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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).

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

Twenty groups joined 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 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

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

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.

Broad Coalition Urges President to Oppose Cyber Bill

President Obama should speak out against S. 2588, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (“CISA”) of 2014, say thirty privacy, accountability, and transparency organizations, including CISA, which is headed to the Senate floor following a secret, closed-door markup, poses serious risks to government transparency and accountability, and fails to provide meaningful privacy protections, comprehensive cybersecurity solutions.  The Obama administration threatened to veto 2012's CISPA, a bill with privacy shortcomings similar to CISA.

Unanswered Questions in the CIA-Senate Dispute

The Department of Justice has announced that it will not launch full-fledged investigations into either the CIA’s allegations that Senate staffers mishandled classified information in the course of writing their study of CIA torture, or Senator Dianne Feinstein’s allegations that the CIA unlawfully spied on Senate staff.

Weigh in on the FOIA Improvement Act

The public’s right to know is at the heart of the United States’ founding, enabling public debate and informed dissent. The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reflects this tenet by giving any member of the public the ability to ask for a copy of a government record, and giving them the ability to ask a Court to intervene if the government refuses to comply with the law.


PCLOB Report: We Don’t Know How Many Americans’ Emails the NSA Collects Under Section 702—But We Don’t Need to Know

The following is cross-posted from The Classified's new blog on national security secrecy.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties officially released its long-awaited report into Section 702 of FISA yesterday. It has been widely and deservedly panned by civil libertarians: the ACLUEFFCenter for Democracy and Technologythe Open Technology Institute, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Constitution ProjectAmie StepanovichJennifer GranickMarcy WheelerLiza Goitein, Geoffrey Stone, and more.
From a transparency point of view, the report does provide some new, useful details about how 702 surveillance works–but it leaves crucial questions unanswered, and many of them will remain unanswered even if the government adopts PCLOB’s transparency recommendations.

ODNI’s Transparency Report: What It Tells Us, and What it Doesn’t

The following is cross-posted from The Classified's new blog on national security secrecy. 

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released some statistics on its use of surveillance authorities, fulfilling a promise made last August 30 and reiterated in the White House’s Open Government National Action Plan in December. (They are also essentially the same statistics that the House-passed version of the USA FREEDOM Act requires the DNI to publish—a sign of the extent to which the intelligence community rewrote that bill before it passed the House.)

Broad Coalition of Organizations Sign on in Support of FOIA Improvement Act of 2014

Fifty organizations representing a broad range of interests and crossing the political spectrum expressed support for the recently-introduced FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, S. 2520. The bill was introduced earlier this week by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who have a long history of working together to develop and pass legislation that makes the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a better tool for the public to obtain government records.

The Classified Section

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

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