Department of Justice Open Government Progress Report April 2015

Community Relations Service (CRS) | Criminal Division | Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) | Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) | National Security Division (NSD) | Office of Information Policy (OIP) | Office of Justice Programs (OJP) | Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties (OPCL) | Office of Public Affairs (OPA) | United States Marshals Service (USMS) | United States Trustee Program

Since the release of the Department of Justice’s Open Government Plan 3.0 on June 1, 2014, Department components have been working hard to implement the commitments made. Following is a snapshot of the status as of March 31, 2015, of some of these commitments. You can find further details on each of these in the Plan

Our last status report was dated December 2014.

 

Community Relations Service (CRS)

Post-Ferguson Police-Community Relations

In October 2014, the Community Relations Service, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, hosted an all-day symposium entitled “Moving Beyond Ferguson: A Symposium for Law Enforcement CEOs.”  The symposium was an event for law enforcement officials to discuss issues surrounding rebuilding police organizations through effective constitutional policing and self-monitoring departments from state and federal perspectives.  CRS facilitated break-out sessions and led a debriefing plenary dialogue.  A similar symposium was also conducted in December 2014, in Houston, Texas.  The symposium was organized in collaboration with the local FBI field office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. 

In addition to these symposiums, CRS, in collaboration with the FBI and the Civil Rights Division, hosted a joint program entitled “Federal Civil Rights Issues and 21st Century Policing.”  The event was held in response to numerous post-Ferguson requests from law enforcement officials, and nationwide protests following similar events of police use of deadly force.  The event was designed to assist law enforcement agencies and the organizational leaders to better understand, address and avoid divisive community policing flashpoints.  In particular, CRS presented best practices and strategies for improving community confidence to strengthen police-community partnerships.

Vulnerable Workers Project

The Community Relations Service and the Civil Rights Division serve as the Department of Justice’s representatives to the interagency working group to work alongside the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor, and the National Labor Relations Board, in the launch of the Vulnerable Workers Project.  The project is supported by the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders and focuses on strengthening employment and labor protections for Asian American and Pacific Islander workers in high-risk and low-wage industries.  The interagency working group conducts a series of listening sessions across the country to hear from Asian American and Pacific Islanders workers and stakeholders to learn about the employment and labor challenges they face.  Sessions have been conducted in Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and Washington, DC.  Additional future sessions are currently being planned. 

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Criminal Division

The Criminal Division had three Open Government projects: (1) circulation of a Proactive Disclosure memorandum to all Criminal Division sections, informing the chiefs of our responsibilities and soliciting documents for disclosure; (2) a comprehensive System of Records Notice (SORN) review; and (3) broader publication of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSPS) newsletter by linking that publication to the FOIA/PA Unit website.  The Proactive Disclosure memorandum has been circulated amongst the Section Chiefs, and the HRSPS newsletter is linked to our website. The SORN review is still on hold due to resource constraints.

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Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

The DEA.gov website has experienced a significant increase in usage by the public:

01 January – 01 March 2015:

Total Visits – increased 28%

Total Page views – increased 34%

Average Visits per day – increased 28%

Average page views per day – increased 34%

Plans are underway to change the content management system of this most important public-facing site for DEA.

From January 1 until March 31, 2015, DEA.gov has posted approximately 300 new news releases from our divisions; and since the beginning of last year DEA headquarters has posted 80 new top news stories. This is in addition to hundreds of other small changes and additions to the website over the past year.  Some portions of the DEA.gov website are now offered in Spanish.

DEA websites GetSmartAboutDrugs.com, a drug prevention educational website for parents, caregivers, educators and community organizations was redesigned and re-launched in September 2014; JustThinkTwice.com, a drug prevention educational website for teens, was redesigned and re-launched in October 2014.   

  • Both websites continue to be updated with news, featured articles, drug information, drug trends, true stories, where to get help and other relevant content. 

  • We continue to ensure the websites and DEA Demand Reduction publications available for viewing and/or download are 508 compliant

  • We utilize readability statistics as appropriate for the audience on both sites.   

DEA launched its Twitter account, @DEANews, in December 2013, and we are now Tweeting two to three times per week, with 16,000 followers.

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Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)

The Executive Office for Immigration Review has completed the first two objectives of its commitments under the Open Government Plan 3.0.

First, to better inform immigration proceedings, EOIR has launched an innovative nationwide program that taps into the expertise of the private forensic psychiatric and psychological profession by contracting with these professionals to provide independent examinations of aliens who may be incompetent to represent themselves.  In April 2013, the Department announced, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, a Nationwide Policy to provide enhanced procedural protections, including competency inquiries, mental health examinations, and bond hearings, to certain unrepresented and detained aliens with serious mental disorders or conditions that may render them incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings.

Under the Nationwide Policy, EOIR will provide a qualified representative to unrepresented detainees who are determined by an immigration judge to be incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Detainees who are identified as having a serious mental disorder or condition that may render them incompetent to represent themselves and who have been held in immigration detention for at least six months will be afforded a bond hearing. 

Between August 2013 and February 2014, EOIR implemented Phase I of the Nationwide Policy. In Phase I, EOIR completed training of immigration judges handling cases and psychologists and psychiatrists conducting mental health examinations in: East Mesa, CA; Tacoma, WA; Eloy, AZ; Florence, AZ; El, Centro, CA; San Francisco, CA; Adelanto, CA; and Orange County, CA. 

EOIR is continuing the rollout of the Nationwide Policy in FY 2015 and has identified the following potential next rollout sites:  El Paso (TX); Houston (TX); Denver (CO); Miami (FL); Pearsall (TX); Stewart (GA); Chicago (IL); Newark/Elizabeth (NJ); Batavia/Buffalo (NY); York/Baltimore (MD); Arlington (VA); Port Isabel/Harlingen/South Texas (TX) ; and Baton Rouge/Jena (LA). The long term goal is to provide Nationwide Policy training at every detained docket in the country.

Second, EOIR changed the way it calculates certain statistical information provided to the public to provide more comprehensive measurements of operations and processing times.  Beginning with the Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Statistical Yearbook, several changes were made to expand the way in which EOIR evaluated its workload and to allow the public to more easily receive comprehensible answers to their statistics questions. EOIR rearranged some of the tabs to create a better flow of information.

Additionally, in an effort to clarify the agency’s workload, EOIR changed the methodology for counting matters received and matters completed.  The changes were well received and the second statistical yearbook using the new approach was published Monday, March 16, 2015.

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National Security Division (NSD)

The National Security Cyber Specialist Network (NSCS) is working to increase outreach to private sector businesses in order to provide threat information and resources to companies in the wake of a cyber incident.  Updated outreach materials have been produced and disseminated to NSCS AUSA representatives around the country.

Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA):  The NSD Information Technology team and the FARA Registration Unit staff continue to meet regularly to review and develop technical upgrades and eFile enhancements to FARA.gov.  These additional capabilities include an infrastructure refresh, upgrades to address security matters, and development of web forms for FARA eFile.  The FARA Unit is working to implement improved privacy features, reduce burden, and develop efficient methods to gather FARA public data and records more intelligently for eventual public researcher customization. 

NSD public website:  NSD is working with the Office of Public Affairs and IT Staff to improve its public website.  The updated website will feature more information, photos, and website links relating to topics that are of interest and useful to the public.

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Office of Information Policy (OIP)

Drafting a Common FOIA Regulation: In our 3.0 Plan, the Department announced that it would take the lead on the National Action Plan initiative to evaluate the feasibility of developing a potential common or core FOIA regulation applicable to all agencies.

  • Status:  Ongoing.  This initiative is well under way.  OIP kicked off the initiative in May 2014 by meeting with stakeholders both inside and outside the government.  Prior to this kickoff meeting, OIP also held a meeting with interested members of civil society to receive their feedback and ideas from the very beginning of the project.  Since then, OIP has formed an interagency task force comprising separate teams responsible for each part of the FOIA regulation.  OIP also facilitated several meetings with those teams and civil society organizations to discuss in more detail the possible content of each specific subsection of the common regulation.  The teams are now working on high-level outlines for this project and we plan to continue to engage with civil society throughout the entire process.

Developing a Consolidated FOIA Portal: In our 3.0 Plan, the Department also committed to funding this project and to serving as a key member of the project's task force, in close collaboration with the Office of the U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

  • Status:  Ongoing.  DOJ has provided funding for this project and is working closely with GSA on its development.

Improving Internal Agency Processes: The Department committed to holding a series of agency Best Practices workshops focused on specific topics concerning agencies' FOIA administration.

  • Status:  Completed. OIP launched this initiative in May 2014 and so far has held five workshops, which were a great success.  These workshops focused on agency efforts to reduce backlogs, improve proactive disclosures, implement best practices observed by requesters, utilize technology to improve FOIA processing, and improve FOIA customer service.  You can read about all of these events on OIP's blog, FOIA Post.  OIP has also created a page on its website that provides all of the best practices highlighted at these sessions as a resource for all agencies.  In April, OIP solicited ideas from both agencies and the public on new topics for the next slate of workshops to be held in 2015.

Improving FOIA Training Across the Government Through e-Learning: The Department committed to developing a suite of e-Learning training modules for all levels of the federal workforce.

  • Status:  Completed.  On March 13, 2015, OIP announced the rollout of a new suite of electronic FOIA training tools designed to ensure all agencies have important FOIA resources available to them as they administer the FOIA. The four new training resources consist of:  1) an infographic that provides FOIA basics for all new federal employees; 2) a video for senior executives that emphasizes the importance of high-level support to their agency’s FOIA program; 3) an e-Learning training module designed for any federal employee that provides a primer on the FOIA and highlights ways that employees can assist their agency in administering the law; and 4) an in-depth e-Learning training module designed for FOIA professionals which addresses all major procedural and substantive requirements of the law, as well as the importance of customer service. 

Other OIP Commitments

FOIA Libraries: The Department committed to directing all components to review and update their FOIA Libraries on a set schedule.

  • Status:  Ongoing.  As a foundational step, OIP has been conducting an ongoing review of the Department's FOIA websites as part of its Component Improvement Initiative.  Moreover, in an additional effort to implement this commitment, on April 3, 2015, the Department published new FOIA regulations that include a provision requiring components to ensure that their FOIA websites are reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis.  OIP will continue working with the components in the upcoming months to ensure procedures are in place to regularly review and update all of the Department's FOIA websites. 

Proactive Disclosures: The Department committed to issuing new guidance on proactive disclosures.

  • Status:  Completed.  On March 16, 2015, OIP issued new guidance on proactive disclosures designed to improve agency compliance with the statutory provisions requiring agencies to make certain categories of non-exempt records available to the public without waiting for a FOIA request.  In addition to the legal requirements of the FOIA, the guidance addresses ways in which agencies can take additional steps to improve transparency through proactive disclosures in keeping with the President’s and Attorney General’s FOIA Memoranda.

Litigation Review: The Department will review a snapshot of its FOIA litigation for application of the AG's 2009 Guidelines.

  • Status: Currently pending and to be completed.

Component Improvement Initiative: We agreed to conduct a wide-range view of each Department component's FOIA operation to identify causes contributing to backlogs and areas where they can make improvements, as well as to share best practices that have resulted in success with other components.

  • Status:  Completed. OIP has completed its initial review and outreach as part of its Component Improvement Initiative.  Throughout Fiscal Year 2015, OIP will be implementing a number of recommendations developed from this initiative.  Additionally, OIP has implemented the first Annual Improvement Action Plan, which is customized to each individual component, and will carry forward the work started with the Component Improvement Initiative. 

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Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

This past quarter, the Office of Justice Programs submitted 28 new data sets to the Department’s open data inventory and Data.gov.  DOJ’s total Public Data Listing (PDL) is now at 974 data sets.  In addition, OJP migrated its PDL to a new Open Data metadata form (version 1.1) as required by OMB.

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Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties (OPCL)

The Chief Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer (CPCLO) and the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties (OPCL) have taken a number of steps to implement the commitments made in the Department’s Open Government Plan 3.0, including:

Improve Privacy Compliance

  • Component Meetings: The CPCLO and OPCL have continued to meet with Department components to gather information about component privacy programs.In 2014 and 2015, the CPCLO and OPCL met with the Senior Component Officials for Privacy (SCOPs) and other leadership of many large components.Future meetings with other components have been scheduled, and the CPCLO and OPCL continue to hold regular meetings with components as issues arise.
  • Social Media Compliance: OPCL has continued to work with the Department’s Web 2.0 Policy Working Group to ensure the Department’s use of social media and other communications technologies are compliant with applicable privacy laws and policies.

Increase Transparency of Privacy Policies

  • Outreach with Advocacy Groups and Other Agencies: The CPCLO and OPCL have also worked with various advocacy groups and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to address privacy concerns, as well as ways to improve agency outreach.Moreover, the CPCLO and OPCL have met with other federal agencies to improve inter-agency coordination, and to discuss agency privacy practices and common concerns.These meetings enable OPCL to review and assess the Department’s information and privacy-related policies, and make improvements where appropriate and necessary.
  • Data & Civil Rights Conference: The CPCLO and OPCL participated in the Data & Society Research Institute’s conference on why “big data” is a civil rights issue.The event convened representatives from the civil rights community, industry, government, philanthropy, and research.
  • Access to Privacy Policies and Compliance Reports: The CPCLO and OPCL have been participating in meetings with the White House, the PCLOB, and other federal agencies to discuss ways to improve the privacy reports required by Section 803 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.In 2015, OPCL discussed these efforts with various advocacy representatives in a meeting hosted by the White House.Discussions on improving such reports are still ongoing.

Enhance Sharing of Best Practices on Data Privacy

  • Privacy Best Practices Resources: The CPCLO submitted to the White House a sampling of the Department’s privacy resources made available to state, local, and tribal law enforcement entities.The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) have developed a suite of privacy resources to support law enforcement agencies in their efforts to implement privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties policies and protections for the information they access, collect, store, maintain, share, and disseminate.  In 2015, the CPCLO and OPCL discussed these resources with various advocacy representatives in a meeting hosted by the White House.
  • Outreach with State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement Entities: The CPCLO also submitted to the White House a description of the conferences and in-person meetings provided by the Department in 2014 in order to enhance collaboration and information sharing about privacy best practices among state and local law enforcement agencies receiving federal grants.This privacy outreach is ongoing, and occurs regularly throughout the country.

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Office of Public Affairs (OPA)

The Office of Public Affairs has produced 26 weekly Attorney General video messages announcing and discussing new Department initiatives, priorities and policy decisions.  The videos cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from countering violent extremism to expanding the AMBER Alert tools to recover missing children.  The weekly videos are available on the Justice Department’s website and YouTube account.  Additionally, OPA has successfully participated in a Twitter Town Hall with the FTC for National Consumer Protection Week. 

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United States Marshals Service (USMS)

The USMS Office of Procurement updated the USMS Internet page to inform the public on “how to do business with the USMS.”  The USMS Office of Procurement organizational structure was posted, together with links to helpful procurement websites, a list of common things the USMS buys, and a checklist of “10 steps to do business with the USMS.” 

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United States Trustee Program

Since January 1, we have posted four new data sets to our website, all under civil enforcement.  Language Assistance Program files for the time period July – December 2014 have also been completed and posted.

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Updated April 19, 2016