Policy and News Updates for April 8, 2008


In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]

I. Sunshine Week Wrap-up: Veotag Webcast
II. PIDB Remarks
III. Legislative Update: CRS Reports
News from Coalition Partners & Others

 

I. Sunshine Week Wrap-up: Veotag Webcast

The webcast for "Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know" is now available in a second format online: veotagged. Veotags enable viewers to see a table of contents of sorts for an online video file, analogous to the scene-selection feature on a DVD. The veotagged webcast is available here — indexed by panels, comments, and questions; this also enables it to be identified in Google searches.

We welcome input from viewers of the webcast. If you have not yet seen the webcast, you can view it from our website here or from the Veotag page here; also, we are keeping our Legislation and Resources (books/articles) pages available to help people learn more about the issues and current events.

 

II. PIDB Remarks

As part of Sunshine Week, OpenTheGovernment.org coalition director Patrice McDermott was invited to address the Public Interest Declassification Board as part of its efforts to hear public interest responses to its recommendations for improving the system and process of national security declassification contained in "Improving Declassification". The report recommends strategies to improve the ability of government agencies and actors to identify and process classified information and records more accurately, efficiently, and transparently, balancing concerns such as national security with democratic rights and objectives such as public access to government-related information. For the full text of the remarks, click here.

 

III. Legislative Update: CRS Reports

According to CongressDaily, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA; chair of the Senate Rules Committee) is promoting a compromise for public access to CRS reports. Senator Feinstein’s compromise, based on the House system, would let members choose whether to make reports public. Last year, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT; chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee) introduced a resolution to make CRS reports available to the public (see our January 2, 2008 Update). S. Res. 401 directs the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate and the director of the Congressional Research Service to make CRS reports available to the public (with a few targeted exceptions) within six months on a centralized electronic system. Staff from the two committees are "in the ‘early stage’ of discussions."

Reports from CRS are already available to congressional staff and to private vendors; many reports are available online at OpenCRS.com (a project of OpenTheGovernment.org coalition partner the Center for Democracy and Technology) and at other unofficial distribution sites. John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation also flags a potential constitutional issue involving the Speech or Debate Clause, at the Open House Project.

News from Coalition Partners & Others

Sunlight Foundation Announces New Project: PublicMarkup.org

On March 31, the Sunlight Foundation announced the launch of a new site, PublicMarkup.org, where members of the public are able to mark up transparency legislation, entitled "The Transparency in Government Act of 2008." Within a week, it has received over eighty comments and sparked a variety of discussions; you can also read more about it at the Open House Project.

 

Oversight Advocate Cites Value of Whistleblowers in Warrantless Wiretapping Debate

Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project connects the dots from warrantless wiretapping and the Constitution to whistleblowing and Congress in "The Biggest Threat to Freedom". Devine explains how Babak Pasdar, a nationally-recognized computer security expert, had been hired by a telecommunications provider, only to discover a "Quantico Circuit," whose existence he was then instructed to ignore (see also FBI Data Transfers Via Telecoms Questioned, in the April 8 Washington Post, and our letter to members of the House).

 

 

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