Government Docs

Waiting for Info

In 1989, The National Security Archive requested documents from the CIA regarding the Iran-Contra affair. This year, the CIA released them. President Barack Obama promised a new era of transparency and adherence to the Freedom of Information Act, but has he followed through? Yvette Chin, FOIA coordinator for the NSA, tells the story behind the long, long wait for information.

FDsys Tutorials

GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys) is an advanced digital system that will enable GPO to manage Government information from all three branches of the U.S. Government.

FDsys is available as a public beta during migration of information from GPO Access. The migration of information from GPO Access into FDsys will be complete in 2009, until this time GPO Access will contain all content.

GPO has made available brief FDsys video tutorials, including an FDsys overview, simple search, advanced and citation search, and browsing. Click here to access the tutorials.

Digital Biz European Union launches digital library

CNN:The European Union has launched a digital library that offers documents dating to nearly 60 years ago, in 23 languages.

All documents ever edited on behalf of European Union institutions, agencies and other bodies will be available in the library, the organization said in a news release.

"The digital library frees the memory of the European Union tied to paper since its beginning," said Leonard Orban, the union's commissioner for multilingualism.

The electronic library is free to individuals, companies and libraries worldwide, which can download documents as PDF (Portable Document Format) files, Orban said. About 12 million pages -- roughly 110,000 EU publications -- are available for download, according to officials.

Full story

Filing documents on time

I rarely, if ever, get to write about government documents. This is one of those times.

I intended to have a reading of the President's proclamation for Patriot Day (that is to say, 9-11) for release via the podcast feed. In the past the White House of Bush The Younger had such proclamations released in the Federal Register before the day of the holiday with the exception of 2004-2006. The press office did release the 2004 text before the holiday, though, as can be seen here. For President Obama's first Patriot Day proclamation, I can only find such this morning in the Federal Register although the website was found to have such after one heckuva non-obvious route searching.

Even though the Federal Register is in fact the official source for proclamations, sometimes the White House web site is a useful unofficial source. Unfortunately that is not the case in this instance. There is a page for proclamations and executive orders but as I write it has not been updated since June 23, 2009.

The Office of the Federal Register is helpful in providing time stamps for when documents are filed. Typically in the text-only view online such is found at the end of the file. The past few years of proclamations, for your reading enjoyment, include:

Obama 2009
Bush 2008
Bush 2007
Bush 2006
Bush 2005
Bush 2004
Bush 2003
Bush 2002

If a proclamation is signed but nobody knows about it, does it really matter?

Details wanted on NARA's electronic records system

NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration, is hard at work developing a spending plan for its next generation Electronic Records Archive. But the General Accountability Office said the plan, estimated to cost more than $550 million, doesn't have enough detail, or a working backup system.

Read more.

Hoover’s role in creation of NARA

Tim Walch, director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, delivered the following remarks June 17 to Hoover Park staff at a picnic to mark the 75th anniversary of the creation of the National Archives and Records Administration.

First ombudsman for FOIA named at National Archives

The National Archives has named the first Freedom of Information Act ombudsman, with ability to mediate disputes over requests for information.

Miriam Nisbet heads the information society division of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris. She will direct the Archives' new Office of Government Information Services, acting Archivist Adrienne Thomas announced on Wednesday.

Immigrants' files soon available

Millions of files containing detailed information about U.S. immigrants — including their spouses' names, as well as personal photographs and letters — will soon become available to the public through a federal facility in suburban Kansas City.

Historians and others say the records, called Alien Registration files, or A-files, provide insight on immigrants who arrived in the U.S. after 1944. Long considered temporary files by U.S. immigration officials, the documents could have been destroyed after 75 years.

Full story here.

$10 Billion a Year to Keep Government Secrets Secret

Keeping government secrets doesn’t come cheap. According to the latest report from the National Archives and Records Administration’s security office, it cost the U.S. government $9.85 billion in FY 2008 to maintain the volume of classified material that’s locked away. The good news is that the cost of protecting state secrets seems to be leveling off, according to Secrecy News, which notes the federal government spent heavily on classifying documents following Sept. 11, a trend that finally eased last year. In comparison to the previous year’s costs, the total for FY 2007 was $9.9 billion.

Data.gov: Unlocking the Federal Filing Cabinets

Story in the New York Times:

When Vivek Kundra became the federal government’s chief information officer, he talked about the value of using standard off-the-shelf computer systems instead of the custom-built ones that government agencies are inclined to buy.

With the new government site Data.gov, Mr. Kundra is showing off the value of standard data formats as well.

The government, of course, has been publishing information on paper for centuries, and in electronic form for decades. The USA.gov portal has links to hundreds of Web sites the government runs about all of its agencies and programs.

But Data.gov is different. It is primarily for machines, not people, at least as a first step. It is a catalog of various sets of data from government agencies.

Full story here.

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