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Surveillance Reform Updates and New Open Gov Legislation - May 26, 2015 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– Partners Push for Surveillance Reform (more)
– Financial Transparency Act of 2015 Introduced (more)
– Explore the Model National Action Plan (more)

 

ACLU v. Clapper Shows that Secret Courts are No Substitute for Real Judicial Review

A unanimous panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled that the NSA’s nationwide collection of Americans’ phone records is illegal, unauthorized by section 215 of the PATRIOT Act or any other statute.

OpenTheGovernment.org and Over 50 Other Groups Oppose PATRIOT Act Reauthorization Without Reform

OpenTheGovernment.org joined a broad, bipartisan group of over 50 organizations in strongly opposing Senator Mitch McConnell's effort to extend the PATRIOT Act for five years without any reform of surveillance programs. As the letter states, "[i]n the absence of meaningful reform, it is unacceptable to rubber stamp reauthorization of an authority that the government has used to spy on millions of innocent Americans."

Legal Justice for Servicemembers Act Introduced in House and Senate

The Legal Justice for Servicemembers Act, introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer, Ron Wyden, and Edward J. Markey and Congresswoman Jackie Speier, strengthens whistleblower protections rights for members of the Armed Forces. Twenty-seven groups joined the Government Accountability Project in strongly supporting the legislation.

OpenTheGovernment.org's Statement on the 2015 USA Freedom Act

The USA Freedom Act, although it has represented Congress's best efforts at reform, has never been a complete solution to secretive mass surveillance. The government transparency provisions of USA Freedom 2015 fall far short of what is needed, but the bill would still provide Americans with more information about the scale of surveillance, and more information about how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court interprets the law, than they have now.

Time to End the Senate's NDAA Secrecy

The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $585 billion in Pentagon spending. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) keeps the public almost entirely in the dark on this mammoth authorization bill. Last year, the text of the bill considered by the committee was not made available publicly and the markup was closed to the public. In contrast, the House Armed Services Committee has held an open markup for years.

34 Groups Oppose "Protecting Cyber Networks Act"

The Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) would undermine government transparency and increase intelligence agencies’ access to the public’s sensitive personal information, 34 openness and civil liberties groups said in a letter to members of the House of Representatives. The PCNA would categorically exempt government-provided information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The legislation also authorizes agencies to use cyber threat information in Espionage Act cases, and leaving open the possibility that “cyber threat” information could be used to investigate whistleblowers.

USAspending.gov's Upgrades Falter

Improving federal spending transparency is a priority for many in the open government community, both inside and outside government. The Obama administration included commitments to improve spending transparency in its National Action Plans, and is working to implement the DATA Act, which promises to significantly increase public access to spending information. Reform efforts hit a snag, however, with the latest update to the White House’s spending information hub USAspending.gov. The website’s upgrades were intended to make the information more understandable using plain language, but also removed much of the site’s functionality by removing the keyword search and limiting searches for government contracts.

Sunshine Week’s Transparency Legislation; CISA Threats Move Forward

This Sunshine Week, members of Congress stepped up to introduce legislation to increase openness and accountability in all branches of the federal government. Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley introduced legislation to require the Supreme Court’s open proceedings to be televised. Similar legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012 and 2010. Rep. Gerard Connolly introduced identical legislation (HR 94) in February.

Pushing for Results Using the Open Government Partnership

Last week, the World Justice Project published the Open Government Index, an examination and ranking of governments’ openness. Notably, the index used public surveys to and “in-country expert questionnaires” to score countries. It’s an interesting approach. After all, the theoretical strength of the Freedom of Information Act matters little if the public does not find it to be an effective, useful tool. On the Open Government Partnership blog, WJP’s Alejandro Ponce uses the Index data to illustrate that “OGP participation indeed linked to more transparent, participatory, and accountable government in practice.”

The Classified Section

Check out our new blog, The Classified Section, for analysis of national security secrecy.

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