Policy and News Updates for April 17, 2007

Policy Updates

[new] Intelligence bill held up in Senate

On April 16, the Senate failed to achieve cloture on the FY2007 Intelligence Authorization Act (S. 372), leaving the bill open for amendment in the Senate. Several Republicans, led by Sen. Jim DeMint [R-SC], blocked the bill from moving forward.

S. 372 would authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2007 for the intelligence and
intelligence-related activities of the United States Government. The bill would also update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and require public disclosure of the total intelligence budget figure.

After a debate yesterday, the Senate failed to invoke cloture and the bill was scheduled for Senate floor consideration and debate today, April 17. More information about the bill is available from Thomas here.

The Office of Management and Budget
(OMB) released a Statement of Administration Policy on April 12 which threatens a veto of the bill.

In the 109th Congress, the House passed fiscal 2007 intelligence authorization bill on April 27, 2006, and the Senate Select Intelligence Committee approved a companion measure on May 23, 2006, but it was never brought to the Senate floor. Money for the 2007 intelligence budget was already appropriated last year through the defense spending bill.

[new] Missing White House emails raise concerns

White House officials apparently used outside email accounts for official business and many of those emails have been deleted, new reports show. Roughly 50 White House officials, including 22 current aides, used e-mail accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee (RNC) rather than their official White House email addresses to send and receive messages. Many of these emails are now missing, likely in part due to an old RNC policy to automatically delete all email every 30 days. According to a new report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the Executive Office of the President (EOP) has lost over five million emails generated between March 2003 and October 2005.

In a press briefing on April 12, deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino claimed that the White House was using outside email to avoid violating the Hatch Act, which restricts the political activity of executive branch employees of the federal government. Although the Bush administration has not made its email policy public, a confidential source provided CREW with a 2002 document indicating that “non-EOP messaging-enabled mechanisms should not be used for official business.” In addition to this policy, the Presidential Records Act establishes public ownership of Presidential records, including official emails.

Following briefings from the White House and the RNC that revealed that an
extensive volume of e-mails regarding official government business may have been destroyed by the RNC,
Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Rep. Henry Waxman [D-CA] wrote letters to government agencies asking that they preserve e-mails received from or sent to non-governmental e-mail accounts used by White House staffers. The Committee also requests that government agencies provide an inventory of all e-mails involving these accounts. The Committee provides examples of emails showing the use of non-governmental accounts for official business.

On April 12, CREW released a report,
WITHOUT A TRACE: The Missing White House Emails and the Violations of the Presidential Records Act, in which CREW exposed, through confidential sources, both the missing five million emails and the fact that the White House counsel’s office was advised of the email problems in 2005.

The White House said Saturday it would cooperate with the US Senate Judiciary Committee
in choosing an independent consultant to recover lost administration emails wanted in regards to the Senate’s US Attorney firing probe.

News from Coalition Partners and Others

New Open Government Calendar
OpenTheGovernment.org has a new calendar on our website. The calendar includes hearings, meetings, and events related to open government. If you would like to add an event, you are welcome to submit a description to us.

National Security Archive Director Featured on Fox News Sunday
National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton was featured on Fox News Sunday on April 15 as “Power Player of the Week”. Blanton discussed many secret documents that have been made available to the National Security Archive by FOIA request. Find out more here.

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