Big Week for Open and Accountable Government – December 9, 2014 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– Breaking Open Government News: FOIA Reform Bill Moving & Senate Report on CIA Torture Released (more)
– President Obama Signs Presidential and Federal Records Bill (more)

News from Coalition Partners & Others


Partners to Talk Transparency Reforms at Advisory Committee on Transparency Event

At 12:30pm on Thursday, December 11th the Advisory Committee on Transparency will host a panel discussing open government reforms the next Congress should address. The panel is comprised entirely of OTG partners, featuring Cause of Action, the Center for Effective Government, the Government Accountability Project, the Sunshine in Government Initiative, and the Sunlight Foundation. RSVP for the event here. Previous events held by the Advisory Committee are available on YouTube.


RCFP Examines Digital Security for Reporters, Other Open Gov Issues

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) recently published its quarterly update on news media and the law, featuring several in-depth pieces on journalists’ approaches to the use of encryption and other security measures. The publication also provides an overview of federal agencies’ use of “still interested letters,” an improper practice the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) alerted the Office of Government Information Services to last month.


Taxpayers for Common Sense Breaks Down the Massive 2015 National Defense Authorization Bill

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is finally public, and weighs in at 16,000 pages. Taxpayers for Common Sense is working its way through the hulking legislation and updating its website with analysis as it goes. As the Project On Government Oversight notes, the NDAA defines the massive defense budget, but the drafting, voting, and deliberation processes often occur behind closed doors. Visit Taxpayers’ website to see what the secretive process produced.

Breaking Open Government News: FOIA Reform Bill Moving & Senate Report on CIA Torture Released

Already this week has been an exciting one for OpenTheGovernment.org and our partners and allies in the fight for open and accountable government. After moving past an 11th hour hold on the bill, the Senate passed S.2520, the FOIA Improvement Act. This is a bipartisan bill that makes several much-needed reforms to our open records law. Under the leadership of Representatives Issa and Cummings, the House unanimously passed a similar bill earlier this year. Be sure to read our statement thanking the Senate’s champions of the bill – Senators Leahy, Cornyn and Grassley – and urging the House to vote on the bill as soon as possible. Also, don’t forget to follow us on twitter for the latest updates on the bill’s progress in the House.

Tuesday morning also marked the highly-anticipated (and much-delayed) release of the Senate’s report on the CIA’s torture programs. Be sure to read OpenTheGovernment.orgs’ thoughts on next steps for accountability. Please also follow our National Security Fellow, Katherine Hawkins’, on twitter for her instant analysis. Katherine has researched and written extensively regarding U.S. detainee treatment and secrecy since 2004. In the coming days, she will be doing an in-depth examination of the factual revelations in the report, and the public information that has been redacted at the CIA’s insistence.

President Obama Signs Presidential and Federal Records Bill

A new open government law is on the books. On December 26th, President Obama signed the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 (H.R. 1233). As we’ve outlined before, the Act gives a former president a set period of time to assert any claim of privilege on records that the Archivist has decided to release to the public. It also puts into place a process to manage records’ release when a claim of privilege is made. Learn more about the bill from the National Coalition for History, a long-time champion of these reforms.

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