Excessive secrecy has long been a problem in the fields of national and homeland security because it limits information sharing and leaves us less safe as a nation. Both the 9/11 Commission and the congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 recommended reforms to reduce unnecessary secrets. OpenTheGovernment.org works with our partners, the Administration, and Congress to put policies in place that both protect constitutional rights and ensure national security by better protecting real secrets and improving information sharing.
Open the Government Applauds Requirement in Defense Bill Stipulating Better Reporting on Civilian Casualties Caused by U.S. Military Forces
Last week, the CIA announced that it was declassifying and releasing a new trove of documents from the government’s files on Osama bin Laden, ostensibly in the interest of transparency and public education.
So far, the Trump Administration has shown a willingness to accelerate the use of military force overseas, while continuing and sometimes expanding on the excessive secrecy of its predecessors. As the number of civilian casualties from U.S. strikes grows at a shocking pace, government transparency and Congressional oversight may be the surest way to advance accountability in U.S. use of military force.
Speaker Paul Ryan this week secretly removed a provision from the House version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have reinstated a degree of Congressional oversight on military engagement authorized by the White House.
Excessive secrecy has been a hallmark of the use of lethal force by the United States since the September 11th attacks, both in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in drone strikes and other operations outside areas of active hostilities. The Trump Administration has so far continued to reject transparency around military actions, in some ways further shrouding the military and the drone program in secrecy.
In a troubling rejection of transparency and accountability, the Trump administration has reportedly begun returning federal agency copies of the Senate Torture Report to Congress. At the request of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the CIA, the CIA Inspector General, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have all sent their copies to Congress.
After missing an important opportunity to demand greater transparency from the White House nominee picked to oversee the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), members of the Senate Judiciary Committee submitted questions for the record to get answers from Steven A. Engel on how he would approach disclosure policies as head of an office plagued with secrecy.
News broke Friday of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on an ISIS-held area in Syria, resulting in as many as 106 civilian casualties. The airstrikes came on the heels of the military’s confirmation that U.S.