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SUNSHINE WEEK RECAP: FOIA Legends award to be announced today; POGO examines five new transparency studies for 2013

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Sunshine Week 2013 wraps up today with the sixth annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration hosted by the Washington College of Law's Collaboration on Government Secrecy program.

The celebration program is overseen by Dan Metcalfe, the former long-time director of the Department of Justice Office of Information Policy.

Among the highlights of this year's program is presentation of the Robert Vaughn FOIA Legend Award to Leonard Schaitman, a 46-year FOIA veteran who, according to the CGS" has served as the federal government's principal appellate litigation supervisor for FOIA cases since 1973."

Schaitman is receiving the award in recognition of "his unparalleled career shaping the development of the law through litigation and promoting its proper governmentwide administration."

He will receive the award from last year's recipient, Prof. Susan B. Long of Syracuse University and the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Meanwhile, the week-long celebration of the Freedom of Information Act and other laws and regulations that insure the public's business is done in public to the maximum practical degree possible has become a regular release time for new  studies of how well or poorly government officials are complying with such transparency requirements.

The Project on Government Oversight's Meryl Grenadier provides a useful summary of the five biggest such studies made public this year, including those from the National Security Archives, Cause of Action, Center for Effective Government, the Associated Press and OpenTheGovernment.org.

"Although the studies indicate that agencies on the whole increased their responses to FOIA requests in 2012, disparities remain between agencies on things like response time, compliance with the 2007 Open Government Act and 2009 Guidance from the White House, cost of responding, fee waivers, and backlog reductions," Grenadier writes on POGOG's blog.

"A majority of responses to FOIA requests in 2012 were only partial responses, and use of exemptions to withhold or redact information increased," she said.

Among the highlights Grenadier noted, for example, were these in the NSA study:

* 53/100 Agencies not compliant with 2007 Open Government Act.

* 59/100 Agencies not compliant with 2009 guidance from the Attorney General, which calls for a presumption of disclosure.

* Use of discretionary b(5) exemptions were up 17.9 percent from 2011.

* Department of the Interior and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are proactively posting documents relating to Deepwater Horizon.

* Three agencies (Interior, Federal Communications Commission, and Federal Housing Finance Agency) recently updated their FOIA regulations. Interior is the only agency to include the utilization of Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) mediation.

Go here for more from POGO and Grenadier, including the summaries of the studies from Cause of Action, Center for Effective Government, AP and OpenTheGovernment.org.

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