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Project on Government Oversight

Openness Groups Ask Congress to Strengthen Intelligence Accountability Legislation

October 9, 2013

The Honorable Mike Thompson
US House of Representatives
231 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Thompson,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations committed to openness and accountability, we are writing to thank you for your interest in improving oversight of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs, and to urge you to strengthen H.R. 3103, the Intelligence Oversight and Accountability Act of 2013, by making sure the public understands how the government is interpreting the law.

H.R. 3103 improves Congressional oversight by requiring the Attorney General (AG) to share with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) decisions, orders or opinions that include a denial of an Intelligence Community (IC) IC request, a modification of an IC request, or results in a change to any legal interpretation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This change will eliminate the AG’s discretion regarding whether a FISC opinion includes a “significant construction or interpretation of the law” and therefore must be shared with the Congress.

We urge you to amend H.R.3103 to require that the AG make publicly available copies of all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court FISC decisions and opinions in a timely fashion, with redactions for appropriately classified material as needed. If redacted versions of the opinions cannot be made available, the AG should be required to prepare and make available summaries of the opinions. Revelations regarding the NSA’s surveillance programs point to operations that are much broader and invasive that thought to be allowed under the law and add to the growing concern that applying secret interpretations of the law have undermined
American’s privacy and civil liberties. In order to improve understanding and help make sure these programs sufficiently protect fundamental liberties, the public also must know how the FISC is interpreting the law.

Thanks you in advance for your consideration of our request. To discuss this issue in greater detail, please contact Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org at 202-332-6736 or pmcdermott@openthegovernment.org.

Sincerely,

American Association of Law Libraries

American Library Association

Californians Aware

Center for Democracy and Technology

Center for Media and Democracy

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in

Washington – CREW

The Constitution Project

Council on American-Islamic Relations –

CAIR

Defending Dissent Foundation

Essential Information

Government Accountability Project – GAP

James Madison Project

National Coalition Against Censorship

National Security Counselors

OpenTheGovernment.org

Progressive Librarians Guild

Project On Government Oversight – POGO

Society of American Archivists

Society of Professional Journalists



cc: Chairman Mike Rodgers
Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger
Representative Frank LoBiondo
Representative Luis Gutierrez
Representative J. Randy Forbes
Representative Mac Thornberry
Representative Jeff Miller
Representative Mike Conaway
Representative Peter King
Representative Devin Nunes
Representative Lynn Westmoreland
Representative Michele Bachmann
Representative Thomas J Rooney
Representative Joe Heck
Representative Mike Pompeo
Representative Jan Schakowsky
Representative Jim Langevin
Representative Adam Schiff
Representative Ed Pastor
Representative Jim Himes
Representative Terri Sewell

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