AALL Joins Broad Coalition to Urge Surveillance Reform by June 1 Deadline

March 25, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

In a letter signed by more than 45 privacy advocates, tech companies, and professional and trade associations, AALL today urged significant reform of our nation’s surveillance laws. Addressed to President Obama, members of the intelligence community, and Congressional leadership, the coalition letter calls on lawmakers to act before key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act – including Section 215,which has been used as the basis for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of records – sunset on June 1, 2015.

The coalition urges that any legislative or Administration effort to reform the USA PATRIOT Act must include: 1) Ending bulk collection under Section 215 provision, as well as under Section 214, the provision governing pen registers and trap and trace devices; and 2) Transparency and accountability measures for government and private sector reporting, as well as a proposal for the declassification of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court decisions. We also urge members of Congress to oppose any surveillance legislation that does not contain major reforms and to avoid adding any new mandates to the law that would be unduly controversial and could derail reform efforts.

In November 2014, Senate blocked consideration of the USA FREEDOM Act, rejecting the last opportunity to reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance program before the year’s end. With the June 1 deadline approaching, AALL urges Congress to move quickly to enact surveillance reform.


Today’s the Day! Participate in AALL’s Law Librarian Day of Action

March 18, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, nearly two dozen of your law librarian colleagues will meet with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill to discuss the most pressing issues affecting your profession. In 5 minutes or less, you can help to magnify their influence and make a difference for law libraries by contacting your members of Congress today!

AALL’s Legislative Action Center is ready to send customizable emails to your members of Congress on our top Lobby Day issues with just the click of a button. Prefer to advocate over the phone?  You can find lobby day talking points on all of our legislative priorities on AALLNET, along with our best tips for contacting legislators and helpful advocacy one-pagers with background on each issue or bill.

This year, Lobby Day participants are targeting members of Congress with specific asks based on their interests and committee assignments. If you registered in advance to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day, you have already received the materials you need to take action on targeted issues. If not, never fear! Enter your home address in our Legislative Action Center to get all the information you’ll need about your members of Congress.  For instance, you can consider your members’ committee assignments to determine what issues they’re most likely to support. If your Congressman sits on the House Judiciary committee, pitch him on the Email Privacy Act. If he sits on House Oversight, consider asking him to co-sponsor the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act. On the Senate side, members of the Judiciary Committee are good targets for ECPA reform. If your Senators or Representative are members of either chamber’s Appropriations Committee, pitch them on full funding for the Government Publishing Office, Library of Congress, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Archives, or Legal Services Corporation. View your members of Congress’ profiles to find out if they have already co-sponsored AALL’s target legislation—if they haven’t, you can ask them to do so using our template message and if they have, you can use our sample alerts to say thank you.

Participating in the Virtual Lobby Day is really that painless. And if you can’t find 5 minutes of free time today, why not take action tomorrow? By making a call or sending an email, you’ll give AALL a strong showing on Capitol Hill and help to advance a policy agenda that makes a difference for law libraries.

Thanks for all that you do!


March Washington E-Bulletin

March 2, 2015

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

IN THIS ISSUE
Vol. 2015, Issue 03
*AALL Lobby Day Special Edition*

A LOOK AHEAD

ACT NOW

AALL IN THE STATES

ROUNDUP AND REVIEW


AALL Applauds FCC Approval of Strong Net Neutrality Rules

February 26, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to adopt strict new rules for Internet providers, protecting net neutrality by reclassifying the Internet as a public utility. Under the new rules, broadband Internet service will be regulated under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The rules lay out several key prohibitions on Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including banning ISPs from blocking or slowing down (“throttling”) web traffic or speeding it up in exchange for money (“paid prioritization”), and will apply to both fixed and wireless carriers. The Commission voted to adopt the rules along party lines 3-2, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

AALL commends the FCC on this historic vote, which echoes our July comments to the Commission. Together with the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, the Medical Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association, AALL urged the FCC to pursue reclassification under Title II, while exercising forbearance for regulations in the Communications Act that are not pertinent to contemporary Internet service, are costly, or are burdensome. “Law libraries rely on net neutrality to fulfill their duty to provide nondiscriminatory access to online legal content. Reclassifying the Internet under Title II…will ensure that law libraries are able to provide equal access to the Internet and that everyone – whether a researcher, attorney, self-represented litigant, small business owner, or student – has a consistent and reliable way of accessing information online,” AALL President Holly M. Riccio said in a statement.

The new rules reflect more than a year of deliberation by the FCC and a surprising about-face by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former cable industry lobbyist, whose initial proposal was much friendlier to ISPs. Internet Service Providers are likely to challenge the new Open Internet Order in the courts, while Congressional Republicans are seeking a legislative solution to undermine the FCC’s authority. Still, today’s vote is a significant victory for open Internet advocates and a strong signal of the Commission’s intent to protect net neutrality to the best of its ability.


FCC Chairman Unveils Plan to Protect Net Neutrality

February 6, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

This week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a proposal to regulate broadband Internet service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, protecting net neutrality by reclassifying the Internet as a public utility. The Commission is expected to vote on the Chairman’s plan on February 26.

AALL applauds the decision of Chairman Wheeler to rely on Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the authority for which we advocated in our July comments to the FCC. Reclassification under Title II 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. In an op-ed on Wired.com published Wednesday, Chairman Wheeler wrote, “Using [Title II], I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services….My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”

While Open Internet advocates, content providers like Twitter and Netflix, and many Congressional Democrats lauded the Chairman’s decision, the proposed reclassification drew criticism from others. Senator John Thune, who recently floated legislation to restrict the FCC’s authority on net neutrality, said in a statement, “Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to regulate the Internet as a public utility is not about net neutrality – it is a power grab for the federal government by the chairman of a supposedly independent agency who finally succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the president himself.” Meanwhile, ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon look poised to sue. With the late February vote fast approaching, legal challenges could make for a more drawn out process.

Net neutrality is critical to law libraries, their missions, and their patrons. AALL urges to the Commission to adopt the Chairman’s proposal.


January Washington E-Bulletin

January 7, 2015

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

IN THIS ISSUE
Vol. 2015, Issue 01

A LOOK AHEAD

ACT NOW

AALL IN THE STATES

ROUNDUP AND REVIEW


OGIS at Five, and in the Future

October 31, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

One of the principle tenets of conflict mediation is to acknowledge the past and look to the future. In that vein, today OpenTheGovernment.org (of which AALL is a member) and the Newseum Institute hosted “OGIS at Five”, a celebration of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) five year anniversary of mediating disputes regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests between requesters and federal agencies. In three panel session, FOIA experts from the administration and agencies, Congress, and requestor community shared their perspectives on the successes and shortcomings of OGIS and the parties it seeks to serve.

Since opening its doors five years ago, OGIS has worked to assist individuals with their FOIA requests, including offering non-binding mediation to resolve disputes about an agency’s decision. Panelist Bill Holzerland of the Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Information Disclosure at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, credits OGIS with what he perceives to be a culture shift among agency FOIA professionals, who receive dispute resolution training from OGIS. As dispute resolution is increasingly encouraged by OGIS and FOIA Public Liaisons, more view mediation as a viable alternative to litigation, saving time and resources. Additionally, OGIS’s support of FOIAonline portal has been critical in pushing the government towards a model that makes the process of navigating FOIA easier for the public.

Still, many in the requestor community feel OGIS could use more teeth, particularly in its mission to review agencies’ FOIA performance and compliance. Last year’s Government Accountability Office audit found that OGIS had “not performed the reviews of regulations and notices in a proactive, comprehensive manner, and has not conducted any reviews of agencies’ compliance with the law.” Helpfully, OGIS has recently begun posting its final response letters in FOIA mediation. But, mediation, of course, has not yet led to more public records, as OGIS lacks the power to compel disclosure.

Looking to the next five years, all parties agreed a stronger, better funded OGIS would serve requestors and agencies equally well. To this end, the FOIA Improvements Act of 2014 (S. 2520) is pending Senate consideration. If passed, the legislation would improve FOIA in significant ways, including codifying the presumption of openness by requiring agencies to release information responsive to a FOIA request and amending the overbroad (b)5 exemption. The bill would also strengthen OGIS by providing the ability to bypass the review of its recommendations to change FOIA practices by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before submitting them to Congress and the President. The bill also clarifies OGIS’ ability to issue advisory opinions at its discretion. With greater resources and more buy-in from agencies, OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet hopes OGIS could one day close its doors when FOIA dispute resolution is no longer needed.


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