Policy and News Updates for November 29, 2005

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Policy Updates








[updated] Proposed agency would be exempt from oversight laws
The proposed Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) would be charged with developing drug technologies and vaccines to respond to natural outbreaks and bioterrorism. In an unprecedented move, BARDA would be exempt from Freedom of Information (FOI) laws and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).
Status: Introduced on October 17 and reported out of Committee on October 24.
Sources: S.1873; CJOG (3rd item); POGO’s blog; Secrecy News 10/26

[updated] Whistleblower protections stalled in Congress
Earlier this year, House and Senate committees approved legislation (S. 494 and H.R. 1317) to protect whistleblowers. The legislation will restore the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (WPA), strengthening the free speech rights of whistleblowers and assuring many other protections. S. 494 and H.R. 1317 are being held up as congressional leadership and Department of Justice lawyers continue negotiations.
Status: S. 494 and H.R. 1317 passed through committee and are awaiting an "up or down" vote.
Sources: S.494; H.R. 1317 ; Government Accountability Project
Alert: Free the Whistleblower Protection Act!

[updated] PATRIOT Act: Reauthorization vote delayed
Select House and Senate members have been silent since Sen. Specter blocked an agreement before Thanksgiving that would have reauthorized controversial provisions for 7 years. Specter is seeking to reduce the sunsets to 4 years. The reauthorization vote will take place in mid December. The House passed a bill, H.R. 3199, on July 21 to indefinitely extend the PATRIOT Act. The bill renews 14 of the 16 provisions set to expire at the end of this year. The other two provisions, sections 206 and 215, were extended for 10 years. The Senate bill, S. 1389, extends the wiretap and library provisions for four-years.
Status: The reauthorization vote will take place in mid December.
Sources: H.R. 3199; S. 1389; Bill of Rights Defense Committee summary;
Alert: What can I do?; Protect libraries and booksellers from Sec. 215 of the PATRIOT Act.




News from Coalition Partners and Others

CJOG publishes new study
The Coalition of Journalists for Open Government (CJOG) published a new study (pdf) documenting the decrease in information released from agencies through the Freedom of Information Act.