Coming Soon: Update on 2nd US National Action Plan – June 10, 2014 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– The Second Open Government National Action Plan, Six Months In (more)
– Fight for Transparency in Surveillance Reform Moves to the Senate (more)

News from Coalition Partners & Others


Center for Democracy and Technology Testifies on Surveillance Reform

At a rare public Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing, the Center for Democracy and Technology detailed the need for lawmakers to address the weaknesses in the gutted USA Freedom Act passed by the House of Representatives. CDT’s Senior Counsel Harley Geiger’s full testimony is available here.

The Second Open Government National Action Plan, Six Months In

In the coming days, OTG and several partners and allies will publish an overview of the US government’s progress implementing the second National Action Plan (NAP). As you might remember, the government promised to take certain steps on a number of issues in the NAP, including making federal spending more transparent, freeing government data, modernizing the Freedom of Information Act, and more.

Teams of civil society members are tracking the execution of these commitments over the two-year implementation period. (Learn more about our methodology here). At this early point in the plan’s lifespan, OTG and our collaborators think it was necessary to establish a baseline that reflected the progress the Administration has made towards meeting its commitments, and the amount of collaboration between government officials and civil society organizations (something that is encouraged in the Open Government Partnership’s structure). The team leads completed forms indicating whether they knew the government officials responsible for the commitment’s implementation, whether they had corresponded or met with these officials, and if they were aware of any progress on the commitment.

Over the next six months, civil society teams will identify stretch goals for each commitment. With increased collaboration and communication between our community and the government, the US government can clear that high bar with meaningful execution of an ambitious and wide-ranging plan.

Fight for Transparency in Surveillance Reform Moves to the Senate

Now that the House has passed its version of a bill to reform our nation’s surveillance programs, OTG and our partners will be working to make sure that any similar legislation passed by the Senate includes much stronger transparency provisions. As we have written, the House opted to severely weaken reporting requirements in the original Sensenbrenner-Leahy proposal that would have given the public a reasonable understanding of the scope of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs. HR 3361 replaced them instead with potentially misleading reporting requirements that would likely allow vastly understating the scope of communications acquired or reviewed by the NSA.

In addition to making sure that the Senate’s version of the bill includes meaningful reporting requirements, we will also be working with our partners to make sure the Senate understands that the fundamental problem with the NSA’s surveillance programs is that they are based on secret legal interpretations. It will only be a matter of time before there is another scandal unless the public – and Congress – understands how the Executive Branch and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is interpreting the law and thus what it believes it has the authority to do under the law.

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