Congress Should Not Use Cybersecurity Legislation as a Pretext to Weaken FOIA
As the U.S. Senate prepares to take up the Cybersecurity Information Sharing (“CISA”) Act, S. 754, open government organizations, privacy and civil liberties defenders, security experts, and tech companies are mobilizing to voice opposition to the bill.
The Hire More Heroes Act (H.R. 22), the expected vehicle for transportation legislation, contains several overbroad and unnecessary exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). On July 25th, 18 groups joined OpenTheGovernment.org in a letter to Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, urging the removal of the exemptions to FOIA. As the letter explains, "Much of the sensitive information likely to be shared is already protected from disclosure under the FOIA; other information that may be shared could be critical for the public to ensure its safety."
After coordinating closely with the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) on the implementation of the CUI framework, open government groups submitted comments on the proposed regulation on CUI on July 7, 2015. In the letter, the groups expressed gratitude for the responsiveness of ISOO to civil society concerns and suggestions, while explaining remaining concerns that certain provisions of the proposed rule could discourage legitimate information-sharing, both internally and outside the government.
Federal agencies’ FOIA offices widely struggle with backlogs and limited resources. Some agencies look to control the workflow by sending “still interested” inquiries (often in the form of letters) to requesters. These inquiries ask if requesters are still interested in receiving documents, and indicate that the request will be closed in a certain time period if the agency receives no response.
The United States is the largest single provider of foreign assistance, but the majority of US government donors still fail to publish data in a timely and detailed manner.
As part of engagement in the Open Government Partnership, the US government is required to develop an OGP country plan with concrete commitments on open government. The government makes public commitments to both domestic and international audiences and accountability for those commitments is built into the OGP process.
To set high standards for the US government's third plan, civil society groups created a model National Action Plan. OpenTheGovernment.org invited civil society groups and members of the public to submit their own model commitments through a Google site, and break down the big goals of openness into concrete steps that could be reasonably taken over a year's time. Several issues included in civil society's first model National Action Plan were incorporated in the government's second NAP.
OpenTheGovernment.org strongly supports passage of Amendment 1889 to the NDAA, the McCain-Feinstein amendment. The amendment would seek to prevent the United States government from ever again engaging in torture, by requiring that:
--All interrogations by the United States government, including by the CIA, must comply with the standards in the Department of Defense’s Field Manual on Interrogation
The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (“CISA”), which the full Senate is expected to debate in the near future, does far more to increase surveillance and undermine transparency than to protect against cyber threats, according to 12 open government and civil liberties groups. The groups joined OpenTheGovernment.org in a letter urging the Senate to reject the bill in its entirety.
Yesterday the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act by a 67-32 vote, after rejecting several attempts to weaken it. President Obama signed the bill into law last night.