Policy and News Updates for October 30, 2007

In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]

I. Senate Judiciary Committee receives documents, considers telecom immunity
II. Senate Judiciary Committee presses White House, nominee on torture
III. Progress for public access to publicly funded research


I. Senate Judiciary Committee receives documents, considers telecom immunity

Last week, the White House released documents to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy [D-VT] and ranking Republican Arlen Specter [R-PA] in hopes it might persuade the Committee to pass a broad rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA Amendments Act of 2007] with liability protection for telephone companies.


The Senate is considering giving immunity to telecommunications companies involved in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program. Some members of the Judiciary Committee refuse to consider immunity without seeing documents that would help explain the program first. Bush has threatened to veto the legislation unless it includes the immunity provision. The Senate Judiciary committee will hold a hearing on the surveillance legislation on Wednesday, October 31.

In August, Congress sent a bill to President Bush that made changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but the new law (PL 110-55) expires in February.

II. Senate Judiciary Committee presses White House, nominee on torture

The Senate Judiciary Committee is still waiting to receive documents from the White House and Department of Justice that may help define the Administration’s legal policy on torture and interrogation techniques for detainees. On October 25, Sen. Leahy renewed his request for documents in a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding. Earlier in the week, the White House provided Leahy with four previously undisclosed documents that addressed part of his request. However, the documents, one of which is classified, only address policies prior to the start of the tenure of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.


Also last week, Sen. Leahy released written questions and correspondence submitted for the record to Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey. The questions included probes on torture policy and the warrantless wiretapping program. Leahy also released a letter he sent to Mukasey asking the nominee to clarify answers he gave about claims of presidential powers to override the law in connection with the warrantless surveillance program and torture.

III. Progress for public access to publicly funded research

On October 23, the Senate approved the FY2008 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill (S. 1710), which included a provision that directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to strengthen its Public Access Policy by requiring, rather than requesting, participation by researchers. The bill will now be reconciled with the House Appropriations Bill, which contains a similar provision.


The provision insures that, under a mandatory policy, NIH-funded researchers will be required to deposit copies of eligible manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine’s online database, PubMed Central. No later than 12 months after publication, articles will be made publicly available in a peer-reviewed journal. This differs from the current NIH Public Access Policy, first implemented in 2005, which is a voluntary measure and has resulted in a deposit rate of less than 5% by individual investigators. Thanks you to those who took action and asked your Senators to support this bill!

You can also read another partner’s perspective on the issue.

News from Coalition Partners and Others

Care about Transparency in Government? Debate the Pros and Cons of Transparency in Government at Helium.com
Does governmental secrecy make us safer? Should government agencies be allowed to keep unclassified information secret? Issues raised by OpenTheGovernment.org can be debated live at Helium.com.

OpenTheGovernment.org has partnered with Helium, the leading Web 2.0 destination where people can speak their minds and consider opposing opinions. The partnership provides OpenTheGovernment.org members with an open and fair environment to debate any notable issue. Come state your mind and learn new perspectives! Join the debate now at www.Helium.com/partners/openthegovernment.

Good Government Coalition and Consumer Groups Support Whistleblower Rights / Product Safety Reform
Forty-two organizations signed a letter to Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to applaud the Committee’s leadership toward product safety reform by including whistleblower protection as a primary law enforcement safeguard in the (Consumer Product Safety Commission) CPSC Reform Act of 2007 (S. 2045).

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