from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2013, Issue No. 68
July 25, 2013
Secrecy News Blog: http://blogs.fas.org/secrecy/
- FRACTURED CONSENSUS SEEN IN HOUSE VOTE ON SURVEILLANCE
- RESOURCES ON MANHATTAN PROJECT, FOIA, FISA REFORM
- CHINA'S CURRENCY POLICY, AND MORE FROM CRS
FRACTURED CONSENSUS SEEN IN HOUSE VOTE ON SURVEILLANCE
An amendment to prohibit intelligence agencies from performing bulk collection of records such as telephone metadata was narrowly defeated in the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 205-217.
Although the amendment by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) was not adopted, its near-passage on a bipartisan basis signalled an extraordinary loss of congressional support for the national security establishment and for the bulk collection of records revealed by Edward Snowden in particular. It is doubtful that any intelligence program can continue for long with 49% of House members opposed to it.
The House debate had a certain theatrical quality because it reflected divergent value judgments more than opposing factual claims.
For proponents of the intelligence program, which is conducted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, it is a lawful and constitutional effort. In itself, they insist, the collection of telephone records by the government no more involves "spying" on Americans than does the collection of such records by the telephone company-- which is to say, not at all. And the program has been justified, they say, by its success in detecting and preventing terrorist attacks.
To opponents of the program, however, intelligence collection of records concerning private persons who are not suspected of any crime is an impermissible infringement on the Fourth Amendment. Opponents also disbelieve that the program has contributed significantly to combating terrorism, or else they would implicitly forego any additional margin of security that it provides. Moreover, they say, the bulk collection of records deviates from the language and the intent of the law.
Even in victory, supporters of the current program do not believe the matter is settled. Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a principal defender of the existing program, said he would consider further proposals to mitigate privacy concerns.
"I will pledge to each one of you today and give you my word that this fall, when we do the Intel authorization bill, that we will work to find additional privacy protections with this program," he said.
RESOURCES ON MANHATTAN PROJECT, FOIA, FISA REFORM
The Department of Energy has undertaken a new effort to publish information and documents concerning the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb. The effort will notably include "the entire thirty-six volume Manhattan District History. Many of the volumes have been declassified" and are now online. "The remaining classified volumes are being declassified with redactions, i.e., still classified terms, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs are removed and the remaining unclassified parts made available to the public. The volumes will be posted incrementally as review and processing is completed."
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, has issued a report on legislation to amend the Freedom of Information Act. As detailed in the report, the pending House bill "amends FOIA to provide for more proactive disclosure of records, encourages enhanced agency compliance, and improves the FOIA process for both agencies and requesters."
Critics of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, including some former Court members, have lately suggested that Court procedures could be improved if they allowed for an advocate to argue against the government's applications for surveillance and to contest proposed changes in the Court's interpretations of the law. This proposal was originally presented nearly twenty years ago by the late Kenneth C. Bass at a 1994 hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on "Amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." The resulting hearing volume including discussion of Mr. Bass's proposal is here:
CHINA'S CURRENCY POLICY, AND MORE FROM CRS
New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service which Congress has withheld from online distribution to the public include the following.
China's Currency Policy: An Analysis of the Economic Issues, July 22, 2013:
International Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Threats and U.S. Policy, July 23, 2013:
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Natural Resource Damage Assessment Under the Oil Pollution Act, July 24, 2013:
Analysis of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), July 22, 2013:
Proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): In Brief, July 23, 2013:
Hague Convention Treaty on Recovery of International Child Support and H.R. 1896, July 15, 2013:
Kazakhstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests, July 22, 2013:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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