July 28, 2015
By Elizabeth Holland
Today, AALL joins a number a number of privacy advocates, civil liberties groups, security experts, and technology companies for a Day of Action in opposition to the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA, S. 754). Our message is simple: CISA is a bad bill. While this legislation promises security, in actuality, it does more to increase surveillance, undermine transparency, and leave your personal information vulnerable to attack than it does to protect against cyber threats. With the Senate slated to consider it in the coming weeks – even as early as next week– we urge members of Congress to oppose CISA and, should push come to shove, implore President Obama to veto it.
Chief among our privacy concerns with CISA is the permission the bill grants for overbroad information sharing. Under CISA, companies in the private sector are authorized to share information about their users’ Internet activity with the federal government, even when that data is unnecessary to identify or protect against a threat. Information shared with one federal agency could then be shared throughout the government, potentially putting your personal information or that of your library users in the hands of agencies like the National Security Agency, Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense and leaving the information vulnerable to hackers.
CISA would also add a new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the first time since 1967. Section 10 of the bill provides that any and all information shared with or provided to the federal government pursuant to CISA is exempt from disclosure under FOIA, including private information unrelated to a cybersecurity threat. Passing CISA would also give jurisdiction over FOIA to the most secretive committee in the Senate, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), which almost never holds public hearings and has never held one on this legislation. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over FOIA, has never held hearings or had an opportunity to consider the justification for the new FOIA exemption. As our friends at OpenTheGovernment.org posit, “allowing SSCI to write new exemptions to FOIA, without any public consideration or input from the Judiciary Committee, could set a dangerous precedent for further weakening the law at the intelligence community’s request.”
Cybersecurity is an increasingly important issue for U.S. industry, federal, and state governmental entities and AALL would strongly support a good-faith effort to improve information sharing for cybersecurity purposes. However, CISA is not that legislation. Write your Senators today to urge them to oppose CISA for the automatic and over-broad surveillance authorities and transparency-weakening provisions it would enable.
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.
September 12, 2012
The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012, H.R. 5949, a bill that would extend the provisions of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act (FAA) (P.L. 110-261) to December 31, 2017, rather than letting the FAA sunset on December 31, 2012. The FAA permits the National Security Agency to intercept communications with non-citizens abroad without adequate judicial supervision. AALL opposed changes to FISA under the USA PATRIOT Act, which permitted government surveillance in criminal investigations without a showing of probable cause. We have long called for stronger oversight and transparency of government surveillance programs that monitor public communications, and we strongly urge members of the House of Representatives to vote “no” on this bill.
In April 2009, the New York Times reported that the NSA “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress.” Despite evidence of impropriety, the government has not publicly detailed the extent of the problem or publicly explained what, if anything, it has done to prevent it from recurring.
Before Congress considers legislation to reauthorize the FAA, it should require the government to specify the nature and extent of this illegal surveillance and ensure that illegal surveillance does not recur under the FAA umbrella.
We expect floor debate on H.R. 5949 to begin today, Wednesday September 12. Call your Representative today and urge them to vote “no” on the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization of 2012.
July 18, 2012
On Tuesday July 10, Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill-05) introduced H. Res. 727, the Public Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Resolution of 2012. The resolution would require the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to make their reports publicly available. CRS is a division of the Library of Congress which provides policy and legal analysis for use by members of Congress and their staff. American taxpayers spend more than $100 million a year supporting the work of the CRS.
Similar to reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Congressional Budget Office (CBO), CRS reports offer in-depth information and analysis across the entire legislative process and are governed by requirements for accuracy, objectivity, and non-partisanship. While the GAO and CBO have made their work publicly available, the CRS has not.
Websites such as Open CRS and the University of North Texas Libraries already provide a public service by making thousands of reports freely available online, and commercial third-party services offer the reports for a fee. Members of the public can request a particular report from their Congressional representatives, but only if they are already aware of the existence of the report.
The Lance-Quigley measure would direct the Clerk of the House to make CRS reports available for search and download on a publicly accessible website. Confidential and copyrighted information would be redacted, along with the names and contact information for the report’s author and confidential memoranda between CRS and individual members of Congress.
CRS reports play a critical role in our democratic process by providing key historical context and options for further action. When made publicly available, CRS reports inform the public debate about our nation’s most urgent policy priorities. AALL has long advocated for the public availability of these reports. We believe the public has a strong interest in accessing these valuable, taxpayer-funded reports and a right to do so.
Contact your Representative today and ask him/her to support H. Res. 727. You can use our Legislative Action Center to customize and send a sample message, or follow tips from the newly redesigned Advocacy Toolkit to call or meet with your member of Congress. Whichever method you choose, it is crucial to speak out in support of this important bill.
Thank you for all the work that you do!
May 17, 2012
“This American Community Survey is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. It is the very picture of what’s wrong in D.C.” (158 Cong. Rec. H2508 (daily ed. May 9, 2012) (statement of Rep. Webster).)
On May 10, the House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment offered by Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fl.-8) to eliminate funding for the American Community Survey (ACS), an ongoing survey that provides key demographic, social, economic, and housing information to policymakers, business and community leaders, and researchers. The amendment was approved as part of the Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 5326), which includes funding for the Census Bureau.
Please ask your Senators to save the American Community Survey and 2012 Economic Census.
By eliminating funding for the ACS as well as the 2012 Economic Census, the House compels the Census Bureau to end these key research products. As Census Director Robert M. Groves said in a video posted on his blog, “Eliminating them [the ACS and 2012 Economic Census] halts all the progress to build 21st century statistical tools through those innovations. This bill thus devastates the nation’s statistical information about the status of the economy and the larger society.”
We need you to speak up now about the need to fund these important research tools. A Senate vote on the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill is expected soon, so please take action now!