The lame duck session of the 113th Congress has already acted on one open government priority-- sending a bill to the President for signature that will help speed up the release of historical White House Records -- and leaders in the Senate have taken steps to push forward legislation to reform the National Surveillance Agency's (NSA) surveillance programs and to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) invited the public to submit comments on its future research agenda. OpenTheGovernment.org and several partners submitted comments.
Four Members of Congress join OpenTheGovernment.org and Other Groups In Seeking End to Secret Legal Interpretations of Executive Order 12333
OpenTheGovernment.org, four members of Congress, and over forty other civil society organizations wrote to President Obama and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) asking for a thorough investigation of the NSA’s surveillance under Executive Order 12333. The letter, organized by Access, states in part:
The USA Freedom Act passed by the House was largely stripped of transparency provisions and meaningful privacy protections. The bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy greatly improves on that bill, including essential reporting requirements and responding to many privacy concerns. Twenty groups joined OTG’s letter supporting the Leahy’s transparency improvements.
The following is cross-posted from The Classified Section, OpenTheGovernment.org's new blog on national security secrecy.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released some statistics on its use of surveillance authorities, fulfilling a promise made last August 30 and reiterated in the White House’s Open Government National Action Plan in December. (They are also essentially the same statistics that the House-passed version of the USA FREEDOM Act requires the DNI to publish—a sign of the extent to which the intelligence community rewrote that bill before it passed the House.)
Twenty-six groups joined the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to urge President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to not renew the Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata Program.
OpenTheGovernment.org and a large coalition of civil society groups wrote yesterday in a letter to the United States Senate that “unless the version of the USA FREEDOM Act that the Senate considers contains substantial improvements over the House-passed version, we will be forced to oppose the bill.”
Now that the House has passed its version of a bill to reform our nation’s surveillance programs, OTG and our partners will be working to make sure that any similar legislation passed by the Senate includes much stronger transparency provisions. As we have written, the House opted to severely weaken reporting requirements in the original Sensenbrenner-Leahy proposal that would have given the public a reasonable understanding of the scope of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs. HR 3361 replaced them instead with potentially misleading reporting requirements that would likely allow vastly understating the scope of communications acquired or reviewed by the NSA.
The Snowden revelations have brought dozens of revelations to light about the breadth and legality of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. In a Roll Call op-ed published today, Executive Director Patrice McDermott notes that while the public now knows much more about these programs, the reform efforts that are taking shape in Congress threaten to continue to leave the public in the dark.