Surveillance Reform Moves Forward in Senate

July 29, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a compromise version of the USA FREEDOM Act that would significantly limit government surveillance of Americans’ communications. AALL has joined a number of open government groups in a letter of support for the bill and urges Congress to pass it promptly, without weakening the legislation.

In May, the House passed a substantially diluted version of the USA FREEDOM Act, causing many privacy and transparency advocates, including AALL, to withdraw their support.  The new Senate bill, which has the backing of the Obama Administration, restores many of the privacy and transparency measures that were removed in the House.  The new bill would prohibit the National Security Agency’s (NSA) collection of phone records and Internet data in bulk by establishing narrowly defined specific selection terms. The bill would also require the NSA to report more information to the public and would create a panel of special advocates to support privacy rights before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In a statement, Leahy said the bill would be the “most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act 13 years ago.” The Center for Democracy & Technology offers this excellent comparison chart of the House and Senate versions.

With Congress headed home for the month of August and only a handful of legislative days remaining before the November midterm elections, time is of the essence. It’s widely believed Leahy will push to put the bill directly on the Senate floor in early September. While the new USA FREEDOM Act isn’t perfect, the bill offer an important compromise between the White House, Congress, companies, privacy advocates, and the intelligence community, and is our best opportunity for limiting government surveillance of Americans’ communications.


Register Now: “Making the Most of Midterms” Online Advocacy Training August 27

July 24, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

With midterm elections just around the corner, the coming months will offer many occasions for law librarian advocacy in your home state or district. Learn how to capitalize on these important opportunities at our next online advocacy training, “Making the Most of Midterms: Opportunities for Advocacy at Home,” on August 27 from 12:00 – 12:30 pm ET.

AALL’s Government Relations Office will present the best ways to exert your influence at hometown events like August recess town hall meetings, library tours, and candidate meet and greets. You’ll learn the skills needed to maximize your impact and hear our recommendations for the best pre-election opportunities for legislative success.

As always, this training is complimentary for AALL and chapter members.  Please register online by August 26.


AALL Files Comments in Net Neutrality Proceeding

July 22, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL), the Medical Library Association (MLA), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) filed comments together in the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s Open Internet proceeding. The comments, available here, were authored by AALL’s Government Relations Office and Government Relations Committee, with input and examples from AAHSL, MLA, and SLA.

AALL, AAHSL, MLA, and SLA urge the FCC to create open Internet rules that preserve and defend the key principle of network neutrality. Our comments focus on the important role libraries play in providing unbiased access to information over the Internet and, increasingly, as the creators and hosts of information. Libraries, for example, may provide educational opportunities online in the form of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) or host information produced by other sources, like state governments and the courts.

Our organizations oppose any open Internet rules that would allow for a tiered system of access, as is presently proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking’s “commercially unreasonable” standard, which would permit the sanctioning of paid prioritization under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Paid prioritization inherently favors content providers that can pay fees for favorable treatment, while non-profit content providers like libraries, educational institutions, government agencies, and non-profit organizations are relegated to second-class delivery. We urge the FCC to establish a firm foundation for its open Internet rules by reclassifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, while forbearing from applying any possibly unnecessary, costly, and burdensome regulations. Such reclassification would subject Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to common carrier rules that better ensure equal, nondiscriminatory access to content on the Internet and require ISPs to operate more transparently.

Net neutrality is critical to libraries, their missions, and their patrons.  AALL, AAHSL, MLA, and SLA urge the FCC to create open Internet rules that preserve and defend this key principle. Over 1 million comments on net neutrality were filed with the FCC, which extended the deadline by several days after a crush of traffic to their electronic comment filing system. Though the initial comment period is now closed, a second period for reply comments will run until September 10.


July Washington E-Bulletin

July 1, 2014

The July issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is available now on AALLNET.

IN THIS ISSUE
Vol. 2014, Issue 07

A LOOK AHEAD

ACT NOW

AALL IN THE STATES

ROUND UP AND REVIEW


AALL Welcomes Successful House Vote to Limit NSA Surveillance

June 20, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

An amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Appropriations bill that would prohibit the National Security Agency (NSA)’s ability to perform “backdoor” searches passed the House late Thursday on a vote of 292-123.  The measure closes the loophole in the FISA Amendments Act that has enabled the search of government databases for information on U.S. citizens without a warrant. Under the amendment, the NSA cannot use its funds to search that database specifically for a U.S. target. The NSA and Central Intelligence Agency are further barred from requiring device manufacturers to install technologies that create “backdoors” in their devices.

The successful vote—in many ways a surprise given the recent politicking over the USA FREEDOM Act in the House—represents the first time either chamber of Congress has voted to curtail the controversial practices of the NSA revealed by Edward Snowden last year. A similar amendment to Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriations to end the NSA’s phone records collection program was offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) last August but failed by a narrow 205-217 margin.

AALL continues to focus on opportunities to limit NSA surveillance by improving the House-passed USA FREEDOM Act as it is considered in the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Earlier this week, AALL joined a coalition of privacy advocates on a letter to Senate and Committee leadership that “plainly express[es] our position 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 that so many of us previously worked to advance.” The letter suggests a number of necessary fixes to the bill, including changes to the specific selection term and greater transparency provisions.  Additionally, AALL has urged the Administration not to renew the bulk telephony metadata program under a Section 215 order which expires today.

We are hopeful that Thursday’s House vote will send a clear signal to Senate leaders and members of the Obama Administration that they must approve real privacy reforms to the NSA’s surveillance practices.


FOIA Advisory Committee to Convene June 24

June 10, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The National Records and Archives Administration (NARA) will convene the first meeting of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee on June 24. The committee will be comprised of twenty members— 10 appointed from within government and 10 from outside of government— and Office of Government Information Services director Miriam Nisbet will chair. 

The FOIA Advisory Committee was established under the White House’s second Open Government National Action Plan (NAP). The Committee will “study the current FOIA landscape across the Executive Branch and may recommend legislative action, policy changes or executive action, among other matters.” A May 2014 Federal Register notice announcing the creation of the Committee notes: “NARA has determined that the creation of the FOIA Advisory Committee is in the public interest due to the expertise and valuable advice the Committee members will provide on issues related to improving the administration of FOIA.” Improvements to FOIA administration must take into account the views and interests of both requesters and agencies. The Committee is charged with fostering dialogue between the Administration and requester community, soliciting public comments, and developing consensus recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures.

The June 24 meeting will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and is open to the public.


June Washington E-Bulletin

June 2, 2014

The June issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.

IN THIS ISSUE
Vol. 2014, Issue 06
A LOOK AHEAD

ACT NOW

AALL IN THE STATES

ROUNDUP AND REVIEW

 


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