Policy and News Update for September 18, 2012

In This Issue:
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Controversial Secrecy Bills Await Returning Congress
NEW: Coalition Jobs

Join the 2012 Secrecy Report's contributors for a twitter chat TODAY (Tuesday, Sept 18) from 4 – 5 eastern – follow #secrecy12 to participate!


News from Coalition Partners & Others

Government Accountability Project Launches Petition to Pass the WPEA

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) has created a petition to pass the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S.743, H.R. 3289). As Congress works out the differences between the two versions of the bill, GAP is pressing for strong protections to close the loopholes the render whistleblowers vulnerable.

Partners to Hold Forum on Access to Government Scientific Information

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy and the First Amendment Center will host a half-day symposium on September 25th, 2012 to identify and advocate for improved access to governmental scientific information; registration closes today (September 18th). On September 19th, UCS will host a webinar on the attacks on FOIA and consequences of limited access to information.

Florida First Amendment Foundation to Hold Sunshine Litigation Seminars

On October 12, 2012 the Florida First Amendment Foundation will hold a seminar for lawyers and non-lawyers alike on Florida sunshine law, public records law, and sunshine litigation basics. FFAF is also holding general Sunshine seminars across the state throughout September and October.

I. Controversial Secrecy Bills Await Congress

Congress returned from summer recess last week with a few controversial secrecy bills awaiting action in one or both houses.

The House wasted no time before voting to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act for five years by a vote of 301-118. FISA generally authorizes the electronic surveillance of non-U.S. persons without judicial authorization or probable cause. Among other troubling provisions, privacy and civil liberties advocates are particularly concerned that the bill does not expressly prohibit the surveillance of American citizens without a warrant (the bill prohibits only "intentional" targeting of US persons). The likelihood of the Senate passing the bill is complicated by opposition by Senator Wyden (D-OD), who placed a hold on a similar bill in an effort to compel the Administration to reveal the current scale of government interception of U.S. communications — something the Administration claims it cannot do.

See our Secrecy Report for the most recent numbers on FISA applications presented and approved by the FISA Court.

In the Senate, the full chamber is expected to vote fairly soon on the "anti-leaks" package of provisions as part of the 2013 Intelligence Authorization bill. The controversial anti-openness measures were hurriedly added to the Senate's version of the annual authorization bill in the wake of several high-profile leaks of national security information. There is no reason the package must be passed now. We continue to urge Congress to strip the provisions from the 2013 Intelligence Authorization bill so that they can craft a proposal that calibrates both our democracy's need for a free press and informed public and our responsibilities to national security with maximal public input, and fully debate the measure.

Coalition Jobs

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