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Sunshine Week: The Administration Should Take These 4 Steps

Sunshine Week is often commemorated with reports, events, and articles from the open government community and government alike. This year, 23 groups call on the Obama Administration to go further and take 4 concrete steps to improve government openness and accountability.

Groups to SSCI: CISA Undermines Transparency

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's (SSCI) draft cybersecurity legislation increases surveillance and undermines transparency, according 11 open government and civil liberties groups. The groups joined OpenTheGovernment.org in a letter to SSCI and urged the committee to reject the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) in its entirety. The draft legislation is overbroad and duplicative, undermines whistleblower protections and adds an unnecessary exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Read the letter in full here.

FAQs: Federal Email Records Management

On March 2nd, the New York Times published a story reporting that Hillary Clinton had not used an official Department of State email account during her time as Secretary of State. Instead, Clinton and some staff members used a private email server. As OTG director Patrice McDermott told The Hill, “What she did was not technically illegal…[but] it was highly inappropriate and it was inappropriate for the State Department to let this happen.”

To clarify much some of the confusion surrounding the story and the federal government’s approach to managing and preserving email generally, we have rounded up a set of the records management policies in play—from the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) guidance on management of email, to the recent update of the Presidential and Federal Records Act. These resources provide answers to many frequently asked questions:

Senators Launch Whistleblower Caucus - March 3, 2015 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– Senators Launch Whistleblower Caucus (more)

– Presidential Libraries Donation Reform Act Reintroduced (more)

CISA is Back, and It’s Still Terrible on Transparency

Cybersecurity legislation is much needed, but previous versions of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) all had one thing in common: harsh blows to government transparency. In July, OTG took issue with the Washington Post’s support of the legislation, noting that CISA fails to protect privacy, would block crucial information from the public, and threatens journalists and whistleblowers. The recently- released 114th Congress’ Intelligence Committee version of the bill contains the same worrisome provisions.

47 Groups Support 114th Congress' Steps to Reform FOIA

Forty-seven groups thanked Senators Cornyn and Leahy and Representatives Issa and Cummings for their newly-introduced legislation to reform the Freedom of Information Act. The FOIA Overisght and Implementation Act (H.R. 653) and the FOIA Improvement Act (S. 337) include critical reforms that will help strengthen the public's ability to hold its government accountable. Read the letter here. For more analysis, visit the Sunlight Foundation and the National Security Archive.

Supreme Court Has a Responsibility to Open Up

Describing the US Federal Courts’ approach to technology, Chief Justice John G. Roberts invoked the Supreme Court building’s engraving that illustrates the fable of the tortoise and the hare. In the 2014 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, Roberts defended the judiciary’s slow adoption of modern technology, citing funding, cybersecurity concerns, and equality of access. “Unlike commercial enterprises,” Roberts notes, “the courts cannot decide to serve only the most technically-capable or well-equipped segments of the public.” It’s a worthy but bewildering concern from a court that restricts access to its history-making arguments to approximately 50 members of public.

FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting: January 27, 2015

In December 2013, the White House committed to establish a FOIA Modernization Advisory committee in its second open government National Action Plan. The committee includes FOIA experts from inside and outside government and includes subcommittees examining proactive disclosure, FOIA fees and fee categories, and oversight. The committee holds regular public meetings. On January 27th, each subcommittee reported on its activities and future plans.

Groups to President Obama: Stop Ignoring the Torture Report

On January 28, OpenTheGovernment.org and 8 other groups wrote to President Obama, asking his administration to stop ignoring the nearly 7000-page torture report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and reject Senator Richard Burr’s unprecedented request for the report’s return. The letter states in part:

The Classified Section

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

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