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Posts from the ‘Open government’ Category

European Ombudsman discusses Mexico address

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 8.23.53 AMIn a February 25 speech in Dublin, European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly discusses my address to Mexico’s Accountability Network last October as well as earlier work on the effect of Wikileaks.

Where Brandeis got “sunlight is the best disinfectant”

A note for Sunshine Week, March 15-21, 2015.  Louis Brandeis is credited with writing that “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”  But why did Brandeis say that sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants?  Because he was referring to a statement by James Bryce in his 1888 book, The American Commonwealth.


Open secrets and dirty hands

In light of the just-released report on CIA torture, this 2012 book chapter, “Open Secrets and Dirty Hands,” might be of interest. “Complaints about secretiveness were commonplace throughout the presidency of George W. Bush. Such complaints overestimated the capacity of a contemporary President to maintain secrecy. Moreover, they overlooked the reality that information about the worst abuses of the Bush administration was generally accessible to the public. We professed ignorance about governmental kidnapping, indefinite detention, and prisoner abuse, even though details about such practices were readily available.” Read on SSRN.

Sarat-Douglas-Umphreys0314This chapter was published in The Secrets of  Law (Stanford University Press, 2012).  Kevin Wagner reviewed the book for Law and Politics Book Review in March 2014.  “Alasdair Roberts’ ‘Open Secrets and Dirty Hands’ is an excellent look back at the secrecy conflict during the Bush Administration. He effectively presents the idea of a willing ignorance as a complicit element of perceived government secrecy.” Read the review.

Brookings paper discusses openness lecture

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.07.34 AMA brief just published by the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management discusses my lecture to the Accountability Network’s conference in Mexico City in October.  “Roberts rightly sounds an alarm about recent claims that transparency is a cause of declining democracies and government dysfunction,” write Gary Bass, Danielle Brian and Norman Eisen.  Read the brief.

2014 Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award

Grace-PepinI’m honored to receive the 2014 Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award.  Read the news release from the Office of Canada’s Information Commissioner.  The Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award is presented annually to an individual or organization in recognition of outstanding dedication towards advancing the principles of access to information across Canada. It was named in recognition of the contributions of John Grace, former Information Commissioner of Canada, and Marcel Pépin, President and founder of the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec.  Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada,  presented the award on October 30 during the Annual Access to Information and Privacy Law Symposium organized by the Canadian Bar Association.  Read announcement in French.

Keynote address at Accountability Network seminar, October 21

IMG_7438I delivered a keynote address at the Accountability Network’s international seminar on the design of public policies for accountability and corruption control in Mexico City on October 21, 2014. The working text for my address can be downloaded from SSRN.  The full text has also been published by  Feedback is appreciated.  Here is an October 17 article in Processo magazine about the conference.

Winnipeg Free Press: The attack on openness

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 6.21.14 AMI”ve published an oped in the Winnipeg Free Press on the pushback against governmental openness.  “Six years have passed since the financial collapse of 2008. We liberated global financial markets to rule themselves, and they let us down. Now we are witnessing one of the perverse results of this collapse: a boom in complaints about the weaknesses of democracy, and the dangers of too much governmental openness.”  Read the oped in the Winnipeg Free Press.  The oped has also been republished by

I’ll be giving a lecture on government openess next week in Mexico City, at the Accountability Network’s international seminar on accountability and corruption control.  The working text for my address can be downloaded from SSRN.

Fourth Global Conference on Transparency Research

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 9.13.10 AMI’m pleased to be serving on the Advisory Committee for the Fourth Global Conference on Transparency Research to be held at the Universita della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, Switzerland, June 4-6, 2015.  Details here.

Wilson Quarterly revamps article on WikiLeaks

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 10.18.09 AMWilson Quarterly has done a very nice redesign of my 2011 article, “The WikiLeaks Illusion.”  Read the article.

ABA panel on national security surveillance after Snowden

I participated on a panel on “national security surveillance after Snowden” at the ABA annual meeting in Boston on June 8.  The panel was organized by the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security.  Learn more about the panel.  Here is an ABA write-up of the session.  I drew mainly on the background notes for my talks on transparency in New Zealand and Australia in May.