Conference on Government Transparency to Be Held October 27

“Access and Accountability: A Conference for Transparency Advocates” will convene at Yale Law School on Friday, October 27, 2017. The day-long program organized by the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIA) will bring together journalists, attorneys, and academics from across the country to address the critical question of how to achieve the level of government transparency needed for democracy to function effectively.

At this conference, the first of its kind, First Amendment and transparency advocates will engage with experts in law enforcement, national security, data protection, personal privacy, and newsgathering rights. Together, this interdisciplinary group of experts will work to identify key barriers to government transparency and explore new legal theories and litigation strategies to overcome them.

Among those expected to attend the October 27 conference are representatives from more than 30 law school clinics, who will stay on in New Haven for a second day addressed to clinical pedagogy and the pursuit of transparency objectives. One goal of the back-to-back events, according to MFIA co-Director David Schulz, is to develop a network of law school clinics pursuing transparency goals in a coordinated way.

Wide-ranging look at transparency limitations

Conference participants will consider some of the most urgent transparency issues raised by increased security risks, technological advances, and the changing attitudes of government officials.

The Conference will open with a keynote address by Columbia Law School Professor David Pozen. Pozen will highlight the “ideological drift” in the use of freedom of information laws since their adoption in the post-Watergate era and question whether a new framework for transparency is required today. The keynote will be followed by a series of panel discussions focused on existing transparency issues in different areas of the law:

  • “Newsgathering Rights” will consider the need for access rights to aid investigative journalism, how the protection of sources is a key component of meaningful oversight, and issues presented by the use of new technologies in journalism (such as cameras and drones). Panelists are Seth Kreimer ’77, the Kenneth W. Gemmill Professor of Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School; Thomas S. Leatherbury ’79, appellate partner at Vinson & Elkins; RonNell Anderson Jones, Lee E. Teitelbaum Professor of Law at the University of Utah College of Law; and Lee Rowland, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. The discussion will be moderated by David Schulz ’78, the Floyd Abrams Clinical Lecturer at Yale Law School.
  • “Law Enforcement Accountability” will analyze the significant bars to transparency surrounding law enforcement agencies and their practices and the urgent need to improve law enforcement accountability. Panelists are Hannah Bloch-Wehba, the Stanton First Amendment Fellow at the MFIA Clinic and clinical lecturer at Yale Law School; Peter Hermann, reporter for the Washington Post; and Bernard Rhodes, partner at Lathrop & Gage. This discussion will be moderated by David McCraw, Deputy General Counsel at the New York Times.
  • “National Security & Surveillance” will address problems posed by “secret law” and litigation strategies to reveal the scope of powers intelligence agencies believe they are authorized to exercise. Panelists will discuss how best to promote an appropriate level of transparency over the intelligence-industrial complex, facilitate accountability over national security surveillance techniques, and assess the effects of national security surveillance on free speech and privacy rights. Panelists are Lynn Oberlander, general counsel at Gizmodo; Charlie Savage, national security reporter for the New York Times; Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU National Security Project; and Steve Vladeck, Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law. This panel will be moderated by Jonathan Manes ’08, Director of the Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic at the University at Buffalo School of Law.
  • “Open Data, Privacy and Algorithmic Transparency” will consider methods for developing transparency and accountability for public and private actors that control vast amounts of personal data, techniques for assuring proper oversight of algorithmic decision-making, and steps to promote transparency by design. Panelists are Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School; Aaron Mackey, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and Kendall Taggart, investigative data reporter for BuzzFeed News. Discussion for this panel will be moderated by Beth Noveck, the Jerry Hultin Global Network Professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, director of the Governance Lab, and former deputy chief technology officer for the White House, leading President Obama’s Open Government Initiative.

The Access and Accountability Conference will facilitate joint efforts by advocates, academics, investigative journalists, practicing lawyers, and law students to make government more effective and more accountable. The conference aims to foster and inspire continuing generations of transparency advocates to safeguard vital public rights through access and accountability. It is organized by the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, a program of the Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. For more information, email Heather Branch,

This conference is made possible by generous support received from the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Lodestar Foundation and the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School.