Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Weekend Reading — The Latest Open Government Plan (Post-Edward Snowden)


On Friday, the Obama administration released another document outlining its efforts at making government more accessible to its citizens and to increase transparency.

Titled “The Open Government Partnership: Second Open Government National Action Plan for the United States of America,” I cannot say the 13-page document is a page-turner, but you should read it anyway.

That’s especially in light of all the revelations that the government is perhaps not as open and accountable as was thought when the first plan was released in September of 2011. The White House report said most of the more than two dozen promises in that report had been either fulfilled or were being addressed.

This was all, of course, before the revelations of government surveillance of everyone and their mother (not my mother, unless you are interested in Words With Friends and her excessive enjoyment of the New York Post online).

Still, the feds press on with the idea that was at the heart of the Obama administration’s appeal to techies, with “23 new or expanded open-government commitments …”

By way of background, from the report:

In September 2010, President Obama challenged members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people. To meet that challenge, in July 2011, President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations in announcing the launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) — a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance. In two short years, the OGP has grown from eight to more than 60 member-nations that have collectively made more than 1,000 commitments to improve the governance of more than two billion people around the globe.

Some of the initiatives touted here, in more words than is needed to explain: Improvements in the “We the People” online petitions platform; modernization of the Freedom of Information Act processes; joining the Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency, “an international network of governments and non-government organizations aimed at enhancing financial transparency, accountability, and stakeholder engagement”; more open data available; a push to promote participatory budgeting (apparently, we the people can crowdsource-decide certain eligible federal community development grant programs).

The entire document is below or you can read a good analysis here by the Sunlight Foundation’s John Wonderlich, which does a nice job of calling our political leaders to task:

The most charitable characterization of Obama’s commitment to openness is that it has decayed from soaring rhetoric to a cautious incrementalism. Responsibilities once centralized among Senior White House staff devoted to transparency have devolved outward to Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) staffers with less clout and backing, while the Open Government Partnership itself was initiated by national security and foreign policy staff, whose work was then handed off to domestic policy staff who had to live up to new mandates and promises. Add the heathcare.gov debacle, surveillance abuses, and complex domestic politics, and we get a White House with a weak and generally defensive political commitment to domestic openness.”

Well, yes, exactly. But let’s keep hoping for painful progress anyway. Here’s the full report:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik