Transparency Project


November 2022 - The Center for AI and Digital Policy has launched a new Transparency Project to conduct oversight and monitor the development of AI policy. The Transparency Project will focus initially on developments in the United States and will utilize the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the US Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). We will seek to obtain information from US government agencies about the factors influence the development of US federal AI policies and we will make this information available to the public as it is obtained. We welcome your advice and your suggestions. Email us at foia@caidp.org.


Summary of CAIDP FOIA Requests


OSTP - Delay in the Release of the AI Bill of Rights

On June 20, 2022, CAIDP sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of Science and Technology Policy seeking to obtain information about why the OSTP had delayed release of the AI Bill of Rights. The OSTP Director and Deputy Director had expressed strong support for an Bill of Rights in November 2021. CAIDP also backed the Bill of Rights and urged the OSTP to move the proposal forward as quickly as possible. But in the summer of 2022, the initiative appeared stalled. So, CAIDP sent an urgent FOIA request to the OSTP to determine the reason for the delay. And CAIDP vigorously pursued the record request in multiple communications with the agency in July, August and September, and also in communications with the Office of Government Information Services (the FOIA Ombudsman).

 

The Blueprint for the AI Bill of Rights was released at a White House press conference on October 4, 2022.

 

[More information]


National AI Advisory Committee - Compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act

On October 28, 2022, CAIDP sent an urgent Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Commerce seeking information that the National AI Advisory Committee is required to make public under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. In a separate letter to the NAIAC, CAIDP explained that the Advisory Committee was not compliance with open meeting obligations for federal Advisory Committees. In the Freedom of Information Act request, CAIDP asked for "the records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, and other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by the National AI Advisory Committee."

 

The Department of Commerce acknowledged receipt of the FOIA request, granted CAIDP news media status, and also agree to expedite the request. As of November 16, 2022, there has been no response from the NAIAC regarding compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

 

[More information]


Department of Justice - US Position on the Proposed Council of Europe Convention on AI

On December 4, 2022, CAIDP sent an urgent Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Justice regarding the US position on the effort underway at the Council of Europe to establish an international convention on AI based on fundamental rights, democratic values, and the rule of law. CAIDP is concerned that the US delegation to the Council of Europe may be attempting to slow down the process and water down the convention. As the FOIA request from CAIDP explained, "The actions of the United States delegation to the Council of Europe are perplexing, The U.S. shares with the Council of Europe the same fundamental values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law." The CAIDO goes on to explains "More significantly, U.S. leaders have expressed strong support for AI rules that protect democratic values" and cites earlier statements from Secretary Blinken, President Biden, and the recent OSTP Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights.

 

The Department of Justice acknowledged CAIDP's FOIA request on December 6, 2022, and referred the matter first to the Office of Information Policy and then to the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.

 

[More information]


About the Freedom of Information Act


"The basic function of the Freedom of Information Act is to ensure informed citizens, vital to the functioning of a democratic society."

 

Freedom of Information Act resources

(more information below)


FOIA.GOV

"This site can help you determine if filing a FOIA request is the best option for you and help you create your request when you’re ready."


DOJ Guide to FOIA Requests

"The United States Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act is a comprehensive legal treatise on the FOIA. The Guide includes detailed discussions of the FOIA’s procedural requirements, nine exemptions, and litigation considerations. Each section contains a detailed analysis of the key judicial opinions issued on the FOIA.

 

"Each chapter of the Guide will be updated by OIP on a rolling basis as significant new developments in FOIA occur.  OIP’s Court Decisions page also provides a regularly updated review of significant FOIA decisions with detailed summaries searchable by key terms and topical categories."

 

[More information]


Annual FOIA Reports

"The FOIA requires each federal agency to submit an Annual Report to the Attorney General each year. These reports contain detailed statistics on the numbers of requests received and processed by each agency, the time taken to respond, and the outcome of each request, as well as many other vital statistics regarding the administration of the FOIA at federal departments and agencies."


Office of Government Services (FOIA Ombudsman)

"The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) resource for the public and the government. Congress has charged us with reviewing FOIA policies, procedures and compliance of Federal agencies and identifying ways to improve compliance. Our mission also includes resolving FOIA disputes between Federal agencies and requesters. 

 

"OGIS is a place where anyone can ask for FOIA assistance. In other words we also serve as the FOIA Ombudsman -- answering questions, tracking suggestions, and providing information. See something we should know about? Have a suggestion to improve FOIA? Let us know!


Federal Advisory Committee Act


"The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) governs the operation of federal advisory committees and emphasizes public involvement through open meetings and reporting. Meetings must be announced in the Federal Register. Reports, transcripts, working papers, and other materials made available to or prepared for or by the committees must be made available to the public."

 

From the Act:

  • "the Congress and the public should be kept informed with respect to the number, purpose, membership, activities, and cost of advisory committees"; Sec. 2(b)(5)
  • "The President may delegate responsibility for evaluating and taking action, where appropriate, with respect to all public recommendations made to him by Presidential advisory committees." Sec. 6(a)
  • "Within one year after a Presidential advisory committee has submitted a public report to the President, the President or his delegate shall make a report to the Congress stating either his proposals for action or his reasons for inaction, with respect to the recommendations contained in the public report." Sec. 6(b)
  • "Interested persons shall be permitted to attend, appear before, or file statements with any advisory committee, subject to such reasonable rules or regulations as the Administrator may prescribe." Sec. 10(a)(3).
  • ".  . . the records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by each advisory committee shall be available for public inspection and copying at a single location in the offices of the advisory committee or the agency to which the advisory committee reports until the advisory committee ceases to exist." Sec. (10)(b)
  • "Detailed minutes of each meeting of each advisory committee shall be kept and shall contain a record of the persons present, a complete and accurate description of matters discussed and conclusions reached, and copies of all reports received, issued, or approved by the advisory committee. The accuracy of all minutes shall be certified to by the chairman of the advisory committee." Sec. 10(c)