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Fight for Transparency in Surveillance Reform Moves to the Senate

Now that the House has passed its version of a bill to reform our nation’s surveillance programs, OTG and our partners will be working to make sure that any similar legislation passed by the Senate includes much stronger transparency provisions. As we have written, the House opted to severely weaken reporting requirements in the original Sensenbrenner-Leahy proposal that would have given the public a reasonable understanding of the scope of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs. HR 3361 replaced them instead with potentially misleading reporting requirements that would likely allow vastly understating the scope of communications acquired or reviewed by the NSA.

The Second Open Government National Action Plan, Six Months In

In the coming days, OTG and several partners and allies will publish an overview of the US government’s progress implementing the second National Action Plan (NAP). As you might remember, the government promised to take certain steps on a number of issues in the NAP, including making federal spending more transparent, freeing government data, modernizing the Freedom of Information Act, and more.

Center for Democracy and Technology Testifies on Surveillance Reform

At a rare public Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing, the Center for Democracy and Technology detailed the need for lawmakers to address the weaknesses in the gutted USA Freedom Act passed by the House of Representatives.

The Snowden Leaks One Year Later: OTG and Partners Reflect

The Snowden revelations have brought dozens of revelations to light about the breadth and legality of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. In a Roll Call op-ed published today, Executive Director Patrice McDermott notes that while the public now knows much more about these programs, the reform efforts that are taking shape in Congress threaten to continue to leave the public in the dark. 

Agencies Begin to Publish Open Gov Plans 3.0

According to updated guidance the Administration issued on agency open government plans, agencies were supposed to publish updated plans to make themselves more open, participatory and collaborative. To help the open government community keep track of which agencies have posted plans and make it easy to see what kind of activities agencies intend to engage in over the next two years, OpenTheGovernment.org created the below spreadsheet.

FOUO and FOIA: Two Letters (Should) Make All the Difference

In 2010 transparency advocates welcomed an important new Executive Order that promised to phase out the use of confusing stamps like For Official Use Only (FOUO) and make sure that such markings were not used by agencies to deny the public access to information. However, as Patrice McDermott testified before a House subcommittee this week, intransigence and resistance from some agencies has drawn out the process so that it will be 2018, 2019 and beyond before agencies stop using these stamps. And, as we learned from a story posted by Jason Leopold on the Guardian earlier this week, the public is still not seeing the benefits that should have begun almost immediately. What should the government do to make sure agencies are not using the delay in implementation to keep information from the public?

Groups Support Schiff-Jones Drone Transparency Amendment

Today the House Rules Committee will decide which proposed amendments to the National Intelligence Authorization Act will be considered on the House floor. OpenTheGovernment.org and 18 other human rights, civil liberties and pro-transparency groups have written a letter to Congress in support of a bipartisan amendment by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) requiring annual reports on the number of militants and civilians killed in drone strikes. 

Testimony: Controlled Unclassified Information

On May 29th, 2014 Executive Director Patrice McDermott testified before the Subcommittee on Government Operations of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Her testimony addressed the growing use of the unclassified designation of information in executive branch departments and agencies.

Partners Release Model FOIA Regulations

Last week several OTG partners released a “model FOIA regulation” in advance of the launch of an effort by the Office of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice to develop a common FOIA regulation that all agencies can adopt. As you may know, each of the 99 agencies that process FOIA requests have a FOIA regulation that explains in detail how the agency implements the law, and what requesters must do to have their request processed.

Open Government Town Hall Tomorrow on May 28

Join OTG at an Open Government Community Town Hall from 12 to 2pm ET on Wednesday, May 28th. Attendees will have the opportunity to share their organization’s activities and reconnect with other partners in the community. Rick Blum of the Sunshine in Government Initiative will kick things off with an overview of the FOIA Files, an interactive resource of journalism made possible by the Freedom of Information Act.

The Classified Section

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

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