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Congress Must Reform Itself to Change the CIA's Culture of Secrecy

Last week we, together with our partner the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and others, called on President Obama to request CIA Director John Brennan's resignation. This request was made in light of the disturbing confirmation that CIA employees improperly accessed records of investigators from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the CIA's lack of candor about the situation.

5 Assumptions You Might Make about the FOIA Improvement Act

Earlier this summer longtime champions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S. 2520, the FOIA Improvement Act. The bill builds on several reforms that were included in a bill passed unanimously by the House (HR 1211) and, crucially, puts limits around the use of one of the most overused and abused exemptions in the law. The fact that more than 50 organizations from across the political spectrum and with a wide variety of missions joined in supporting the bill shortly after its release is a tribute to how important it is for the Senate to pass S. 2520. It’s important to understand, though, exactly what the bill will and will not do. Below we take you through some assumptions that you might make about the possible effect of passing the bill.

Release: Public Interest Groups Call for CIA Director to Resign

A coalition of public interest groups called for CIA Director John Brennan’s resignation Tuesday, citing abuses of power that include obstructing and spying on a Senate committee that was looking into the agency’s use of torture.

OpenTheGovernment.org to Host Fellow from President Obama’s Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

OpenTheGovernment.org is pleased to announce that it will host Al Kags, a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow from Kenya participating in the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in August and September 2014. He was recognized as a New Generation African Leader (2013).

DC Circuit Court Ruling Good News for Fight against Secret Law

Last week the DC Circuit Court issued a ruling vacating a previous ruling from a lower court that a Presidential Directive in the possession of a federal agency is not an agency record subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Congressmen Introduce Legislation to Reform Classification, Security Clearances

Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Bennie G. Thompson introduced the Clearance and Over-Classification Reform and Reduction Act (CORRECT Act) in July. The legislation would, among other things, strengthen the Public Interest Declassification Board and require the President to set a goal to reduce classification by 10 percent or more in five years. The bill text (H.R.

Partners Respond to Leahy’s USA Freedom Act

The USA Freedom Act passed by the House was largely stripped of transparency provisions and meaningful privacy protections. The bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy greatly improves on that bill, including essential reporting requirements and responding to many privacy concerns. Twenty groups joined OTG’s letter supporting the Leahy’s transparency improvements.

21 Groups: Leahy's USA Freedom Bill Takes Steps for Transparency

Twenty groups joined OpenTheGovernment.org in a letter to Congressional leadership expressing their support for Senator Patrick Leahy's USA Freedom Act and asking for a floor vote on the bill

OpenTheGovernment.org did not support the USA Freedom Act passed by the House of Representatives, partly due to the removal of the bill's important transparency provisions. The Senate bill includes provisions requiring meaningful reporting on the number of individuals or unique accounts whose information is collected under surveillance authorities. 

Read more about the bill and reasons for the openness groups' support here

Groups Break Down how the FOIA Improvement Act Reins in the Use of Exemption 5

Exemption 5 of the Freedom of Information Act has been used to withhold a Presidential Policy Directive instituting transparency, Federal Election Commission guidance on the use of the exemption, a list of unclassified opinions created by the Office of Legal Counsel, and much more. Agencies’ use of Exemption 5 has cut off access to countless records that should be released in the public interest. The bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act, S.

OTG Responds to Cybersecurity Bill in the Washington Post

On July 20th, the Washington Post published Executive Director Patrice McDermott’s letter to the editor, responding to a July 13th Post

The Classified Section

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

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