Sunday, July 19, 2015

Now blogging at Medium

I'm trying an experiment and am blogging over at Medium. I'm sure it's a big mistake, but come and check it out.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Did the House Intelligence Committee Violate Congressional Transparency Rules?

The secretive House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) held an organizational meeting on January 28. HPSCI, in its conduct of its meeting, may have violated the rules of the House of Representatives. The committee has not posted video of its proceedings and apparently did not provide required public notice of the meeting.  At these meetings, each committee debates and adopts rules for its operation, an oversight plan may also be adopted, and other business takes place.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Senate Torture Report: The Senate Speaks

On December 9, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee published a report severely criticizing CIA interrogation practices as brutal and ineffective. The committee released to the public a redacted version of the report’s executive summary—nearly 500 pages long—the culmination of seven years’ work. It includes the views of the majority of committee members, an additional statement by Senator Jay Rockefeller, and the views of dissenting committee members. The full report is classified and runs nearly 6,700 pages.

In announcing the release of the report, several senators, including the Intelligence Committee Chair, gave speeches on the Senate floor explaining their views and findings. These speeches are a helpful, succinct introduction to what is now being called the Torture Report. Their remarks, with only minor edits and captions, are included in my new ebook, "Senate Torture Report: the Senate Speaks," included below.

(Update: now available through as ePub, PDF, full text, etc. Thanks Creeping Nounism.)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Retiring Sen. Rockefeller Stops Bipartisan FOIA Bill, Holds Its Fate in His Hands

Sen. Jay Rockefeller put a halt to a bipartisan FOIA bill that would make government more open and accountable. If the bill is not approved by the Senate on Monday, it will die. Unsurprisingly, many people have posted on the senator's Facebook page, tweeted at @SenRockefeller, and called his office (202-224-6472).

The FOIA bill, which earned unanimous bipartisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee and every other member of the Senate, fixes systemic weaknesses in the Freedom of Information Act. Under House rules, after Monday there will be insufficient time for the House to consider the bill. This is true even though the House already passed a similar version of FOIA reform and is expected to readily pass the Senate bill.

Many are asking Rockefeller to release the hold, saying the bill is essential to open government and that Sen. Rockefeller, if he had concerns, should have voiced them long ago. His office, which was unresponsive all day Friday after it became known on Thursday that Rockefeller was responsible for the hold, put out a statement at 6:30 pm that did little to explain his concerns.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Electronic Toolbox for Congress

Images of Progress in the US Capitol

Here is a rundown of free digital tools any self-respecting congressional staffer, Member of Congress, journalist, or public advocate should consider using. All are free, run on information published by Congress or cobbled together from official sources, and most are built on open source code. (Many of the developers are members of the Congressional Data Coalition.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Suggestions for Drafters of Transparency Bills


Drafting legislation may be more art than science, but even the most avant garde artist considers the size of the canvas and the artwork's composition just as drafters must think through the purposes of the legislation and how circumstances may change over time. What does it take to create robust, effective transparency legislation? Here are some guidelines.

At the highest level of abstraction, I suggest drafters:
  1. Understand the context
  2. Use flexible implementation authority
  3. Create external checks on implementation
  4. Make information public by default
  5. Build in feedback loops
  6. Keep close watch on cost
  7. Watch out for tricky legislative language
  8. Figure out where to embed a program

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Open government jobs

About a month-and-a-half ago I started a Google group for open government jobs. I thought it would grow slowly, but instead we have more than 220 people and 40 job postings. Government employees, advocates, academics, and people from around the world have joined.

It's open to anyone. Just surf to this Google group and apply to join. I ask that you not use your work email if you're a government employee. Otherwise, please send job announcements and encourage others to join. I will keep the list of subscribers confidential.

If you have a job to share but are uncomfortable sending to the list, let me know and I will send it along.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Challenge

There's a meme on Facebook asking everyone to identify 10 books that have stayed with you. Here's what they are for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Sense of Direction for Metro

Metro is rethinking signage for its subway system, as GreaterGreaterWashington recently reported. The current design, which uses the end station name to signal train direction, may be supplemented or replaced by the cardinal direction in which a train is heading. While it is an improvement, Metro should do more to improve wayfinding.

As a start, Metro should:
  1. Assign numbers for all the stations on a particular line in numerical order in addition to using the names of station
  2. Identify a point of interest along the line to help orient passengers on the direction a train is heading, in addition to identifying the end station on a line
  3. Indicate whether the train is heading towards or away from DC (inbound/outbound), and for trains inside the city center, indicate the cardinal direction the train is heading.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fixing Federal Hiring With Big Data

The federal hiring system is broken. An April Partnership for Public Service report calls it “slow, complex, a mystery to applicants and imprecise in identifying the best-qualified candidates.” Job seekers must also overcome employment announcements written to favor a particular candidate. The announcements, however, are also the key to uncovering unfair hiring practices, if treated as data in a much larger system.