’s staff didn’t seem to recognize when they posted the bill.

3)      Will Chairman Waxman’s explanation for the cancellation continue to appear on his website?  What if it changes over time and proves to be inconsistent with later behavior?  For example, let’s say this doesn’t turn out to be a minor postponement but something that in retrospect will signal much more?   I think the public should have a record that would allow a comparison of the explanation with the actual subsequent behavior.


Let me say that I think Chairman Waxman is a brilliant legislator and one of the most diligent and effective members of Congress when it comes to doing executive oversight.  On several occasions I’ve even told my kids to watch him do oversight because I consider him to be a master at it and in my local County politics there is nothing like it for them to watch.  Still, I think this behavior is inconsistent with the general rhetoric we’re hearing about the importance of transparency and public participation.  I would welcome any thoughts people might have about the appropriateness of such behavior for a Congressional committee or any public body.


--Jim Snider


J.H. Snider, MBA, Ph.D.



Thomas Lord

Jan 21, 2009, 9:24:05 PM1/21/09
On Wed, 2009-01-21 at 20:55 -0500, J.H. Snider wrote:

> 3) Will Chairman Waxman’s explanation for the cancellation
> continue to appear on his website? What if it changes over time and
> proves to be inconsistent with later behavior? For example, let’s say
> this doesn’t turn out to be a minor postponement but something that in
> retrospect will signal much more? I think the public should have a
> record that would allow a comparison of the explanation with the
> actual subsequent behavior.

I posted something to the open-government list that is relevant here and
I think it ports across context (it makes sense here, too). I'll quote
it in tact. The original was addressed to something Carl Malamud was
saying (is about all the context you need, I hope):


This response to that is a little more "techy" and lower level than is
customary on this list but I hope you and others like it anyway.

Every time a static page on or a similar site is updated,
the service at that host should generate:

1) A stable URL for that version of that page, valid for some
time period (I'd say 30 years but even 30 days could work).
The site MUST NOT re-use these stable years ever: they
can take down the content after some period of time but
must not re-use the URL.

2) Meta-data on that page (e.g., using something like RDFa)
that includes checksums and perhaps a signature on the payload.

3) An RSS item announcing the publication and its stable URL.

4) Optionally: versioning meta-data relating it to previous
publications (e.g., "THIS replaces THAT" or "THIS combines
THAT and THAT OTHER THING"). Other optional meta-data such
as authorship.

Given those technically simple steps, it is no longer necessary to
archive those sites by spidering and hoping for meaningful snapshots.
An archivist can simply read off the RSS feed and collect the relevant
page snapshots from their stable URLs, using spidering mainly to
validate the archive.

An archivist can save the documents by using their stable URLs as a
relative URL on a new site.

A "redirector" is then a generic thing. A single redirector can be
applied to *any* site that constructs such an archive.

One valuable contribution of taking these steps, earlier rather than
later, is arguably this:

The resulting form of archive is easy for non-technical-type people to
understand. Anyone who can understand the concept of the Federal
Register can understand this form of archive. This form of archiving
not only creates an accurate record of how these sites change over time,
it reifies, in a human-friendly way, the form and function of an

Government communications to the public should be idealized as a kind of
"journaling" / "write-once" database / file-system with meta-data
sensitively designed for archival needs. Making that ideal real for
the web sites is well within reach, roughly along the lines of what I
described in (1)..(4) above.

As a technical matter, what I've described can likely be implemented in
a layered fashion without the need to substantially disrupt the content
management systems currently used.


John Wonderlich

Jan 22, 2009, 1:16:47 PM1/22/09
It looks like there's an announcement about the hearing here:

"The transition to digital television is not going well. There is not enough money for the converter box coupon program and millions of Americans could experience serious problems.

Delay of the deadline is our only hope of lessening the impact on millions of consumers. Without a short, one-time extension, millions of households will lose all television reception. Late last week Senate Republicans blocked a bill to delay the transition date.

I have postponed Committee consideration of the DTV markup to give the Committee more time to assess the implications of the Senate action."

and there's a discussion draft of the bill still up here:  was it down for a while, and back up?  (I haven't been following this issue)

J.H. Snider

Jan 22, 2009, 1:43:32 PM1/22/09

The postponement explanation was indeed posted shortly after the mark-up was postponed.  But the reinstatement of the original meeting notice and bill discussion draft is interesting because I talked with a commerce committee staffer over the phone around 3pm yesterday and complained that the bill had been taken down.  He replied that there was no reason to keep it up now that the mark-up was canceled, and, by implication, that I was ignorant for not knowing that that was the way the system worked.  I asked if he could e-mail me an electronic copy of the draft bill that had been posted, and he restated the position above and read the Waxman postponement statement that you’ve noted below.   At some point, the committee staff must have changed their mind and reposted the draft bill, perhaps because there was so much trade press interest in the postponement. 


--Jim Snider


J.H. Snider, MBA, Ph.D.



P.S. I wrote a commentary on the House and Senate DTV bills for Ars Technica.


From: [] On Behalf Of John Wonderlich

Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2009 1:17 PM

John Wonderlich

Jan 23, 2009, 7:50:17 PM1/23/09
I don't know any more about what happened, but I can point out that the hearing looks to have been rescheduled now:

Committee Schedule PDF Print

DTV Markup
Tuesday, Januray 27, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.
2123 Rayburn House Office Building
Discussion Draft

Note: All hearings and markups will be available via either video Webcast (for room 2123 Rayburn) or audio Webcast (for room 2322 Rayburn). The Webcast will begin generally 10 minutes before the meeting begins. Windows Media Player is required to view the Webcast. If possible, the archived Webcast will be posted by close of business on the day the hearing or markup is held. It will be posted on the respective hearing or markup page. The use of Webcasts of  Committee proceedings for political or commercial purposes is expressly prohibited by the rules of the House of Representatives. (Rule XI, 4 of the House of Representatives. See text of Rule XI, 4 as posted by the House Committee on Rules.)

J.H. Snider

Jan 23, 2009, 9:07:53 PM1/23/09

I think the discrepancy in the way the Senate and Commerce committees have posted their digital TV bills online provide an interesting contrast.  It appears that Senator Rockefeller has now attempted on at least one occasion (last Friday) and possibly today, too, to pass his digital TV bill without 1) going through committee, or 2) posting a draft of the bill online for comment.  Representative Waxman has done both.   It’s a good control case because both men occupy very similar positions (both are Democratic chairs of their respective chamber’s commerce committee), both have bills addressing the same problem, and both are equally anxious for bill passage.  Politically, it so far looks like Senator Rockefeller’s secrecy has worked better than Representative Waxman’s openness.  I believe Waxman underestimated the controversy his bill would generate.


Note that the only version of the bill that has been posted on the Senate website is ranking minority Hutchison’s written endorsement and summary today of the Rockefeller bill, which the trade press reported yesterday could come up for a vote by the end of today.  Waxman appears to be having a lot more trouble with his minority committee members.  One interesting twist is that Hutchison was a broadcast TV executive before entering politics and taking responsibility for broadcast regulation.  This might help explain why the Republican leadership in the Senate Commerce committee seems more willing to compromise than the Republican leadership in the House.


Another tidbit might interest members of this list.  When the broadcasters lobbied for spectrum flexibility in the early 1990s (digital flexibility is the right to provide up to ten standard definition digital signals in the same amount of spectrum that could previously only provide one analog spectrum), they argued that one use for those additional channels might be to broadcast local public meetings the way C-SPAN does (e.g., check the Radio Television News Directors pamphlet on how local stations might use such rights if granted by Congress and the FCC).  Of course, shortly after they got spectrum flexibility rights, such talk immediately ceased.  I don’t think terrestrial, over-the-air broadcasting was the right medium to bring transparency to such public meetings, but I also don’t believe we should have any broadcasting at all on the current frequencies broadcasters use, which are best suited for mobile broadband service—and the provision of all government information on demand. 



Here is an account of the House action in Broadcasting & Cable:

Barton: Maybe We Can Avoid DTV Delay


Here is an account of the Senate action in Broadcasting & Cable and TVWeek

Senate to Act Swiftly on DTV Date (TVWeek)

Sen. Rockefeller Unveils Amended DTV Date Bill (Broadcasting&Cable)


--Jim Snider


J.H. Snider, MBA, Ph.D.




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