February 11, 2014
By Elizabeth Holland
Today, we join thousands of companies, organizations, and websites in The Day We Fight Back, a day of protest and action against NSA surveillance. AALL members are encouraged to take action in support of the USA FREEDOM Act (S.1599, H.R.3361), a bipartisan bill that would limit government spying authority and begin to restore our privacy and rights under the Constitution.
In response to the recent and ongoing revelations that government surveillance of Americans under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has been far broader than generally understood, the USA FREEDOM Act would legislatively clarify the limits on the collection and use of Americans’ information. The bill would help restore confidence in the intelligence community by amending the USA PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to better protect Americans’ privacy and require greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.
AALL believes the government has a responsibility to protect the privacy of library users and calls for effective oversight of those laws which expand surveillance on library users. We urge Congress to take action in support of the USA Freedom Act to provide meaningful reform.
Have 5 minutes to spare? Using our Legislative Action Center, you can easily urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor the USA FREEDOM Act by sending a customized message to their offices and fight back against mass surveillance.
February 6, 2014
By Elizabeth Holland
As detailed in Emily’s recent post, “Congress Considers the Scope of Copyright,” AALL has consistently urged for reform of the incorporation by reference system to allow for greater openness and transparency. Following up on our June 2012 request to the Office of Management and Budget, AALL signed on to a January 31 coalition letter to request the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) issue a final rule that goes beyond the meager changes in the Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking and requires that standards incorporated by reference in proposed rules and in final rules be available for free on the Internet.
As the letter states, AALL “strongly believes that standards incorporated by reference into federal regulations should be widely available to the public, without charge, and that such standards should be deemed in the public domain rather than subject to copyright restrictions.” Twenty groups signed on to the letter, which was sent in response to the OFR’s proposed rule to amend regulations governing the approval of agency requests to incorporate material by reference into the Code of Federal Regulations.
February 3, 2014
By Elizabeth Holland
We’re pleased to the report that, after pressure from powerful members of Congress and the open government community, the farm bill moved forward last week without the proposed provisions to cut off public access to information about agricultural and livestock information. On January 29, the House approved by a vote of 251 to 166 the Agricultural Act of 2014 (H. Rept. 113-333), the Senate-House conference report to replace the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, which expired on October 1, 2013.
Language originally included in the House-passed bill would have prohibited disclosure of information about any owner, operator, or employee of an agricultural or livestock operation. The public— particularly neighbors of such operations— requires access to information about the operations to ensure their health and safety. This language would have undermined the Freedom of Information Act’s (FOIA) goal of transparency and extended personal privacy protections to corporate farms. On November 6, 2013, AALL joined more than 40 organizations in urging members of the conference committee on the Farm Bill not to include the harmful language.
AALL has joined several organizations on letters of thanks to Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman for their support and leadership in removing the provisions in the final version. We expect the conference report will be debated and voted upon in the Senate shortly.
January 30, 2014
By Elizabeth Holland
From November to mid-January, the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) solicited public input on its Transforming Classification blog about what the government should prioritize for declassification. The Board is now working to compile the responses and comments it received and will report back to the public its conclusions and suggested next steps to assist the President in his goal of transforming the security classification system.
Together with the AALL Government Relations Committee, we submitted the following statement to the PIDB:
The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) supports the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommendation to make available opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We also support the declassification of White House Office of Legal Counsel opinions.
In response to comments already received from agency declassifiers, experts, and the requester community., the PIDB also released several list of topics for declassification, including general topics of interest, topics related to the presidential libraries, topics on: formerly restricted data information, and both topics older than 25 years and topics 25 years old and younger. AALL is pleased that FISA court decisions are included on the list of topics 25 years and younger. These lists were also open to comment through the project’s mid-January end date. PIDB says it hopes the lists “will serve as a guide to aid agencies in reviewing the information the public wants to see. “
AALL commends the PIDB on their public outreach. We were pleased to see the recent Second Open Government National Action Plan (NAP) adopt some recommendations of the PIDB to reduce classification and simplify the classification system for users, including the primary recommendation to establish a White House-led Security Classification Review Committee. We are encouraged by the White House’s commitment to undertaking the culture change necessary to combat secrecy and overclassification and look forward to next steps.
January 22, 2014
By Elizabeth Holland
On Friday night President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion omnibus FY 2014 appropriations bill (H.R. 3547) into law. The comprehensive spending plan designates funding for every government agency and, with a 72-26 vote in the Senate and 359-67 margin in the House, passed both chambers of Congress easily.
Those agencies whose services are integral to providing access to government information managed fairly well in the budget deal. The Government Printing Office (GPO) maintained their 2013 funding level of $119 million. The Library of Congress is provided with $579 million, a decrease of $8 million below the Fiscal Year 2013 enacted level. The Electronic Government Fund received a boost in funding from recent years to $16 million. The Fund will also retain its budgetary independence, despite the House Appropriations Committee’s proposal to merge it with another fund and cut their combined funding.
In a victory for open access advocates, the omnibus bill also included language that requires federal agencies under the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education with research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to articles resulting from federally funded research within 12 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The agencies covered would ensure that more than $31 billion of the total $60 billion annual U.S. investment in taxpayer-funded research is now openly accessible.
The language in the omnibus affirms the strong precedent set by the 2009 National Institutes of Health’s Public Access Policy and 2013 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Directive on Public Access.
AALL continues to support the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) (S. 350, H.R. 708), which would strengthen the language in the omnibus bill by requiring that taxpayer funded articles be made available through a central database no later than six months after publication. Using our Legislative Action Center, you can contact your members of Congress today to ask them to support FASTR.
Following a series of short-term spending deals, sequestration cuts, and the September government shutdown, AALL was pleased to see the omnibus package address funding through Fiscal Year 2014. This budget agreement is an important step toward bipartisanship and provides greater certainty in agency operations. The uninterrupted operations of agencies like GPO and LC are essential to informing the American public about their government and promoting a healthy democracy.
January 17, 2014
Today, President Obama outlined steps to reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. AALL supports several of the proposals outlined in President Obama’s speech, including increased transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, changes to the use of National Security Letters and increased executive branch oversight. However, AALL believes that in order to protect the privacy of library users and all Americans, Congress must enact reform to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.
AALL strongly supports the USA FREEDOM Act, which would amend the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to better protect Americans’ privacy and require greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities. We urge members to take action in support of the Act.