Whistleblower Support at the Supreme Court – October 14, 2014 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– Meet OTG’s Newest Partners (more)
– Members of Congress, Office of Special Counsel, and More File Amicus Briefs in Support of Whistleblower (more)

News from Coalition Partners & Others

EPIC Files FOIA Lawsuit on CIA Surveillance of Congress

In response to reports the CIA infiltrated computers used by Senate staff to investigate the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a FOIA request for the CIA Inspector General’s report on the infiltration. After receiving no response, EPIC sued for the report to be released.

Partners Make Recommendations for House Rules Targeting Transparency

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Sunlight Foundation, and the OpenGov Foundation published comprehensive recommendations for improving transparency and accountability in the rules of the 114th Congress. The updated recommendations include a list of Congressional documents ripe for proactive disclosure, standards for providing public access to draft legislation prior to consideration in the House, and the creation of an open source software policy.

Publish What You Fund Releases Annual Aid Transparency Index

Progress on implementing transparency standards for aid data continues to be slow and uneven, according to Publish What You Fund’s 2014 Aid Transparency Index. The deadline for donors to meet their commitments to incorporate the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) by the end of 2015 is quickly approaching. In the second National Action Plan the US government reaffirmed its commitment for agencies to add and expand “detailed, timely, and high-quality foreign assistance data to ForeignAssistance.gov.” Explore where major US donors rank here.

Meet OTG’s Newest Partners

The Iowa Freedom of Information Council is a coalition of Iowan journalists, librarians, lawyers, educators, and the newest partner of the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition. The Council educates journalists about Iowa open records and meeting laws and conducts workshops for the public and public officials.

SkyTruth promotes environmental awareness and protection with remote sensing and digital mapping technology. SkyTruth creates images using satellites, aerial photographs, geospatial data, and geographic information systems to illustrate environmental impacts and inform the public, policy-makers, environmental advocates, and the media.

Journalism That Matters convenes conversations between traditional and emerging journalists and the public to foster collaboration, innovation, and action to support a diverse news and information ecosystem that supports communities.

Members of Congress, Office of Special Counsel, and More File Amicus Briefs in Support of Whistleblower

Federal Air Marshall Robert MacLean blew the whistle when the Department of Homeland Security canceled long distance air marshal coverage during a heightened terrorist alert. Three years later, the MacLean was fired and the text message informing him of the planned cancellation was retroactively designated as Sensitive Security Information.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Department of Homeland Security v. Robert MacLean on November 4th. MacLean is a client of the Government Accountability Project, an OTG partner. In advance of these arguments, MacLean has received support via friend of the court briefs from a diverse crowd. A bipartisan coalition of six members of Congress wrote, “Congress…relies on individuals working within agencies to supply the information it needs to guard the public purse and give effect to the checks and balances that are essential to the separation of power.”

Executive Director Patrice McDermott joined a brief on behalf of thirteen former government employees, concerned about agencies’ unchecked use of Sensitive Security Information (SSI) designations and the impact on whistleblowers inside government. The brief makes clear the high stakes for government employees and government openness: “If the position DHS has advanced in this matter prevails, a determination by one bureaucrat that information is ‘sensitive’ will allow the agency to preclude its disclosure indefinitely, and to terminate a whistleblower even where a disclosure saves lives or uncovers criminal behavior.” Exempting SSI from the protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act would severely undercut the ability of government employees to safely expose government waste, fraud, and abuse.

The Government Accountability Project has a round-up of the briefs here, and comprehensive coverage of the case here.

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