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Reducing Secrecy

Excessive secrecy has long been a problem in the fields of national and homeland security because it limits information sharing and leaves us less safe as a nation. Both the 9/11 Commission and the congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 recommended reforms to reduce unnecessary secrets. OpenTheGovernment.org works with our partners, the Administration, and Congress to put policies in place that both protect constitutional rights and ensure national security by better protecting real secrets and improving information sharing.

Twenty Open Government Groups Ask House Intelligence and Armed Service Committees to Support Targeted Killing Transparency

In an open letter to the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, OpenTheGovernment.Org and nineteen other pro-transparency organizations asked Congress to support H.R. 4372, the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act.

Statement on SSCI Vote for Declassification of Torture Report

OpenTheGovernment.org applauds the members and staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) for today’s bipartisan vote to begin declassification of the Committee’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. We urge the President to fulfill his promise to swiftly declassify the material that the committee has submitted for declassification review. In order for that review to be meaningful, the President must ensure that the CIA abandons its prior position that the details of individual detainees’ torture are classified “sources and methods,” and abandons any attempt to interfere with the committee’s oversight.

"We hope that today’s vote marks the first step towards declassification of the full SSCI report, and the beginning of the end of more than a decade of excessive secrecy about torture," said Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. "The American people have a right to know what their government does in their name."

OpenTheGovernment.org Adds National Security Fellow

OTG welcomes Katherine Hawkins to the OTG staff as a National Security Fellow. Katherine previously worked as a fellow in the office of Senator Edward Markey and an investigator with the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment. She will be tackling a wide range of openness issues, including surveillance transparency and secret law.

Privacy Board Makes a Strong Case for Transparency, Against Secret Law

Please see OpenTheGovernment.org's statement on the PCLOB Report here

We applaud the strong transparency recommendations from the PCLOB in its January 23, 2014 Report.  The Board took an important and clearly stated stand for the public’s right to know the legal interpretations and authorities that inform domestic data collection programs by the intelligence community.  Early on, the board notes the critical balancing act the intelligence community must perform in its duties to protect the public without keeping it in the dark: “both openness and secrecy are vital to our survival, and we must strive to develop and implement intelligence programs in ways that serve both values.”

Curbing National Security Excesses Requires Transparency

Statement of Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org on the President's Speech on NSA Reforms:

"During the speech, President Obama made an important admission regarding how the terrorist attacks of 9/11 drove the government to take some actions that are at odds with our core values. In particular, President Obama called out the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that many equate with torture. Rightly, President Obama points to actions by the courts and increased congressional oversight to right some of the government's excesses before he took office; what he fails to note though is how important his decision to declassify and release the memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) authorizing the techniques was to improving public understanding of the issues and restoring the public's trust in the government.

Throughout the speech, President Obama referenced the need for public debate about the NSA's surveillance programs, and he admitted that it is not enough for leaders to say, 'Trust us. We won't abuse the data we collect.' It should be obvious, however, that public debate is only useful if the public has an informed understanding about the scope and legality of these programs. And in the absence of access to information detailing the scope and the legal interpretations of the programs, the public has no way to ask good questions and trust in the government will not be strengthened.

We continue to support the important reforms included in the USA Freedom Act and we join with the President's Review Group in calling for fuller transparency for accountability to the public."

Knowledge is the Key to Control: The White House Surveillance Panel on the Need for Greater Transparency

The Final Report of the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies was released this past Wednesday (December 18). The Review Group was established by President Obama to make a report and recommendations “to protect our national security and advance our foreign policy while also respecting our longstanding commitment to privacy and civil liberties, recognizing our need to maintain the public trust (including the trust of our friends and allies abroad), and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures.” 

A Simple 'Explainer' of Some Classification Terms

The release of the report by the President's review group on the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance programs will, we hope, spur a deeper discussion about government secrecy, including issues with our classification system. To help people who might not be as familiar with some of the terms regularly used by those who work on classification policy, we have put together some basic slides to explain the differences between information that is properly marked and appropriately classified and between original and derivative classification. We have also put together a slide explaining overclassification. Click "Read More" to see the slides.

Facing Surveillance and National Security as a Member of the OGP

As a co-founder of the Open Government Partnership, the United States is perfectly placed to model open government’s potential and to set a high bar of ambition for member countries’ action plans. The US’ plans, successes, failures, and neglects are placed in a glaring spotlight. A statement of concern addressed to the new OGP co-Chairs from more than 100 civil society organizations from across the globe called out a significant threat to open government found in many OGP member countries: the secret surveillance of the communications of millions.

PIDB Sets Public Meeting for November 21

On Thursday, November 21 the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) will hold a public meeting at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to discuss its recommendations to the President on transforming classification, and gather input on prioritizing declassification.

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