In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Groups to Senate Intel: Release Text of NSA Surveillance Program Proposal
II. Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) Must be More Transparent and Accountable
Executive Director Patrice McDermott moderated a panel at the Collaboration on Government Secrecy’s annual Right to Know Day celebration on September 27th. The panel featured an overview of the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) impact and the outlook for groups engaging with the US government for the second National Action Plan. Representatives from the Center for Effective Government and the National Security Archive also shared their insights on transparency worldwide and the US' participation in the OGP. Keep an eye on the Collaboration on Government Secrecy's website for video of the event.
The weekend of October 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the PATRIOT Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Stopwatching.us Coalition will host a weekend of grassroots training and rallying to petition Congress for an end to mass surveillance. Learn more about the event here.
Yesterday afternoon 26 organizations joined OpenTheGovernment.org in sending a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to urge them to make the text of their proposal to address the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance programs available to the public before marking it up. As described in the letter, the process to pass a bill that adequately protects American's privacy and civil liberties must be as open and transparent as possible. The public has a right to know and must be given the opportunity to fully understand what changes Congress intends to make to the law, particularly when such important values are at stake. Making the text of the legislation available to the public before the mark-up will help make sure that there is a more robust debate about the proposal and a better understanding of the law. Download the letter here.
Several partners and allies joined OpenTheGovernmnet.org in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urging him to adopt policies that would increase transparency and accountability at the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), the office tasked, in part, with granting civil society organizations licenses so that they are able to provide services to civilians in conflict zones around the world without running afoul of U.S. sanctions law. Currently, many civil society organizations working in conflict zones where terrorist groups operate, such as Somalia, Syria or Mali, have complained that OFAC takes months, or even years to issue a response to license requests, and often denies them based on arbitrary reasoning. In some cases charities cannot obtain the name and contact information for the OFAC official processing their request.
The letter specifically encourages Treasury to adopt transparency and accountability measures recently suggested by the Charity and Security Network. If adopted, the standards for approving licenses for humanitarian assistance and peace-building projects must be clearly defined and easily available to the public, and all licensing determinations describing the scope of approved work would be publicly available. Applicants would also be provided with the name and contact information for the OFAC official responsible for processing the application. Additionally, Treasury would provide Congress with an annual report concerning OFAC’s administration of license regulations.
Download the letter here.