Reducing Secrecy

House Passes Hollowed-Out Version of USA FREEDOM Act

Last week, OpenTheGovernment.org and thirteen other organizations wrote to the House leadership and asked them to restore the government transparency provisions of the original USA FREEDOM Act in order to “to verify that the NSA actually ends bulk collection instead of finding new loopholes to exploit.” Instead, House leadership engaged in closed-door negotiations with the intelligence community, and introduced new loopholes into the bill’s priv

Statement on SSCI Vote for Declassification of Torture Report

OpenTheGovernment.org applauds the members and staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) for today’s bipartisan vote to begin declassification of the Committee’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. We urge the President to fulfill his promise to swiftly declassify the material that the committee has submitted for declassification review. In order for that review to be meaningful, the President must ensure that the CIA abandons its prior position that the details of individual detainees’ torture are classified “sources and methods,” and abandons any attempt to interfere with the committee’s oversight.

"We hope that today’s vote marks the first step towards declassification of the full SSCI report, and the beginning of the end of more than a decade of excessive secrecy about torture," said Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. "The American people have a right to know what their government does in their name."

OpenTheGovernment.org Adds National Security Fellow

OTG welcomes Katherine Hawkins to the OTG staff as a National Security Fellow. Katherine previously worked as a fellow in the office of Senator Edward Markey and an investigator with the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment. She will be tackling a wide range of openness issues, including surveillance transparency and secret law.

Privacy Board Makes a Strong Case for Transparency, Against Secret Law

Please see OpenTheGovernment.org's statement on the PCLOB Report here

We applaud the strong transparency recommendations from the PCLOB in its January 23, 2014 Report.  The Board took an important and clearly stated stand for the public’s right to know the legal interpretations and authorities that inform domestic data collection programs by the intelligence community.  Early on, the board notes the critical balancing act the intelligence community must perform in its duties to protect the public without keeping it in the dark: “both openness and secrecy are vital to our survival, and we must strive to develop and implement intelligence programs in ways that serve both values.”

Curbing National Security Excesses Requires Transparency

Statement of Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org on the President's Speech on NSA Reforms:

"During the speech, President Obama made an important admission regarding how the terrorist attacks of 9/11 drove the government to take some actions that are at odds with our core values. In particular, President Obama called out the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that many equate with torture. Rightly, President Obama points to actions by the courts and increased congressional oversight to right some of the government's excesses before he took office; what he fails to note though is how important his decision to declassify and release the memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) authorizing the techniques was to improving public understanding of the issues and restoring the public's trust in the government.

Throughout the speech, President Obama referenced the need for public debate about the NSA's surveillance programs, and he admitted that it is not enough for leaders to say, 'Trust us. We won't abuse the data we collect.' It should be obvious, however, that public debate is only useful if the public has an informed understanding about the scope and legality of these programs. And in the absence of access to information detailing the scope and the legal interpretations of the programs, the public has no way to ask good questions and trust in the government will not be strengthened.

We continue to support the important reforms included in the USA Freedom Act and we join with the President's Review Group in calling for fuller transparency for accountability to the public."