US to Outline New Commitments at the Open Government Partnership Summit – October 29, 2013 Newsletter

In This Issue:
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. US to Outline New Commitments at the Open Government Partnership Summit

News from Coalition Partners & Others

Reporters Committee Launches New FOIA Tool

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) introduced a new, free online system for FOIA requesters at the Online News Association Conference in Atlanta. The system, called iFOIA, builds on RCFP’s popular FOIA letter generator and helps users create, send and track federal and state freedom of information requests. The resource is available on desktop or mobile devices and allows users to share their correspondence chains with colleagues. Learn more about the project’s development here.

Partners Support EPIC FOIA Appeal

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), joined by OTG, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU, filed an amicus brief arguing that the Freedom of Information Act’s exemption for deliberative material (Exemption 5) cannot be used to withhold purely factual documents. The materials under dispute include test results, fact sheets, and data related to radiation exposure from Advanced Imaging Technology machines used by the Department of Homeland Security and TSA that were requested by EPIC.


EPIC Files Comments to Department of Defense on NSA’s Privacy Violations

Responding to a proposed rule that would amend the Department of Defense’s privacy program, EPIC, joined by 13 groups (including, urged the NSA to comply with the federal Privacy Act. In the comments, the groups say the NSA must publish additional systems of records privacy notices to comply with the act. Reports by the Guardian newspaper suggested that there are databases subject to the act far beyond the 26 already identified by the NSA.

I. US to Outline New Commitments at the Open Government Partnership Summit

Later this week the Obama Administration is scheduled to announce the US' new round of commitments to make the government more open and accountable during the meeting of the Open Government Partnership in London. Due in part to complications created by the government shutdown, the US will not be unveiling its full action plan (the full plan will be released in early December), but US officials will be presenting an outline of what they consider to be ambitious commitments. The commitments that will be discussed during the meeting are expected to be related to modernizing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), spending transparency, and open data.

A recent letter coordinated by and signed by 45 organizations that work on a variety of issues urged the President to take advantage of the Summit's international stage to commit to curbing secret law. As regular readers know, secret interpretations of the law have been at the heart of recent controversies ranging from opinions by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel memo authorizing interrogation techniques that many say equate to torture to opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that allowed for massive expansion of the National Security Administration's surveillance programs. The most recent revelations regarding surveillance have raised serious concerns about what the government is doing in our name and the extent of violations of American’s privacy and civil liberties, and critical questions about whether the US's programs breach international law. We intend to continue to raise these issues with the Obama Administration, and push for concrete commitments.

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