Creating a More Open and Accountable Congress – September 16, 2014 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– Join the Celebration of Global Legislative Openness Week (more)
– Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments Pass Senate (more)

News from Coalition Partners & Others

Partners Share Input on Privacy Board’s Agenda

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) invited the public to submit comments on its future research agenda. and several partners submitted comments.
OTG recommended the PCLOB seek declassification of information about surveillance conducted under Executive Order 1233 and information about the United States’ overseas targeted killing program. The full comments are available here.

Center for National Security Studies (CNSS)
CNSS asked, among other requests, that the PCLOB “consider how best to inform the public concerning how current government surveillance authorities fit together.” CNSS also recommended the PCLOB issue follow-up reports on the board’s recommendations addressing surveillance authorities under sections 215 and 702.

Government Accountability Project (GAP)
GAP encouraged the Board to become “a legally-authorized recipient of disclosures by intelligence community whistleblowers” and to conduct a review of existing channels for intelligence whistleblowers.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, American Society of News Editors (ASNE)
The Reporters Committee, ASNE, and a coalition of media organizations asked the PCLOB to examine the impact of national security surveillance on the practice of journalism.

Sunlight Foundation
The Sunlight Foundation’s comments urged the Board to investigate intelligence sharing activities, including Parallel Construction. Sunlight notes that Reuters reported on documents “that reveal guidance on the deliberate masking and falsification of investigative history in order to erase investigations’ origins.” The full comments are available here.

NFOIC, SPJ Honor New Jersey Open Government Champion

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) will induct John Paff to the State Open Government Hall of Fame next month. Paff serves on the board of trustees of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government and also as Project Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project. The Hall of Fame is a joint project of NFOIC and SPJ. Previous inductees include Brian Sontag, a former State Auditor in Washington State, and Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

Join the Celebration of Global Legislative Openness Week

From September 15th to 25th, civil society groups and governments will kick start an international dialogue on open parliamentary practices. GLOW is organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership.

Although the US National Action Plans have focused solely on the executive branch, is working with the Sunlight Foundation, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and others to create a blueprint for how the next session of Congress can be more open and accountable. Sunlight’s groundbreaking 2007 Open House Project will provide the foundation for the plan. The project includes recommendations on opening up legislative data, improving the transparency of the Office of the Clerk, making Congressional Research Service reports available to the public, and much more.

Share your vision of a more open Congress with us on Twitter at @OpenTheGov and the hashtag #OpenParl2014.

Presidential Federal Records Act Amendments Pass Senate

The Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 sailed through the Senate on September 10th, passing by unanimous consent. The bill underwent some changes since its unanimous passage in the House in January. Those changes must be approved by the House before the bill heads to the President’s desk.

H.R. 1233 imposes a time limit in which a former president must assert any claim of privilege upon a determination of the Archivist to make available to the public a record of that former president. It also puts into place a process to manage records’ release when a claim of privilege is made. Currently, claims of privilege asserted by former presidents have been left to the discretion of incoming presidents and addressed through executive orders. In January, more than 20 groups joined in a letter supporting the legislation’s framework and urging the passage of the bill.

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