Openness on Cyber Bill would be “Inconvenient” – April 16, 2013 Newsletter

In This Issue:
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. House Intel Committee Says Openness on Cyber would be Inconvenient
II. Deep Dives into the US' National Action Plan Implementation

News from Coalition Partners & Others

Partners Support Funding for Records Preservation

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and Special Libraries Association (SLA) submitted written testimony to the House committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch in support of appropriations for the Government Printing Office and Library of Congress. The Government Printing Office is asking for an increase to grow its digital systems. The Library of Congress is asking for an increase reflecting inflation to allow the library to maintain mission-critical services.

Partners' Dig In on the President's 2014 Budget

National Priorities Project
These budget experts break it down simply—take in the “Top 5 Things to Know About President Obama’s 2014 Budget.” If you’re new to the budget process, NPP also has a handy timeline of events. While you’re exploring their site, be sure to take a look at where exactly your taxes went in 2012.

Taxpayers for Common Sense
TCS presents a comprehensive analysis of the budget request, tackling Department of Agriculture initiatives, nuclear weapons, food aid, and more. There’s even a Dr. Seuss reference to lighten the mood.

Project on Government Oversight
POGO also breaks down defense spending in rolling budget analysis on their blog. How much is budgeted for Government Accountability Office? Will the Office of Special Counsel, tasked with providing safe channels for whistleblowers, get the funds it needs? Answers to that and much more can be found here.

Center for Effective Government
How do American’s views on spending compare to the budget proposal? The Center for Effective Government puts the two side by side for comparison. For more information on spending cuts under the sequester, visit CEG’s “Sequestration Central” for news clips, analysis, background, and more.

Center for American Progress
CAP takes a
look at the 2014 budget in the context of deficit reduction and new spending cuts.

I. House Intel Committee Says Openness on Cyber would be Inconvenient

On Wednesday April 10, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence amended the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), HR 624, and passed the bill out of the Committee. Unfortunately no one outside the Committee members and their staff know exactly what was discussed during the session (known as a "markup" in DC terms) because it was done completely behind closed doors.

Prior to the mark up and several of our partners joined in an effort to urge the Committee to open the markup. An open markup would have allowed the public to know how Congress is conducting the people’s business. When the Committee was questioned about its decision to close the markup, however, the response was – essentially – it would be too inconvenient to hold an open markup. The Committee did, however, post the text of all of the amendments and the vote tallies the following day.

CISPA is scheduled to go to the floor of the House for a vote this week. Thus far left unaddressed by any amendments to the bill is the provision that blows a gaping hole through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As many of you likely know, in the interest of encouraging companies to share cyber threat information with the federal government, the bill exempts all such information from FOIA and public access. The Committee did add language to the bill that clarifies any information companies are required to make public under other laws would not be withheld under this provision, but this change does nothing to limit the wide scope of the information exempted by the provision, or make sure that the public has access to the information it needs to determine if the government has acted appropriately to protect our cyber systems. Further, it is unclear why such a provision is even necessary, given that most of the truly sensitive information companies are likely to share with the government is already protected under FOIA.

Want to get involved? Visit our Action Center to urge your Member to support a bill that a bill that protects our cyber systems and openness and accountability.

II. Deep Dives into the US' National Action Plan Implementation

As regular readers may remember, on March 11 we released an evaluation of the Administration's efforts to meet the 26 concrete commitments in the US' National Action Plan. The evaluation process included input from a broad range of volunteers at civil society organizations with a stake in the US government becoming more open. Overall our evaluation found that the government met the letter of most of its commitments, but the government's efforts could more correctly be labeled as "first steps" toward larger openness goals. Last week we launched an effort to give readers a better sense of why we came to this conclusion by taking a deeper dive into the parts of the report. Below are links to the series thus far, we hope you will check back to see more in the coming weeks.

  • A Deep Dive in the US' National Action Plan: Setting Milestones and Standards – Many of the commitments in the first National Action Plan were vague, long-finished, or unevenly and incompletely implemented across agencies. As the administration gears up to create the next National Action Plan, how can we better ensure civil society and the White House’s ability to hold agencies accountable?
  • A Deep Dive in the US' National Action Plan: Open Government Plans – The government's self-evaluation and our civil society evaluation differed on whether this commitment was "met" (the government says "yes," we say "no"). Why the Administration should not do open government out of public view.
  • A Deep Dive in the US' National Action Plan: Professionalize FOIA – The Administration "met" its commitment when the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a new job series intended to promote professionalization. The job series will not have much of an impact, though, if agencies do not use it in a way that attracts and retains good employees. What are agencies doing with the job series? Early indicators say, "not much."

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