WASHINGTON, November 21, 2016 – Today, a coalition of organizations committed to promoting government openness and accountability, and to the defense of civil liberties, civil rights, and privacy rights, is calling on President Obama to take urgent steps to disclose information related to critical areas of national security-related secrecy before the end of his term. The letter urges the President to take concerted action to provide the public, Congress, and the courts with information relating to surveillance programs, use of torture, use of drones, and the secret interpretations of law authorizing such programs. This information is needed to ensure that past secret actions, policies and practices, particularly those declared illegal or unconstitutional, are not repeated. The President’s legacy and his 1st Day embrace of open government and transparency goals are dependent on ensuring this information is available to the public before the end of this administration.
The letter asks the President to take steps to ensure the preservation of the Senate report of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program (a.k.a. “The Torture Report”), by directing senior staff in the intelligence community to read the report, and encourage the National Archives to make a determination on whether the report is a federal record. The preservation of the Torture Report is a matter of immediate concern, particularly following acknowledgment by the CIA inspector general's office that it had “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of the report. OTG continues to bring attention to the importance of this report as a historical record, and has called on the Archivist of the United States to take steps to ensure its preservation.
The other transparency and accountability measures identified in the letter include the release and disclosure of the following information:
- OLC Opinions: a summary of all formal Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions (prioritizing those relevant to national security & civil liberty matters);
- FISC Opinions: all significant Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions;
- Subsequent Use of Surveillance-Derived Information: guidance on the use of information obtained under intelligence programs in criminal investigations (parallel construction);
- National Security or Surveillance IG Reports: inspector general reports relating to national security or surveillance;
- Extraordinary Rendition & Black Sites: proactive declassification of information relating to the extraordinary rendition of prisoners to secret CIA black sites carried out as part of the “war on terror;”
- Count of U.S. Persons’ Affected by Surveillance under Section 702: the number of U.S. persons whose information has been gathered under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.
“Now more than ever, the President must take immediate affirmative steps to disclose information needed to preserve the protections won and to challenge future threats to privacy and civil liberties,” according to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. “Public release of the secret national security-related information identified in this letter is fundamental to enable learning the lessons of our recent past and to help us prepare to challenge secrecy and defend against government overreach going forward.”
Read the full letter here.