General Accounting Office has sold exclusive access to legislative history down the river to Thomson West

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,
Readers may remember a previous Boing Boing post Did the US gov't sell exclusive access to its legislative history to Thomson West? Well, the answer is now a definitive yes, that data has been sold down the river and is out to sea.

Public.Resource.Org sent in a FOIA request to GAO on this topic seeking access to the scanned data. Today's letter answering our FOIA request spells out the bad news. Turns out the GAO doesn't even get the data, they simply are given an account on Thomson's service. The rest of the government doesn't get access to this data, and the public is invited to stop by the GAO headquarters and pay 20 cents per page to copy paper.

This is one of those deals where the public domain got sold off ... GAO gets a bit of convenience by having their stuff scanned for them, but they gave up way more than they got in the deal, and the public (including government workers and public interest groups who need to consult this data) lost big-time.

Link to the Scribd group with the full paper trail on this issue, Link to the today's letter (Thanks, Carl!)

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  1. Surely there’s a lawsuit here just begging to be filed? I’m no lawyer, but I can’t see how that’s legal.

  2. When you take into account that the acronym GAO no longer stands for the General Accounting Office, but the Government Accountability Office, this becomes even more poignant. Selling public data to private industry is by no stretch of the imagination ensuring government accountability.

  3. but they gave up way more than they got in the deal, and the public (including government workers and public interest groups who need to consult this data) lost big-time.

    Did they? Call me cynical, but maybe removing public access was the reason for this.

  4. they gave up way more then WE got in the deal.

    I swear they’re just trying to distract us all so we don’t have time left over to prosecute war crimes

  5. Should we fire someone for incompetence, or should it be negligence?

    What about stupidity? No?

  6. Should we fire someone for incompetence, or should it be negligence?

    What about stupidity? No?

    Haven’t you guys been around for the last seven years?

    Disagreeing with the administration is the reason for being fired, er, I mean for resigning. Incompetence, negligence and stupidity just mean that we* are winning. I see medals in the future for all those true, loyal administrators running the GAO…

    * ‘we’ has been redefined. It’s new meaning is classified for our* safety.

  7. The US government is screwed up on so many levels it makes my head spin, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating.

  8. We filed a third records request today, which you can see here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/2544526/FOIA-Request-3

    GAO did a pilot study with 1.2 million pages which were turned into PDF documents before they issued their contract with Thomson.

    The quality of these pilot scans probably isn’t up to the standards of the current deal (the contract says Thomson will have to rescan everything that was done in the pilot phase), but we’re not proud, and our records request said we’d be happy to send them a disk drive.

  9. I just posted a long(ish) response on the Open House Project blog about this, available here.

    Time to go read the other FIOA they filed…

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