Washington E-Bulletin - July 2013

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Vol. 2013, Issue 07

A Look Ahead

Following the recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic surveillance programs, the AALL Government Relations Office (GRO) has been working closely with key allies on Capitol Hill to support several Congressional efforts calling for greater transparency, privacy protections, and government oversight. AALL has endorsed the Ending Secret Law Act (S. 1130, H.R. 2475), which would require the Attorney General to release significant opinions or portion of opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), unless such disclosure is not in the national security interest of the United States and for other purposes. The FISC is the special court that authorizes surveillance inside and outside the United States under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) and the USA PATRIOT Act. Introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif) and Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), the Ending Secret Law Act has gained broad bipartisan support in both chambers.

GRO staff has also been in close contact with the office of Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, whose FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 (S. 1215) aims to reform the USA PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act to apply greater oversight and control to the government's surveillance programs. Senator Leahy’s legislation would narrow the scope of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act by requiring the government to show both relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to a foreign group or power. The bill also aims to move the sunset date for the FISA Amendments Act from June 2017 to June 2015, "to ensure timely re-examination of how these authorities are being utilized," Senator Leahy said. The 2015 FISA sunset will also align with the PATRIOT Act sunsets, "enabling Congress to address these FISA provisions all at once, rather than in a piecemeal fashion.”

A bipartisan group of 13 senators called for an independent investigation by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) into the NSA programs and NSA Director General Keith Alexander has said the agency will cooperate. On June 19, AALL sent a letter to the PCLOB to ask the Board to urge the administration to make public information about the legal authorities for government surveillance of Americans. The PCLOB will hold a public workshop on Sections 215 and 702 on July 9.

There will be many opportunities for you to take action in the coming weeks on these important reforms. For more information of AALL’s work on transparency and privacy, join the GRO at one of the many public policy programs at AALL 2013, including our annual Public Policy Update, where we’ll discuss this legislation in depth. Stay tuned to our Washington Blawg and Legislative Action Center for the latest news.

Act Now

Tell Congress to Pass ECPA Reform Today
Bills have been introduced in the Senate and House that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) to balance the government's interest in protecting national security with the individual's right to privacy and freedom from government surveillance.  In light of recent news about the government's secret surveillance programs, Congress should act now to protect the privacy rights of all Americans by swiftly passing bipartisan ECPA reform.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013 (S. 607) and the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 1852) would protect sensitive personal information from government surveillance by requiring a warrant based on probable cause before obtaining the content of emails and other electronic communications. Write your members of Congress today to ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1852 and support S. 607. Our Legislative Action Center offers sample emails for you to customize and send to your representatives and senators. For background, see the ECPA one-pager written by Government Relations Committee Vice Chair Susan Nevelow Mart. Protection of privacy, including changes to existing law to protect electronic communications, is one of AALL's policy priorities for the 113th Congress. AALL is a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, a diverse group of privacy advocates, major companies, and think tanks working together to support ECPA reform.

Save the Date: Recess Advocacy Training Aug. 7
The upcoming August recess will provide an excellent opportunity for law librarian advocacy when legislators across the country head back to their home districts and states. You can take advantage of your close proximity by getting active in advocacy. Invite your legislators to tour your library and tell them about the need for adequate funding for public law libraries. Meet with your representative to urge them to support public access to congressionally mandated reports. Attend a town hall meeting and ask your legislators about their support for ECPA. The relationships you build this August will serve you well in months to come. The summer recess offers a crucial opportunity for face-to-face interactions with your members of Congress and the ability to engage on important federal in your home state or district. 

With your members of Congress at home, now is the perfect time to put to practice the belief that “all politics is local.” Join us on August 7 at 12:00pm EDT for an online advocacy training on August recess advocacy. We’ll delve a little deeper into the preparations you should take and help ready you to put advocacy into practice next month!

AALL in the States

An Update on UELMA
The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) is still under consideration in several state legislatures and saw some progress last month. Senate Bill 601 passed the Pennsylvania Senate in late June and has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Today, the Council of the District of Columbia’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety heard UELMA Bill 20-221. AALL Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren and Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. (LLSDC) member Melanie Knapp testifed in support of the bill before the Committee. The written statements of AALL and LLSDC are available on AALLNET.

See our recently updated UELMA Enactment Chart and 2013 UELMA Bill Tracking for the latest information on the Act.

Chapter Government Relations Get-Together July 14
Chapter leaders and government relations chairs are invited to attend the Government Relations Get-Together on Sunday, July 14 at 5:00pm. This informal event will take place at the Fountain Wine Bar in the Sheraton Seattle Hotel, the AALL Headquarters for this year’s Annual Meeting and Conference.

Chapter advocates are invited to network with their fellow chapter contacts, strategize on upcoming advocacy campaigns, and celebrate the chapter successes of the past year, including the enactment of the UELMA in eight states to date! AALL Government Relations Office staff Emily Feltren and Elizabeth Holland will be on hand to answer questions, facilitate connections, and share more information on future opportunities for chapter involvement. More than 15 have already RSVPed. You won’t want to miss it!

Please RSVP to Elizabeth Holland at eholland@aall.org by next Monday, July 8.

Roundup and Review

  • Library associations support nomination of Davita Vance-Cooks to lead GPO
  • Who are the judges presiding over America's secret court?
  • 26 Senators seek answers on secret national security law
  • Joint library statement urging WIPO Member States to agree an effective treaty for print disabled people. Last week, they did!
  • Missed early registration? Email eholland@aall.org to reserve your spot at our Legislation Advocacy Training on 7/13