Transportation Bill Includes Transparency Roadblocks

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."

Groups provide comments on proposed regulation on Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)

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.

 

OIP Issues Guidance on Agencies’ “Still Interested” FOIA Letters

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.

Civil Society Groups Create Model National Action Plan

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's Statement on the McCain-Feinstein Anti-Torture Amendment

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

Groups Urge Senate to Oppose the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA)

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.

OpenTheGovernment.org and POGO Oppose Efforts to Further Weaken USA Freedom Act

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act expired on Sunday, May 31 at midnight, several hours after the Senate voted 77 to 17 to begin debate on the USA Freedom Act. The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and OpenTheGovernment.org expressed support for Congress’s refusal to re-authorize an illegal surveillance program without major reforms. Both organizations strongly oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempts to further weaken the USA Freedom Act through the amendment process. Dr.

22 Groups Urge Congress to Oppose DoD Proposal to Alter FOIA

The Department of Defense (DoD) wants to use the National Defense Authorization Act (NDDA) to allow agencies to broadly interpret exemption 2 of the FOIA, which allows agencies to withhold records “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.”Twenty-two groups joined OTG and the Project On Government Oversight in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, urging the Senators to reject the DoD’s proposal.