Coalition Expresses Opposition to Bill that would Drastically Expand Authority of Department of Homeland Security


December 15, 2017

Groups Tell Capitol Hill: SECURE ACT Would Lead to Less Oversight and Accountability of DHS

WASHINGTON – Open The Government led a coalition of government accountability groups in a statement expressing opposition to the SECURE ACT of 2017. The groups were concerned that the bill, if passed in its current form, would severely undermine oversight of the Department of Homeland Security by allowing the DHS Secretary to waive any legal requirement deemed necessary to facilitate border security programs.

“This bill gives the Department of Homeland Security enormous power to do as it pleases, at the expense of openness and transparency,” said Open The Government’s Executive Director Lisa Rosenberg.

According to the statement:

With this authority expanded, DHS could exempt itself from statutes that would safeguard against civil liberties violations, misuse of taxpayer dollars, and avenues for accountability and Congressional oversight. Any such waiver would be final upon publication in the Federal Register, with limited avenues for Congress, the courts, or the public to seek recourse.

The SECURE Act also already includes exemptions from important public disclosure requirements, which would keep the public in the dark about the implementation of massive federal border security, immigration enforcement, and surveillance programs. Sections 6002 and 6003 would exempt implementing agencies from the Administrative Procedure Act and the Paperwork Reduction Act, removing crucial accountability mechanisms and preventing the public from offering comments and receiving feedback on significant policy changes. Federal agencies could remove crucial Privacy Act protections, issue new regulations, or authorize the collection of personal data without public knowledge.


Groups that signed onto the letter are: American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Library Association, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Cause of Action Institute, Center for Democracy & Technology, Constitutional Alliance, Cyber Privacy Project, Defending Rights and Dissent, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Government Accountability Project, Government Information Watch, Identity Project, Muslim Justice League, Muslim Public Affairs Council, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Immigration Law Center, Open The Government, Project On Government Oversight, Restore the Fourth, Sunlight Foundation

Open The Government is a Washington-based non-partisan coalition of good-and-limited government groups, environmentalists, journalists, library and consumer groups, labor, and others united to make the federal government a more open place in order to ensure integrity and accountability in the operation of our governing institutions, foster confidence in representative government, and support our democratic principles.