On Wednesday evening, Congress passed the first FOIA Reform bill in a decade to the praise of freedom of information groups. Meanwhile, the Senate is working on a FISA reform bill that it will seek passage for during the beginning of next year, and the CIA has agreed to work with the House on the ‘torture tape’ investigation.
“It’s the Secrecy, Stupid” was the title of Yale Law School Professor Jack Balkin‘s prominent legal blog post about the FISA-NSA wiretapping reform bills that now seem to have passed their hurdles in the Senate, having been favorably reported out of the Select Committe on Intelligence. The reforms, would give retro-active immunity to telecommunication companies, who, as the Washington Post revealed (but the companies themselves refuse to confirm or deny) engaged in wiretapping even before receiving explicit congressional authorization to do so. The proposals have been widely criticized by legal experts, but seem likely to pass Congress and be signed into law this week. UPDATE: Harper’s provides an insightful analysis of Balkin’s blog post and Marty Lederman‘s reply in light of the recent refusal by National Intelligence Director McConnell to release National Intelligence Estimates. Meanwhile, even Congressional Committees are having difficulty obtaining information about the administration’s policies on the telecommunication immunity measures.
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Warrantless Surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: The Role of Checks and Balances in Protecting Americans’ Privacy Rights which featured testimony by Pentagon Papers staff director and chief organizer Mort Halperin expressing his strong reservation about the “Protect America Act“, calling its ambiguity and vagueness “simply unacceptable and a threat to both our liberty and our security.”