Politically Diverse Organizations Call for Reforms to Reduce Government Secrecy Following Nunes Memo

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Letter Sent to Congress Calls for Action to make Government Surveillance Less Secretive and More Accountable to Voters

WASHINGTON – Organizations across the political spectrum called on Congress today to adopt key measures to reduce secrecy and create more accountability in government. A joint letter was sent to Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, recommending meaningful reforms to our intelligence services that would further protect civil liberties and privacy rights.

While setting aside whether the release of the Nunes memo was the correct decision, the controversy offers an opportunity to discuss how to improve oversight of intelligence collection, as well as provide concrete solutions that would help solve problems.

“Rather than espouse the virtues of transparency and accountability only when it serves political purposes, Congress must use this opportunity to provide real reform of Congressional oversight of government surveillance programs,” said Open the Government Executive Director Lisa Rosenberg. “We need to square the circle to bring intellectual consistency, so tangible actions taken by Congress are in line with political rhetoric.”

“Notwithstanding the Nunes memo, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has enabled real and systematic violations of Americans’ privacy rights,” said Public Citizen’s Robert Weissman. “Unfortunately, Congress – including many Members now shedding crocodile tears over purported abuses -- chose earlier this year to reauthorize Section 702 without meaningful reforms. The least the House of Representatives can do now is adopt modest measures to improve House oversight of intelligence operations.”

"The recent reauthorization of FISA was already bad policy that further erodes Americans' Fourth Amendment rights,” said Jason Pye of FreedomWorks, “But the majority memo highlighting alleged political bias shows that the reauthorization of the law was also an act of legislative malpractice. HPSCI has a responsibility to bring as much transparency as possible to this process and to perform its oversight role over the intelligence community, which it appears, to this point, that they have failed to do."

The following are the organizations that signed onto the letter: American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Campaign for Liberty, Constitutional Alliance, Defending Rights and Dissent, Demand Progress Action, Electronic Frontier Foundation, First Amendment Coalition, EPIC, FreedomWorks, Government Accountability Project, Government Information Watch, National Security Archive, Open the Government, People for the American Way, Project On Government Oversight and The Constitution Project, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation, Tully Center for Free Speech and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.

Open the Government is an inclusive, nonpartisan coalition that works to strengthen our democracy and empower the public by advancing policies that create a more open, accountable, and responsive government.

READ FULL LETTER

###