Surveillance Transparency

House Passes Hollowed-Out Version of USA FREEDOM Act

Last week, and thirteen other organizations wrote to the House leadership and asked them to restore the government transparency provisions of the original USA FREEDOM Act in order to “to verify that the NSA actually ends bulk collection instead of finding new loopholes to exploit.” Instead, House leadership engaged in closed-door negotiations with the intelligence community, and introduced new loopholes into the bill’s priv

Groups Urge Restoration of USA Freedom Act Transparency Provisions and thirteen other organizations wrote to the House and Senate leadership yesterday, asking them to restore the USA FREEDOM Act’s government transparency provisions before final passage of the bill. The letter concludes, “[w]e recognize that some compromises were necessary to move any surveillance bill to the floor. But they increase the importance of restoring the transparency provisions of the original USA FREEDOM Act, to verify that the NSA actually ends bulk collection instead of finding new loopholes to exploit.

Revised USA FREEDOM Act Lacks Transparency and Strong Special Advocate

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).

Groups Support Ending Bulk Collection of Data About Individuals

Forty organizations joined the Center for Democracy and Technology in a letter to urge swift markup and passage of the USA FREEDOM Act (HR 3361). Among other things, the bill would prohibit bulk collection of all data under Section 215 and 214 and the National Security Letter statutes and preserve the requirement of prior court approval. Read the letter here.

Break-ins, Leaks, and Breaking News: Intelligence Reforms, Past & Present

During the Nation FOI Day Celebration at the Newseum on Friday, March 14 we brought together a panel of reporters and policy-makers to talk past and present leaks of information about US surveillance programs, the effects on society in these cases, and resulting reforms in intelligence policy and practice. In particular, panelists discussed the similarities and differences between the 1971 break-in to the Media, PA FBI Field Office, which eventually contributed to the creation of the Church Committee, and the revelations made by Edward Snowden, which has already spawned some reform efforts in Congress. Below are a few of our major take-aways from the program and video of the panel.

Privacy Board Makes a Strong Case for Transparency, Against Secret Law

Please see's statement on the PCLOB Report here

We applaud the strong transparency recommendations from the PCLOB in its January 23, 2014 Report.  The Board took an important and clearly stated stand for the public’s right to know the legal interpretations and authorities that inform domestic data collection programs by the intelligence community.  Early on, the board notes the critical balancing act the intelligence community must perform in its duties to protect the public without keeping it in the dark: “both openness and secrecy are vital to our survival, and we must strive to develop and implement intelligence programs in ways that serve both values.”