Congress Braces for Patriot Act Battle

On Sept. 22, Congress began hearings on USA Patriot Act provisions that are set to expire on Dec. 31. Some legislators and the president are seeking to retain controversial portions of the act, albeit in modified form.

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OMB Watch Lauds Obama Administration's Unprecedented Move on State Secrets Policy

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2009—OMB Watch strongly supports the Obama administration's unprecedented move to create a government-wide policy on use of the state secrets privilege. The policy, issued earlier in the day, is the latest in a series of decisions by the administration to make government more open and accountable.

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Secrecy Report Card Gives Modest Grades to Bush and Obama

On Sept. 8, OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of 70 open government advocates, released its sixth annual Secrecy Report Card. Focusing on 2008, the report card serves primarily as a final assessment of the Bush administration but also addresses early actions of the Obama administration. Overall, the report notes a decrease in secrecy at the end of the Bush years but concludes that greater efforts are needed to increase federal transparency.

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Court Rules that CIA Committed Fraud in State Secrets Case

On July 20, a federal district court judge ruled that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) committed fraud while attempting to get a fifteen-year-old case dismissed on state secrets grounds.






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OMB Watch Submits Recommendations on Handling Sensitive, Unclassified Information

On July 8, OMB Watch released a report that explores the impact of secrecy labeling practices within the federal government. The report, Controlled Unclassified Information: Recommendations for Information Control Reform, was submitted to the newly formed presidential task force established to review current policies and to reform the overuse of Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) control markings.

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New Report Shines Light on Secrecy Labeling of Government Information

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2009—Today, OMB Watch published a report that explores the impacts of secrecy labeling practices within the federal government. The report, Controlled Unclassified Information: Recommendations for Information Control Reform, shines a light on how government withholds unclassified information from the American people and offers recommendations on how to balance the need to protect sensitive materials with the duty to disclose information to the public.


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Chemical Security Legislation Begins to Move Through Congress

The House Homeland Security Committee passed legislation June 23 that would greatly reduce the risks and consequences of a terrorist attack on a chemical facility. The bill also includes small but important improvements in the accountability of the nation's chemical security program. However, industry-sponsored amendments and the continued risk of excessive secrecy during implementation diminish the value of the bill.

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Torture Photo Disclosure Ban out of War Spending Bill but Still Possible

During the week of June 8, an amendment seeking to block disclosure of photos of abused detainees in U.S. custody was removed from the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 2346). However, Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), sponsors of the amendment, have pledged to insert the language into other legislation. Moreover, the release of the torture photos is the subject of a lawsuit that may reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Administration Orders Interagency Review of Classification and CUI

On May 27, the Obama administration released a memorandum requiring reviews of overclassification and the current Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)/Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) process. The memorandum establishes separate 90-day interagency review processes to advise the administration on actions it should take to advance previous efforts to reform problems associated with these issues.

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Congress Seeks Hidden Truth on Torture

On May 13, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) held a hearing on the treatment of terrorist suspects in the custody of U.S. government personnel. The hearing was the first to formally discuss torture after the release of four key Bush administration memoranda that established broader interrogation policies. The hearing prompted the Justice Department to release two additional documents concerning internal Bush administration deliberations over policy.

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