Today in OpenGov: Dangerous surveillance


In today's edition, we join a coalition against a dangerous surveillance law, President Trump asks the Senate to stop its Russia investigation, the Wisconsin Supreme Court can't agree on how to handle conflicts, and more.  

washington watch

Image via the National Parks Service.
  • Sunlight joined a coalition opposed to reauthorization of surveillance law. Yesterday, we joined a coalition of transparency, civil liberties, and privacy advocates in opposing the FISA Amendments Act of 2017. Secret, warrantless surveillance of Americans' information should not be codified into law. You can learn more and read the coalition letter via the ACLU
  • Supreme Court appears to find common ground on digital privacy case. "On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard what could become the most important electronic-privacy case of the 21st century. The justices considered whether the government, without a warrant, can effectively trace our movements in public for months on end by demanding 127 days of the geolocational data—known as cell-site location information—that mobile phones beam out 24 hours a day." As Jeffrey Rosen explains, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neal Gorsuch, who have very different perspective, made "passionate arguments for why allowing these kinds of mass searches of our digital effects would be as invasive and unreasonable as the hated general warrants that helped spark the American Revolution." (The Atlantic)
  • In effort to boost self-reporting of foreign bribes, government will avoid charging companies. "The Justice Department is extending an Obama-era program that encourages companies to admit to foreign bribery, with a twist. As before, the U.S. will consider reducing financial penalties for companies that come clean. Now, the feds will be more likely to consider forgoing criminal charges as well." (Bloomberg)
  • Amid scrutiny over settlement of harassment complaints in Congress, office in charge is hesitant to explain its secrecy. "Over the past two weeks, lawmakers and journalists have pressed for answers about the taxpayer-funded operations of the Office of Compliance (OOC), and why it is that so little information is publicly available about the public offices whose complaints it addresses." Chris Geidner reports "the OOC already publishes more information than it is required to by law in its annual report, and a spokesperson would not explain why they argue that same law prevents them from providing additional transparency that the OOC currently lacks." (BuzzFeed)


  • Over the summer, President Trump reportedly pressured Senate to end its Russia investigation. "President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides. Mr. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides." (New York Times)
  • Treasury watchdog looking into failure to analyze Congressional tax reform proposal. "The Treasury Department’s inspector general is examining whether political considerations interfered with Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s promised analysis of the Republican tax proposal." (Bloomberg)
  • Critics see conflicts for President Trump's nominee to lead NOAA. Barry Myers, President Trump's pick to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, went in front of the Senate earlier this week. Critics have identified significant potential conflicts of interest for Myers, who is the CEO of Accuweather. (NPR)

states and cities

  • Mapping digital inclusion in Kansas City, Missouri. "The city of Kansas City, MO has an ambitious vision: to connect all of its nearly 500,000 residents to the Internet. In the city’s eyes, connectivity is not valuable only for its own sake, but as a path towards many other critical goals, like improving education, reducing poverty, and promoting public health." To that end, as Chris Bousquet explains, the city created the "the KC Digital Inclusion Map, an interactive visualization of Internet speed across Kansas City…" (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court judges can't agree on when to recuse themselves. "A majority of the justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are offended by the suggestion that they might rule improperly in cases involving their campaign donors. But even more than that, they’ve rejected tighter recusal standards and have taken revenge on those who suggested them." (Governing)
  • Facebook remains a grey area for public records. "With avenues of communication expanding in our increasingly-connected world, the boundaries between private and public life have become increasingly blurred, an evolving issue for the keepers of the public records who must determine which materials must be archived and which may maintain their privacy." Beryl Lipton digs into the details over at MuckRock

one sentence or less

A screenshot of ProPublica's Bombs in Your Backyard map. 
  • Earlier this week the Census Bureau showed off open data projects that emerged from the Opportunity Project. (Federal Computer Week) We were honored to attend the event. 
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing several federal agencies for details about "tattoo recognition technology" being developed for law enforcement. (The Hill)
  • ProPublica mapped all the spots where the Department of Defense has cleaned up –or in some cases is still cleaning up — toxic waste and explosives. 
  • The Senate GOP campaign committee stole donor data from the House GOP campaign committee. (POLITICO)
  • In West Virginia, a former coal executive who spent a year in jail for conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws is running for Senate. (The Hill)


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!