Policy and News Updates for July 28, 2006



Policy Updates








[new] House hearing looks toward improving FOIA
On Wednesday, July 26, the Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance, and Accountability of the House Government Reform Committee held a hearing titled, "Implementing FOIA – Does the Bush Administration’s Executive Order Improve Processing?". Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, testified at the hearing, offering insight gained from our recent report, "FOIA’s 40th Anniversary: Agencies Respond to the President’s Call for Improved Disclosure of Information" and encouraging support for pending FOIA legislation in the House and Senate.
Sources: Read Patrice McDermott’s testimony [OpenTheGovernment.org]; Testimony of other witnesses [House Government Reform Committee]; FOIA’s 40th Anniversary: Agencies Respond to the President’s Call for Improved Disclosure of Information [OpenTheGovernment.org report]; Open Government Act: S. 394 and H.R. 867 [Thomas]
Action: Send a letter to support the Open Government Act

[new] Court rejects state secrets claim
A federal judge ruled against the government’s "state secrets" claim in a case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against AT&T alleging illegal wiretapping. The state secrets privilege allows the government to withhold documents on the grounds of national security, often leading to the dismissal of court cases. In this case, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that because information about the program was already public, there was no reason to dismiss the case.
Sources: More information about the case from EFF, an OpenTheGovernment.org coalition partner.

[updated] Congress’s "compromise" on unwarranted spying
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on July 26 called "Time Change- FISA for the 21st Century," on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the NSA spying program. Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) presided over the heated hearing, which featured discussion of Specter’s compromise bill (S. 2453) on warantless spying. S. 2453 would give the President the option of using electronic surveillance without a court order.
Status: The Judiciary Committee approved S.2453 on June 8.
Sources: Notice of hearing and testimony; S.2453 [EFF]; Surveillance We Can Live With, by Arlen Specter [Washington Post]; Administration and Critics, in Senate Testimony, Clash Over Eavesdropping Compromise [New York Times]

News from Coalition Partners and Others

CDT Launches Tech Policy Blog
CDT recently launched PolicyBeta, "a new blog dedicated to expanding the dialogue about technology policy, civil liberties and preserving democratic values in the digital age."