A weakened version of the USA Freedom Act unanimously passed through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and reportedly was approved today by the House Permanent Committee on Intelligence—clearing the way for the bill to be debated on the House Floor. But the bill omits critical government reporting requirements included in the original USA FREEDOM Act as introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont).
OpenTheGovernment.org applauds the members and staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) for today’s bipartisan vote to begin declassification of the Committee’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. We urge the President to fulfill his promise to swiftly declassify the material that the committee has submitted for declassification review. In order for that review to be meaningful, the President must ensure that the CIA abandons its prior position that the details of individual detainees’ torture are classified “sources and methods,” and abandons any attempt to interfere with the committee’s oversight.
"We hope that today’s vote marks the first step towards declassification of the full SSCI report, and the beginning of the end of more than a decade of excessive secrecy about torture," said Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. "The American people have a right to know what their government does in their name."
The recent news that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ordered Verizon to turn over to the National Security Agency the mass collection of telephone call logs generated by millions of Verizon customers likely comes as a shock for many Americans. While officials within all three branches of our government signed off on or were briefed on the program, the public has been left completely in the dark about the scope and the extent of the government’s domestic spying.
The US met most of its 2011 commitments to make the government more open and accountable according to an unprecedented evaluation of the US’ efforts to implement its first National Action Plan. President Obama presented the US’s commitments at the launch of the Open Government Partnership on September 20, 2011.
While the Plan reflected many of the priorities of open government advocates, the specific commitments included in the plan do not put the US on a path to accomplish those goals quickly. According to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, “The Administration should be commended for taking good first, if often small, steps forward on a number of issues. Achieving the greater goal of transforming government to be open and accountable to the public, though, will require the proverbial giant leap.”
Transparency advocates with the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition recommend a list of federal government practices that should be “Out,” and what should be “In.” Despite an increased focus on open government by the Executive branch over the last few years, some of the federal government’s actions continue to hinder the public from having an informed understanding of what the government is doing and why.
Presidential Policy Directive Supports Whistleblowers, Good Sign for Open and Accountable Government
Yesterday the White House took a significant step towards fostering open and accountable government and fulfilling the promise of the Open Government Partnership by issuing a historic Presidential Policy Directive on Whistleblower Protections. The Open Government Partnership is an international effort to make more open, effective, and accountable.
To mark the anniversary of the release of the Open Government Partnership US National Action Plan, OpenTheGovernment.org and a team of organizations released a progress report on the steps the Administration’s implementation of the report.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2012— The 2012 Secrecy Report released today by OpenTheGovernment.org — a coalition of more than 80 groups advocating for open and accountable government— reveals that positive changes from the Obama administration’s open government policies nevertheless appear diminished in the shadow of the President’s bold promise of unprecedented transparency. Ultimately, though, the public needs more information to judge the size, shape, and legitimacy of the government’s secrecy.
WASHINGTON, February 23, 2012 – More than 30 organizations joined the National Security Archive and OpenTheGovernment.org in protesting the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) recent decision to charge the public outrageous fees for the opportunity to challenge secrecy claims. The fees, which can run requesters up to $72 per hour even if no information is found or released, effectively cut off access to a system that researchers, historians, public interest advocates and others have used successfully to challenge the CIA's extreme secrecy -- the Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) process.
WASHINGTON, September 20, 2011 - OpenTheGovernment.org welcomes the launch of the international Open Government Partnership and applauds President Obama and his Administration for committing to take a number of steps within the next year that will make the US federal government more open and accountable.