Coalition Successfully Opposes Restrictions to FOIA – August 4, 2015 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)

– Coalition Successfully Opposes Restrictions to FOIA; Problems with CISA Remain (more)
– Open Government Public Meeting: Ten Commitments for the next National Action Plan (more)

News from Coalition Partners & Others

Reporters Committee Debuts Interactive Online Map of Body Camera Laws

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press launched an interactive map detailing the laws and policies regarding police-worn body cameras across the United States. The map includes passed and pending legislation, and relevant court decisions. Explore the map here.

POGO’s Danielle Brian Testifies on Whistleblower Claims at the VA

Danielle Brian, Project On Government Oversight’s Executive Director and OTG’s Steering Committee Chair, recently testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies on “Whistleblower Claims at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.” Brian urged Congress to improve whistleblower protections in light of revelations about the VA’s “toxic culture of retaliation and intimidation.”

National Security Archive’s Tom Blanton: Overclassification Makes Us Less Safe

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive and OTG co-founder, wrote about “dubious secrets” and the consequences of overclassification in the Washington Post this week. Blanton writes, “the real secrets make up only a fraction of the classified universe, and no secret deserves immortality. In fact, essential to the whole idea of democratic government is that secret deals with dictators will come out eventually, not least to deter the worst deals from being made.” Read the full piece here.

Coalition Successfully Opposes Restrictions to FOIA; Problems with CISA Remain

Attempts to unnecessarily shield information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeared in two pieces of major legislation this summer. Thanks to the leadership of several members of Congress and the advocacy of OTG’s partners, the majority of restrictions to FOIA were removed from both the Senate’s transportation bill and the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

In July, the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition sounded the alarm about several and unnecessary FOIA exemptions contained in the Senate’s Highway legislation. Thanks to leadership by Senators Patrick Leahy, John Cornyn and Charles Grassley all references to FOIA were removed from the legislation.

In its original form, CISA contained a new, 10th exemption to FOIA. The exemption, originating in the Senate Intelligence Committee, would have authorized the government to withhold any “information shared with or provided to the Federal Government pursuant to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015.” The good news: the managers’ amendment to CISA removed this restriction. However, the legislation still contains a new, redundant and unnecessary b(3) exemption and authorizes the federal government to use cyber-threat information in Espionage Act investigations. The bill may be taken up this week.

Open Government Public Meeting: Ten Commitments for the next National Action Plan

On Thursday, July 30, the White House hosted a public meeting on open government and ideas for the third National Action Plan. The full video is available on YouTube. OpenTheGovernment.org spotlighted 10 of the commitments included in the Civil Society Model Plan, touching on everything from detainee treatment, to beneficial ownership transparency. Civil society’s presentation begins at 47:37 in the video. Submit your own ideas for the White House’s National Action Plan to opengov@ostp.gov or on the administration’s public Hackpad.

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