Policy and News Updates for May 1, 2007

Policy Updates

[new] Secret Senator halts transparency bill
At the end of April, an anonymous Senator placed a hold on S. 223, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. The bill would mandate the electronic disclosure of campaign finance reports by Senate candidates and party committees, just as all other federal candidates and party committees have done since 2001.

On April 17, Russ Feingold [D-WI] and Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] brought S.223 to the floor for a unanimous consent vote. When they asked if there was any objection Sen. Lamar Alexander [R-TN], filling in for the minority leadership, announced that he had an objection, indicating that some Senator in the Republican caucus had placed a secret hold on the disclosure bill. On April 26, Sen. Feingold and Sen. Feinstein brought S. 223 to the floor again. This time Sen. Jim Bunning [R-KY] announced an anonymous objection to the bill from the Republican side.

The Sunlight Foundation is asking people to call the offices of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY], who is said to know the identity of the holder, and other Republican Senators. Today, the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote an opinion piece criticizing Sen. McConnell.

TAKE ACTION to encourage the Senator to stop hiding in the dark. As Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] said in 2002 when he introduced a resolution to end secret holds, "It is the anonymous hold that is so odious to the basic premise of our democratic system: that the exercise of power always should be accompanied by public accountability."

[new] Developing an information sharing system that works
On April 26, the Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee held a hearing entitled "Over-Classification and Pseudo-Classification of Government Information: The Response of the Program Manager of the Information Sharing Environment". The witnesses included representatives from the federal and state levels.

The hearing focused on the creation of an Information Sharing Environment (ISE) to improve terrorism information sharing across the federal government and between foreign, federal, state and local governments, and key members of the private sector. ISE is charged with reviewing agencies’ sensitive but unclassified information (SBU) policies and issuing a centralized policy for all federal agencies. The SBU system "has grown haphazardly over the decades," according to Ambassador Thomas E. McNamara’s testimony. "Among the 20 departments and agencies we have surveyed, there are at least 107 unique markings and more than 131 different labeling or handling processes and procedures for SBU information. Even when SBU information carries the same label marking (e.g. For Official Use Only), storage and dissemination are inconsistent across Federal agencies and departments."

Ambassador McNamara is leading an interagency SBU Working Group to propose a new framework for sensitive but unclassified information. The new system would establish a Controlled Unclassifed Information (CUI) Framework to replace SBU, creating policies and standards for marking, safeguarding, and disseminating CUI. The proposal is outlined in Ambassador McNamara’s testimony.

The new CUI framework is being developed in response to a Memorandum issued by the President on December 16, 2005 on the "Guidelines and Requirements in Support of the Information Sharing Environment," as required by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

News from Coalition Partners and Others


Whistleblower Week
Fifty organizations have scheduled the first ever "Whistleblower Week in Washington" for May 13- 19, 2007. The event includes meetings, workshops, dinners, awards ceremonies and a Congressional tribunal.

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