Policy and News Updates for July 14, 2009


News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. PIDB Continues to Take Public Comment on Classification Policies

II. IG Report Reveals Negative Impact of Secrecy

III. OpenTheGovernment.org Joins Effort to Include Whistleblower Protections in Health Care Reform Legislation
 

News from Coalition Partners & Others

 

OMB Watch Releases Report on Secrecy Labeling of Government Information

Last week OMB Watch released Controlled Unclassified Information: Recommendations for Information Control Reform. The report reviews the history of the federal bureaucracy’s unorganized and inconsistent labeling of "sensitive but unclassified" (SBU) information (also referred to as CUI – controlled unclassified information) and current efforts to increase information sharing by standardizing the use of labels on terrorism related information, and makes recommendations for the new administration to minimize the use of these labels while still safeguarding sensitive information.

 

Constitution Project, POGO, Team Up to Brief Staff, Public on Congressional Oversight Rights and Responsibilities

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and the Constitution Project have recently released handbooks that outline the relative powers of Congress and the executive branch in congressional oversight and why such authority is vital to our system of government. The two organizations brief Congressional staffers last week and on Thursday, July 16 will be marking their release with a panel discussion that is open to the public at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. More information about the public discussion is available here.

 

I. PIDB Continues to Take Public Comment on Classification Policies

Last week the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) held a public hearing at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to hear recommendations from the public on the review of Executive Order 12958, as amended, "Classified National Security Information." Before taking comments, PIDB members briefly reviewed comments received at the Declassification Policy Forum, a blog hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) that allows users to comment on four policy areas: declassification policy, creation of a National Declassification Center, classification policy, and technology challenges and opportunities. In response to concern expressed by OpenTheGovernment.org and others about the tight time frame originally planned for accepting comments (only three days per topic), the dates have been extended. Users have until July 19 to comment on any section of the blog; recommendations can also be emailed to pidb@nara.gov.

 

II. IG Report Reveals Negative Impact of Secrecy

Events surrounding the secret surveillance program launched by the Bush Administration in the wake of September 11th are instructive for explaining the negative impact excessive secrecy has on the government. The public reaction to the eventual revelation by the press of the program authorizing warrantless wiretaps shows how secrecy can undermine the public’s faith and trust in the government. Now, the newly released unclassified report on the program by the Inspectors General (IGs) of key intelligence agencies shows how excessive secrecy limited its efficacy; as noted by the CDT PolicyBlog, "First, intelligence personnel who could have used the intelligence reports generated under the program did not receive them because of secrecy concerns. Second, those who did receive reports often did not understand their value because important context was omitted for reasons of secrecy. Third, only one lawyer at the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel – John Yoo – was given the information about the program that was necessary to assess its lawfulness and constitutionality.

 

III. OpenTheGovernment.org Joins Effort to Include Whistleblower Protections in Health Care Reform Legislation

On July 6, OpenTheGovernment.org joined with several of our coalition partners in sending a letter to the chairmen of the House committees with primary jurisdiction over health care reform legislation asking they include strong protections for private sector healthcare workers who challenge fraud, waste, abuse, or violations of the standards and controls. The letter, organized by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), specifically requests they expand the scope of provisions in the discussion draft for narrower groups of workers such as employees of skilled nursing home facilities in the interest both of containing costs by reducing fraud and improving the safety and quality of patient care.

 

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