Policy and News Updates for June 29, 2006



Policy Updates







[new] Senate moves to protect whistleblowers
The Senate moved to protect whistleblowers last week, strengthening the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 with the Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act (S.494). This bill will improve protections for federal government employees who expose corruption or wrongdoing. The House has passed two bills, H.R . 1317 and H.R. 5112, which together offer additional protections, including jury trials and protections for national security whistleblowers and government contractors.
Status: On June 22, The Senate agreed to S. 494 by unanimous consent (96-0), as an amendment to the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act. Next, a conference committee will consider the defense bills of both chambers, even though the House version did not take up whistleblower rights.
Sources: S. 494; H.R. 1317; GAP’s press release
Action: Ask the House to schedule votes on whistleblower protection legislation! Take Action Now!

[new] Government secretly collecting financial records, New York Times reveals
On June 23, the New York Times revealed that since the 9/11 attacks, the government has been collecting information on the banking habits of thousands of Americans. The Treasury Department is gathering this information from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) without court-approved warrants or subpoenas. The White House asked the New York Times not to publish the story due to its sensitive nature, and has since criticized the paper for compromising national security. The House is likely to vote on a resolution this week that denounces the leaks and the New York Times’ decision to publish the information.
Status: The House is expected to take up the Republican resolution this week. Democrats are proposing a different resolution that expresses support for the program but does not criticize the media. SWIFT has not indicated any intention to stop cooperating with the administration.
Sources: Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror [New York Times]; Government Secretly Examining Financial Transactions[OMB Watcher]; GOP Measure Slams NYT for Bank Story[Roll Call- subscription required]

News from Coalition Partners and Others

New report on congressional oversight
The Center for American Progress published a report called "No Mere Oversight: Congressional Oversight of Intelligence is Broken"[pdf]. The report looks at the history of intelligence oversight and the need for it today. In a June 14 letter to Congress, the Government Accountability Office wrote that it will not attempt to conduct oversight of intelligence unless Congressional intelligence committees specifically require it. Find out more from the Secrecy News blog.



Groups ask Congress to remove logic puzzles
A bi-partisan coalition of groups sent a letter to Congress on June 19 on the use of logic puzzles. As we reported in the last Policy and News Updates (June 16), earlier this month groups learned that the House of Representatives introduced logic puzzles, a new web feature which requires users to complete a simple math problem before an email can be sent to the Representative. See the group letter to Congress here.