112th Congress Goes Out with a Bang — and a Boo

On its way out the door, the 112th Congress took action on a number of pending controversial secrecy bills — making last minute improvements to annual authorization bills in order to protect the public's ability to get information, expanding contractor whistleblower rights, but also opting to maintain the secrecy surrounding the government's wireless wiretapping program.

In a major win for the open government community, and for informed democracy, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Intelligence Authorization bill sent to the President's desk for signature into law did not include several dangerous provisions nominally intended to prevent leaks of sensitive information. As we have written previously, the so-called anti-leaks provisions would have made the unauthorized disclosure of any classified information a punishable offense, regardless of its public policy significance, and threatened free speech rights and due process of current and former federal employees. The package was hastily attached to the Intelligence authorization bill in the wake of several high-profile leaks. Legislation to address leaks of classified information necessarily will touch on complex questions that require careful consideration. If the 113th Congress takes up the issue (which it almost certainly will), we encourage it to begin the process with hearings and maximal public input.

The 112th Congress also added to the list of bills it passed to help people who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse and illegality in the federal government. Fresh off of the success of final passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, Congress included a provision in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act that expanded contractor whistleblower protections.

Unfortunately not all of the final acts of the 112th Congress were as warmly welcomed: efforts to inject oversight and accountability into the warrantless wiretapping program fell short, and the 112th Congress passed a five-year extension of the program.

The 113th Congress was sworn in on Thursday, January 3rd. We've already suggested 5 Issues it should address to make the federal government more open and accountable.

Categories: Uncategorized