Policy and News Update for July 24, 2012

In This Issue:

News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Open Government Partnership Civil Society Baseline Survey Open Till August 5
II. New Cybersecurity Proposal Moving in Senate

News from Coalition Partners & Others


Understanding Government launches the Government in My Backyard Project

Understanding Government debuted the Government in My Backyard (GIMBY) platform on July 17th. The nonpartisan project provides interactive tools for citizens to track public monies, federal agency activity, and political news based on their locations of interest.

Special Libraries Association Hosts Annual Conference

The Special Libraries Association held its annual conference in Chicago, Illinois from July 15 – 18. During the event, OpenTheGovernment.org Executive Director Patrice McDermott spoke at a special session entitled “The WikiLeaks Controversy.” The session addressed the impact of the scandal on classification issues, information policy, and information ethics.

First Amendment Center Releases “State of the First Amendment: 2012”

The First Amendment Center published its annual survey on July 17th. This year’s report included the standard questions about press freedom and the role of the media as a government watchdog, but also added questions regarding surveillance, internet censorship, and campaign finance.

Partners Call for More Disclosure of Insurance Campaign Contributions

Led by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), coalition partners the Government Accountability Project, OMB Watch, Sunlight Foundation, and US PIRG sent letters to the Security and Exchange Commission and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners calling for insurers to disclose all political spending.

I. Open Government Partnership Civil Society Baseline Survey Open Till August 5

The fairly-recently appointed Civil Society Coordinator for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) has launched a survey to get a baseline assessment of the perceptions and experiences of civil society organizations that are connected to their nation's OGP effort, and to learn how to improve communications around the OGP.

As you may know, the OGP is multinational initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Countries that elect to participate in the OGP, including the US, must deliver a concrete National Action Plan (NAP), developed with public consultation and feedback and commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward.

For over a year, OpenTheGovernment.org has worked to coordinate and facilitate civil society organization's efforts to influence the creation and implementation of the US NAP. We've set up teams of advocates to work with the Administration on meeting each of the commitments in the NAP, and will be releasing an assessment of the Obama Administration's efforts to execute the plan in early 2013. You can catch up on and follow these efforts here.


II. New Cybersecurity Proposal Moving in Senate

Sometime this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday, the Senate is expected to take up a new version of Senator Lieberman's cybersecurity proposal. While some provisions of the new bill are improvements over the language in the original proposal, S.2105, we remain concerned that the bill still includes unnecessary, overbroad and unwise limitations to access of information.

A previous letter OpenTheGovernment.org and several of our partners sent to Senator Lieberman and his co-sponsors on S.2105 expressed concerns about a provision that exempts over-broadly defined "critical infrastructure information" from disclosure under FOIA, and the impact the provision could have on whistleblower protections. The new version of the bill, S.3414, includes a much narrower definition, scope and limitation of covered "critical infrastructure information," and preserves existing whistleblower protections.

Virtually unchanged from the original bill is a provision that summarily cuts off all public access to any information that the private sector shares with the federal government through the new cybersecurity exchanges created under the bill. This language, which has been included to encourage companies to share what could be sensitive information, ignores that there are existing protections for sensitive business and security information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Furthermore, we continue to say it is bad policy to exempt information from public disclosure before Congress or the public have any idea about the scope and type of information that may be shared is bad policy, and could make it impossible for the public to understand whether the government is taking appropriate steps to protect our nation's cyber-connected infrastructure.






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