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Obama Announces Open Data Policy With Executive Order 94

Posted by timothy
from the except-you-guys-in-the-atf dept.
In an overdue but welcome move, President Obama today issued an executive order mandating "open and machine-readable data" for government-published information. Also, kodiaktau writes "In a move to make data more readily available, the United States of America has announced the Project Open Data and has chosen GitHub to host the content." Ars has a great article on the announced policy, but as you might expect, it comes with caveats, exceptions, sub-goals and committees; don't expect too much change per day, or assume you have a right to open data, exactly, in the eyes of the government, but — "subject to appropriations" — it sounds good on paper. (I'd like the next step to be requiring that all file formats used by the government be open source.)
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Obama Announces Open Data Policy With Executive Order

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  • by ModernGeek (601932) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @07:15PM (#43680617) Homepage
    This is the first time that I've seen someone talk about President Obama and Executive Orders in a way that makes sense. It is my understanding that Executive Orders have to do with the internal operations of the government, not as a mechanism of usurping congress when it comes to laws that have an effect on the American public.
    • by msauve (701917) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @07:33PM (#43680755)
      It's not just Obama. There's a rich history of Presidents using EOs to try and get out of their duty to execute the law. It's been a bipartisan dereliction of duty (and illegitimate power grab).

      But yes, you're right in that this sounds like a legitimate use - ordering an execution of the law which makes it more accessible.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by davester666 (731373)

        You would think a Republican-led Congress would be inclined to limit what a Democrat as President does.

        But it turns out...they would rather just let him do whatever, so when their guy gets in, he also gets to do 'whatever'.

        And vice versa.

    • You are correct. And I would weigh this as something good.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @07:37PM (#43680789)

      It is my understanding that Executive Orders have to do with the internal operations of the government, not as a mechanism of usurping congress when it comes to laws that have an effect on the American public.

      People seem to forget Executive Order 9066, which led to the creation of internment camps for "Japanese-americans" (or as I call them, citizens) during WWII. There's a great many more examples of executive orders going far beyond "internal operations of the government." And yes, Obama, like every other president has penned some questionable executive orders.

      Of course, even snarking [slashdot.org] the President on slashdot is a hanging offense, so god help me for suggesting this; But it's clear that every administration. Every. Administration. Has used executive orders to expand the power of the executive branch, or as you put it "usurping congress". Whether this is a problem or not depends largely on your personal political preferences and which party controls the white house at the moment... but historically, they have a long tradition of going far beyond "internal operations of the government"... at least as I suspect you're thinking of it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        People seem to forget Executive Order 9066, which led to the creation of internment camps for "Japanese-americans" (or as I call them, citizens) during WWII. There's a great many more examples of executive orders going far beyond "internal operations of the government." And yes, Obama, like every other president has penned some questionable executive orders.

        Forget? I have not forgotten; I think that's just as bad (actually, much, much worse) than whatever it is Obama has done. The fact that executive orders were abused in the past doesn't make abusing them okay, though.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Ummm, perhaps you are unaware of the hearings the House of Representatives are holding with regard to the actions of Obama, Hiliary, the State Department and White House over the events in Benghazi eight months ago. The refusal to come to the aid of an Ambassador and SEALs for eight hours, with a real-time Predator drone overhead (so the US could see what was going on in real time), and then a cover up (lying) for weeks, then no impartial investigation for eight months is simply *criminal*. It is far far wo

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            America is no longer the greatest country on the Earth for promoting and defending Western values. That was Obama's intention.

            Sad part is, America probably is still the greatest country on the Earth for promoting and defending Western values. It is no longer that high a bar.

          • by hackula (2596247)
            How is that anywhere nearly as bad as internment camps!?! I am not saying it was not bad, but that does not seem even close.
          • Benghazi is bad, but nowhere near as bad interring Japanese Americans during WWII. Ambassadors and Navy Seals should know that they are going into hostile territory, and should be aware that they will be targets.

            Interring Americans during a war is just a horrible thing to do. I understand the history of why it was done, but we all know it was wrong. It should never have happened, much like slavery and the Indian Wars.

            I think your last statement is spot on though. I hope the truth is found out, and if an

          • by Ksevio (865461) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:41AM (#43684855) Homepage
            Right...a confusing and hostile situation (which the President and staff clearly botched) that happened over an evening is comparable to a planned out and very public taking of American's rights?

            It might be fun to jump on the whole government conspiracy bandwagon, but the two situations are in no way comparable. There are a lot of questions about Benghazi and some answers may seem obvious now in retrospect, but the Japanese Interment was clearly wrong.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ttucker (2884057)
        Every branch, and each political faction, constantly, and steadily usurps power from the american people. Democrat vs Republican ballots merely ask, which powers do you want to lose today? Whichever you pick, the other party waits, because they will take away the other freedom soon enough. There is not an option that says, "I want more freedom", or "I want the government to have less control of my life."
      • "People seem to forget Executive Order 9066, which led to the creation of internment camps for "Japanese-americans" (or as I call them, citizens) during WWII. There's a great many more examples of executive orders going far beyond "internal operations of the government." And yes, Obama, like every other president has penned some questionable executive orders."

        Well, I would say "like many other Presidents in recent history", I'm not sure "every" applies. But still...

        Even so, I think what GP is referring to is "lawful authority". The fact that many Presidents have attempted to use Executive Orders to exceed their lawful authority, does not make another President who does it "not an asshole." Any more than the fact that a store has been robbed 4 times in the past means robbing it again makes somebody an okay guy.

        Concerning that lawful authority, GP has it rig

      • Whether this is a problem or not depends largely on your personal political preferences and which party controls the white house at the moment...

        The executive orders that go beyond the "internal operations of government" are largely a problem because of what I just emphasized in your quote. Based on what I read in your comments in numerous discussions, I know your head is screwed on straight, but I cannot tell you how many times I've had a conversation like the one that follows:

        Friend or Family: Can you believe with $POLITICAL_PARTY_B did? They $SOMETHING_STUPID.

        Me: Yeah. We voted them in. We really need to get a 3rd party in there. Actually, w

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The Legislative Branch makes the laws
      The Executive Branch executes them.
      Which is another way of saying that "laws that have an effect on the American public" are "the internal operations of the government".

      • The Legislature makes laws.
        The Executive makes laws in the form of executive orders which have power of law because of powers granted in Constitution or by laws passed by Congress.
        The Judiciary makes decisions based on a hierarchy of laws that have the power of law.

        • by msauve (701917)
          The Judiciary make laws at (almost) random, depending on how they feel, and the current political climate. They pretend to have some semblance of reasonable justice and independance, but there have been way too many decisions which declare that "black is white" (with a straight face) to deserve any respect.
          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            I can think of very few cases where the higher courts have done this without there being a valid legal question on the table that needed deciding. Certainly one side or the other may say it's obvious that only one interpretation is correct but things that make it to higher courts are never that simple.

            (If the laws are vaguely written by congress then it is because congress intended to not get into specifics in order to get enough votes, so you can't go and later look at some politician's writing to decide

            • by msauve (701917)
              Barron v Baltimore. Cherokee Nation. Dred Scott. Slaughter-House. Wickard v. Filburn (and a boatload of other IC cases). Kelo. Citizens United.
        • "The Executive makes laws in the form of executive orders which have power of law because of powers granted in Constitution or by laws passed by Congress."

          Uh-uh. Just no. That's not the way it works.

          Executive Orders are NOT "laws". They are merely orders to Federal employees. If you're not a Federal employee, YOU don't have to obey Executive Orders.

          The only way the executive "makes" law is via veto power, and indirectly via appointments. Executive Orders are just not law. Period.

          Read your copy of the Constitution. (What? Don't have one?) There is nothing in there about Presidents making laws.

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @08:06PM (#43680957)

      Executive orders have been held to have force of law in US History except under two cases:

      1. Congress passes a countervailing law with a veto-proof majority.

      2. The Supreme Court invalidates the order as unconstitutional.

      1952 was the first time (2) occurred.

      There have been some pretty significant executive orders, including Jackson's specie circular requiring that payment for federal lands be done in gold or silver, and FDR order that the military round up Japanese and German Americans in military zones.

      Harry Truman desegregated the military via executive order, and Eisenhower did the same for public schools by executive order.

      George Bush's order to restrict access to presidential papers was equally controversial.

      • by msauve (701917) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @09:28PM (#43681445)
        "Executive orders have been held to have force of law in US History except under two cases"

        Growing wheat for your own use has been held to be "interstate commerce." So much for that argument. Don't quote judicial decisions as part of a logical argument, they're two different worlds.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Desegregating the military may have been controversial, but it was 100% within the president's authority to do so as it was entirely an executive matter involving executive bodies. Jackson in general was a really annoying president intent on shaking things up who had to deal with subordinates intent on keeping things the status quo and ignoring the president, but he was still dealing with executive matters there.

        On the other hand, FDR overreached in was clearly breaching constitutional rights (even as unde

      • "Executive orders have been held to have force of law in US History except under two cases:"

        You are leaving a HUGE part out. It may not be intentional but it comes very close to lying by omission.

        Executive Orders have the power of law... for Federal employees and the military. Those are the people over whom the President has authority. Nobody else.

        This is not to say they don't get away with it from time to time. But as far as real legal and Constitutional authority goes, the only people he can order around are his own employees, who are: anybody who works for the Federal government, and the

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by slick7 (1703596)

      This is the first time that I've seen someone talk about President Obama and Executive Orders in a way that makes sense.

      If you think it makes sense, then you have it wrong. Executive orders will be the downfall of this Republic.
      ...to better serve the American people... To whom are we being served? Self-serving traitors serving the people? How laughable is that? It seems to me that if a machine reads what is in front of it, then a human is not necessary, especially if people are to be enslaved. And, if machines can read then it is possible for them to write as well. What will these machines write and for whom, the NSA, CIA,

    • by Jawnn (445279)

      This is the first time that I've seen someone talk about President Obama and Executive Orders in a way that makes sense. It is my understanding that Executive Orders have to do with the internal operations of the government, not as a mechanism of usurping congress when it comes to laws that have an effect on the American public.

      That's odd. You and your GOP pals were remarkably silent when that dodge, and other shenanigans like "signing statements" (the equivalent of royal decree), were commonplace during the last administration. Mind you, in no case do I consider these actions acceptable, but I find it more than a little annoying that none of the GOP apologists had a single fucking thing to say about it until a Democrat took office.

  • O RLY? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @07:20PM (#43680663)

    In an overdue but welcome move, President Obama today issued an executive order mandating "open and machine-readable data" for government-published information.

    Yes, and after so much money and effort spent creating the databases and websites, they'll contain no data because it was all marked classified for national security reasons. /snark

    • by ttucker (2884057)

      In an overdue but welcome move, President Obama today issued an executive order mandating "open and machine-readable data" for government-published information.

      Yes, and after so much money and effort spent creating the databases and websites, they'll contain no data because it was all marked classified for national security reasons. /snark

      Nope, they will just leave out the embarrassing parts and distract you with petabytes of irrelevancy.

  • This initiative [data.gov] has been going on for a while. Is the issue that not enough agencies are getting their data out fast enough, or comprehensively enough?

    I'm also a little bit skeptical of relying on a random private company, GitHub, to be the canonical data host. What's wrong with hosting it on data.gov? Or if it's going to be hosted in the private sector, how about with a public-interest organization like the Internet Archive?

    • by foobsr (693224)
      I'm also a little bit sceptical of relying on a random private company, GitHub, to be the canonical data host.

      Dependency and control.

      CC.

    • by MacDork (560499)
      I'd like to see them expand the initiative to include every federal law on the books. All laws should be on github. And they should modify those laws the same way we programmers do. There's no reason a legislator should be given a 500 page bill when when only 2 pages worth have been modified. They should be able to look at a diff and see what is being slipped in behind everyone's back.
      • by Trepidity (597)

        Most amendments to existing law already are written as diffs in the first place, stuff like "subsection 23(b) of U.S. blah blah is hereby repealed, and in its place the following language is inserted".

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @07:51PM (#43680893) Homepage

    Clearly the Obama admin. wants all data to be open. Theirs, yours and anyone else.

    • by naff89 (716141)
      Honestly, including their data on that list is a pretty big step forward for them these days.
  • When paper documents are redacted for distribution, they have to put on ugly black boxes, so that you can physically see that they have not told you shit. In a digital document, entire parts can be removed without anyone being wiser.
    • by Skrapion (955066)

      Paper documents went out of vogue a long time ago. Your choice now is whether the digital documents are made private or public.

      Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

      • by ttucker (2884057)

        Paper documents went out of vogue a long time ago. Your choice now is whether the digital documents are made private or public.

        Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

        The Trojans might have benefited greatly by looking in the mouth of a gift horse....

  • I scanned through the order looking for the president of the USA to recommend "Git" as the tool of choice. Obama completely dodged that one and did not mention it in his release. Dang!
  • Obama continued Bush stance's on seeking dismissal of a lawsuit to order a federal court to review the Bush administration's warrantless spying program. ACLU sued his administration. The ACLU also sued Obama for the release of government records on drone strikes that killed U.S. citizens in Yemen. The groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive sued to access to millions of missing White House emails over Bush's two terms in office. Obama refused to reverse
  • There are two things lacking in this order:
    1) teeth
    2) funding

    Asking the civil service to "report" on something quarterly is only going to lead to a meaningless blip in the inboxes of countless government employees. Data calls like this come in endlessly. Not funding it ensures that to actually write the reports and implement the policy we'll be scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for people who couldn't get on a real (aka funded) project.

  • Yeah, how's that hollow campaign promise workin' out so far?

    • I don't mean to seem churlish, but if the actual degree a politician intends to carry out campaign promises isn't transparent to you, then you probably shouldn't be voting. This holds true for every president ever.
      Protip: Always look at what they've actually done, not what they promise to do. As they say, "Actions speak louder than words."

      • by EmagGeek (574360)

        Case in point - his first Presidential campaign, by which time he had no practical work experience, and less than two years in the Senate. There wasn't any "what they've actually done" to go on, because he hadn't done anything.

  • In other news, Obama Administration institutes a Transparency Department, with an Openness Czar (starting salary $ 135,000 + benefits), 2 Assistant Vice-Chancellors of Openness (salary of $ 90,000 each + benefits), 4 Department Managers, 8 Assistant Department Managers, 22 full-time staffers... etc... etc.

    "Hey taxpayers, you know how we promised you 'transparency'? Sure, you can haz. Here's a bill for a few million."

    Just as a reminder, these are the same guys who just had a "press briefing" about Beng
    • by nutsy (33125)
      Oh, please. Your source is Breitbart? They have about as much credibility as the National Enquirer.

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