Two new Web sites have similar missions: making secret and hard-to-find government documents, revealed through FOIA requests and other means, available to the public in order to promote government transparency.
The first and more sophisticated, GovernmentDocs.org, is being officially launched tomorrow. It will provide a database of FOIA responses and other government documents contributed by a number of public interest organizations. The site’s goal is to become a central repository of government documents. A key feature of the site is that every document, while provided in PDF, is also run through an OCR process so that its text is fully searchable. Every page of every document is given a unique URL, so users can link directly to a key page from their blogs or Web sites. Registered users can add comments to documents and highlight important parts. The primary backer of the site is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), with support from the Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation.
The second site, GovernmentAttic.org, describes itself as “rummaging in the government attic.” Like the other site, its purpose is to provide access to government documents unavailable elsewhere, most obtained through FOIA requests. Documents are listed by name under general headings. There appears to be no search mechanism.