Last-minute change to cybersecurity bill may extend secrecy to government analyses

State and local governments would not be able to disclose to the public analysis and concerns related to cybersecurity under a proposed agreement on cybersecurity legislation reportedly being pushed by the House and Senate intelligence committees. A two-word change would mean state and local governments would have to keep secret information the governments generate themselves, adding to a secrecy provision already in the legislation that already requires governments to shield from disclosure information shared by the private sector. SGI sent a letter on December 15, 2015 objecting to the change.

SGI letter on cybersecurity disclosure exemption

[Note: PDF version]   December 15, 2015 The media associations in the Sunshine in Government Initiative oppose a reported change to cybersecurity legislation that would effectively prevent access to any analysis or assessments of cybersecurity threats – whether classified or not – by state and local governments.  These changes, which we understand to be drafted by the House and Senate intelligence committees and submitted to the conference committee almost entirely in secret, are not the way legislation should be enacted and could actually endanger our nation’s infrastructure by impeding government and public oversight of responses to cybersecurity threats. Unfortunately, we [More]

Momentum builds for FOIA reform legislation

After FOIA reformers earned unanimous support in both the House and the Senate last winter, this year transparency groups want to do even better, and see the next round of improvements to the Freedom of Information Act become law. Congress has been attentive, with numerous, vigorous, comprehensive hearings. Journalists and watchdogs are using FOIA – and talking about what could make it even more helpful. Transparency groups are trading notes on proposals to make FOIA more efficient. The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is reviewing agencies’ FOIA operations for compliance and improvements. The Obama Administration has published its third [More]

New OGIS leadership off to a good start with agency FOIA reviews

Recently, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) began conducting compliance reviews of agency FOIA operations and posting its findings online, to share with the public and with other agencies. These no-nonsense analyses involve examining agency annual FOIA reports, interviewing FOIA personnel, and surveying agency staff; the idea is to accumulate institutional knowledge and refract it back through agencies to make FOIA work better. Notably, OGIS sharpened its reviewing skills at home, starting at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which underwent the inaugural reviews (here, and here). Now, the Department of Homeland Security, as the agency with the highest [More]

Cybersecurity doesn’t need a FOIA exemption

We support Senator Leahy’s efforts to remove a proposed statutory exemption to disclosure under FOIA from the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). The Leahy amendment would keep intact generous protections for the private sector to share information with the government that currently exist in FOIA and in other parts of CISA itself. The Leahy amendment prevents harm to the balanced protections already in FOIA for transparency and accountability on one hand and interests such as trade secrecy, personal privacy on the other. Read our letter.

Let’s fix FOIA by 50!

In one year on the Fourth of July in 2016, the federal FOIA will celebrate its 50th anniversary. We encourage House and Senate leadership to bring FOIA reform for a full vote in the House and Senate. FOIA reform legislation is bipartisan in both the House and Senate. The House bill, H.R. 653, was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the bill in the Senate (S. 337) was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both committees have held hearings focused on FOIA’s problems. We pledge to work with House and Senate leadership and supporters to move the [More]