Security expert Bruce Schneier makes a strong case, with lots of links to background material:
- Government Secrets and the Need for Whistleblowers by Bruce Schneier Crypto-Gram Newsletter (June 15, 2013).
The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.
Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal -- or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law -- but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we're living in a police state.
[This essay originally appeared in The Atlantic.]
CRYPTO-GRAM is written by Bruce Schneier. Schneier is the author of the best sellers "Liars and Outliers," "Beyond Fear," "Secrets and Lies," and "Applied Cryptography," and an inventor of the Blowfish, Twofish, Threefish, Helix, Phelix, and Skein algorithms. He is the Chief Security Technology Officer of BT, and is on the Advisory Boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He is a frequent writer and lecturer on security topics. See http://www.schneier.com.
On June 15, 2004, the Detroit Pistons win Game Five, 100-87 over the Los Angeles Lakers to win their third NBA Championship. Considered underdogs by many NBA experts, the Pistons dominate the series, defeating the Lakers and their four future Hall of Famers. Guard Chauncey Billups is named Finals MVP.
Source : Detroit Athletic Company
On June 15, 1968, Penny Amos and Robert Cooley, two members of a Detroit diving club, gurgled vows at the bottom of Higgins Lake in Michigan's first underwater wedding.
Source : MIRS Today In History.
June 15, 1836 : President Andrew Jackson Signs Bill Granting Michigan Statehood; Toledo War Delays Implementation
On June 15, 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill to admit Michigan and Arkansas, its paired slave state, into the Union. Statehood was delayed, however, until January of the next year because of the Michigan border dispute with Ohio.
On June 15, 1948, the first night game is played at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. Hal Newhouser allows just two hits in the Tigers 4-1 win over the Athletics. The Tigers are the last American League team to install lights.
Source : Detroit Athletic Company
Congress proposes an end to the Michigan/Ohio boundary issue.
After months of debate, Congress passed the Northern Ohio Boundary Bill (Clayton Act) on June 15, 1836 to resolve the ongoing boundary dispute between the state of Ohio and the Michigan Territory. Both claimed the mouth of the Maumee River (present-day Toledo) and offered surveys supporting their positions. The congressional compromise awarded Toledo to Ohio and granted Michigan the western Upper Peninsula and immediate statehood. Ohio was elated, but Michigan struggled, and eventually accepted a solution they believed was unfair.
At any rate, President Andrew Jackson signed the bill, which also included another carrot for Michigan. If Michigan agrees, it can become a state. Michigan must hold a convention, however, to approve the compromise measure.
Michigan Historical Calendar, Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan State University.
For another source, see Important Dates in Michigan's Quest for Statehood
Update 2: AB 76 was passed by the legislature Friday evening, unbeknownst to many journalists and open-government advocates attempting to follow the vote. This explains why EFF's post predicted a vote on Saturday.
The California legislature is close to suspending important provisions of the state’s public records act, giving local agencies the authority to unilaterally ignore procedures designed to ensure government transparency.
Senate Bill 71 and AB 76, which could be passed and sent to the governor's offiice on Saturday, would allow government bodies on the local level—such as cities, counties, sheriff’s departments and education systems—to choose whether or not to follow certain requirements under the California Public Records Act. These provisions would be downgraded from law to mere “best practices.” Gone would be the deadlines for determining whether records are disclosable and notifying the member of the public who requested the records. Gone would be the requirement that agencies assist members of the public in identifying which records would answer their questions. Gone would be the mandate that agencies turn over documents in an electronic format if the records have already been digitized.
A local government wouldn’t even have to publicly disclose its records-disclosure policy in writing. The bills only say an agency must “announce orally” once a year if it decides not to follow the new “best practices.”
The impact on government watchdogs, journalists and the public—including EFF—would be profound. The legislation would create long waits for access to records, allow agencies to interpret requests narrowly (say, rejecting requests unless the citizen asks for a specific document), and leave the requesters waiting in limbo indefinitely as government agencies will have no incentive to be helpful.
Further, it would create massive inconsistencies in policies across the state, making it difficult for members of the public to know what their rights are under the law. Because the opt-out announcement could be made orally, people may have to go back and listen to audio recordings of meetings to even find out if local officials decided to ignore the recommendations.
The state senate and assembly each passed separate versions of the legislation in May under the auspices that it would save the government money. So far no dollar figure has appeared in any public legislative analysis (meanwhile, the state's revenue has exceeded expectations by $4.5 billion).
Even if the change in law would save money on the front end (if anything, a drop in the bucket), taxpayers would pay a heavy price for it in the long haul: It could mark the end of the public’s ability to uncover wasteful spending, ineffective social and educational programs, foolish development projects, abusive practices by law enforcement, and political graft. The agencies most likely to opt out of the best practices won’t be the ones with the tightest budgets, but the ones with the most to hide.
California has long had a strong commitment to government transparency. The California Public Records Act became law in 1968, just one year after the federal Freedom of Information Act, and recognizes that:
access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.
Californians even incorporated a right to government transparency into the state constitution by overwhelming majority vote in 2004. However, this proposed legislation would strongly undermine this important right.
As is it now, California’s public-records laws are inadequate. The State Integrity Project—a report-card-style study by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International—gave the state a D- in the terms of public access to information. The grade was based on a 75-percent mark for the legal right to access and a 47-percent for actual effectiveness.
If this measure is passed, we predict that failing grade will drop even lower.
This legislation runs in exactly the opposite direction that the government should be moving in terms of open government. Public access to records should be included as a standard part of the overhead of any government activity. EFF urges the state legislature to stand up for accountability and remove the public-records provisions from SB 71/AB 76 now or vote it down altogether. And if this land on his desk, Governor Jerry Brown should not hesitate to veto the anti-transparency measure buried in this budget.Related Issues: Transparency
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