WASHINGTON, November 30, 2016 – In a major win for government openness and accountability, Congress has removed three harmful exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017. The FOIA exemptions would have severely undermined the FOIA by creating an unnecessary secrecy provision and a carve-out from the FOIA for the Pentagon.
Coalition calls for President Obama to take urgent action on national security transparency and accountability
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.
June 30, 2016 – Today, the President signed the FOIA Improvement Act, codifying into law comprehensive bipartisan reforms to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the first time in nearly a decade. The signing of the bill comes days before the 50th anniversary of the FOIA, signed into law on July 4, 1966. The FOIA Improvement Act is the result of a herculean effort on the part of Congressional leaders, staff members, and open government advocates who have been working to push the FOIA reform legislation that is critical to ensuring government accountability.
Importantly, the reform bill codifies the presumption of openness -- requiring records be released unless there is a foreseeable harm or legal requirement to withhold them. This language mirrors the Obama Administration’s and the Department of Justice’s 2009 guidance on FOIA, which reversed the policy of the Bush administration that had encouraged agencies to limit discretionary disclosures of information. With these legislative changes, the law makes clear that FOIA, under any administration, must be approached with a presumption of openness.
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2016 – Today, more than 30 organizations committed to government openness, personal privacy, civil liberties and human rights, are calling for the halt to proposed policy changes that could allow domestic law enforcement and intelligence agencies to circumvent constitutional protections and pose new threats to the privacy and civil liberties of ordinary Americans.
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2016 – Today, more than 40 organizations and individuals committed to government openness and accountability sent a letter to President Obama expressing deep concern over the efforts by the Justice Department to undermine legislation in the last Congress that would have strengthened the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
WASHINGTON, February 2, 2016 – Today, the House Judiciary Committee held a classified hearing on Section 702 of the FISA – a legal provision used to acquire the communications of Americans and people around the world alike without a warrant.
WASHINGTON, October 23, 2015 – Today, 27 open government, civil liberties, and privacy groups sent a letter to the Senate to express opposition to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (“CISA”), and to urge the passage the proposed amendments from Senator Leahy and Senator Franken.
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
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.
The USA Freedom Act, although it has represented Congress's best efforts at reform, has never been a complete solution to secretive mass surveillance. The government transparency provisions of USA Freedom 2015 fall far short of what is needed, but the bill would still provide Americans with more information about the scale of surveillance, and more information about how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court interprets the law, than they have now.