Groups Take on Domestic Spying – June 11, 2013 Newsletter

In This Issue:
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Groups Take on Domestic Spying
II. Farm Bill Passes without Dangerous FOIA Provision

News from Coalition Partners & Others

POGO Exposes Disclosure of Classified Information by Defense Secretary Panetta

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) obtained an unreleased draft report from the Department of Defense’s Inspector General’s office that revealed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed top secret information at an event attended by a Hollywood Executive connected to the Bin Laden-raid film Zero Dark Thirty. POGO discusses the double standard of national security disclosures here.

Sunlight Foundation Creates a Spreadsheet of Transparency Groups Around the World

Who is working on transparency issues? And where? The Sunlight Foundation has made the answers to these questions far easier to find with a spreadsheet of open government and transparency groups. Is your organization missing? Let them know.

Good Jobs First Holds Big Cities and Counties Accountable on Job Subsidies

A report from Good Jobs First, “Show Us the Subsidies” found that most economic development subsidy programs run by the United States’ largest cities and counties poorly practice online transparency. Two-thirds of the programs do not use the web to report on companies receiving subsidies. Those who do often fail to disclose the monetary value.

I. Groups Take on Domestic Spying

In a statement regarding the leak of an order signed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) compelling Verizon to turn over a mass collection of telephone call logs to the National Security Agency, we noted that the news likely was a shock for many Americans. While officials within all three branches of our government signed off, or were briefed, on the program, the public has been left completely in the dark about the scope and the extent of the government’s domestic surveillance. Read what our partners are saying about the NSA's data collection, and the secrecy surrounding the programs below.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, already leading the charge in court to bring surveillance information to the public, has a thorough overview of what is known and unknown about domestic spying, and what EFF is doing about it.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) pushed for oversight mechanisms while anticipating the renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last year. EPIC has collated its extensive work on the PATRIOT Act and FISA here.

The Government Accountability Project (GAP), which defends NSA whistleblowers William Binney, Thomas Drake, and J. Kirk Wiebe, discussed how the revelation is a vindication for whistleblowers.

The American Library Association raised concerns about the use of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, popularly known as the “Library Provision” because of concerns that the provision could be used to obtain library users’ reading records and other personal information. Read their take here.

II. Farm Bill Passes without Dangerous FOIA Provision

Yesterday, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill without a dangerous provision that would have completely cut off public access to information about the location of livestock operations. As wrote about in our last Update, action by the open government community helped keep a series of amendments authored by Senators Grassley and Donnelly from being offered during the Committee's mark-up of the bill. The proposed amendments would have prevented the public from accessing information relating to owners and operators of livestock operations, regardless of the public interest at stake in disclosure, and — though described as an effort to "protect personal privacy" by its supporters — would have permitted even the information of law-breaking large corporate operations to be kept from public view in addition to the information of individuals and families.

Prior to the debate of the Farm Bill by the full Senate, we and several of our partners worked with Senator Cardin to develop an alternative amendment to the Grassley — Donnelly proposal that would have reaffirmed existing privacy protections and preserved the Freedom of Information Act's (FOIA) balanced approach to releasing information that is in the public interest. None of the amendments were included in the package of amendments that were voted on by the full Senate.

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