Advocacy Groups Ask Congress for Transparency in CISPA Hearing Next Week

On March 20 a coalition of advocacy groups, concerned citizens, academics, and web sites sent a letter to the White House urging the President of the United States to veto CISPA in its current state if it is passed by the House and Senate.

Today this same coalition has sent a letter to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence urging members of the committee to abandon plans next week to debate the cyber-security bill in a closed door markup hearing. Basically this would shut down any debate outside of that closed door hearing and would make it so that networks like CSPAN won't be able to cover them. Ultimately it slams the door on anyone who opposes this bill, hides the discussions lawmakers have about it, and covers up (at least until the bill is voted on or released by lawmakers for the public to see) any amendment made in the hearing.

You can read the letter in its entirety below, but the gist of it is that this coalition is urging lawmakers to put some daylight on this upcoming hearing and to provide transparency during the process of working through the CISPA legislation.

April 3, 2013

Dear Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,

We write to urge you to open the markup of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), HR 624, scheduled for the week of April 8th. The public has a right to know how Congress is conducting the people’s business, particularly when such important wide-ranging policies are at stake. There have been many public calls by Members of Congress and administration officials about the importance of adopting cybersecurity legislation. Yet, many of our organizations have raised serious concerns about the threats to privacy and civil liberties and to the public’s right to know posed by CISPA, and the need for fundamental changes to this bill to protect those rights. Although the base bill, HR 624, has been made public, it is also critical that the public be aware of any amendments under consideration, and the debate over such amendments.

It’s time to bring this process into the light of day.

All congressional committee hearings and votes should be conducted in accordance with our country’s highest principles of transparency and openness and made accessible to the public. Certainly, there are special exceptions when a committee can and should move to closed session to consider properly classified information, but this step should be taken only in specific instances where needed. The general rule should be open government. As you know, it is the practice of most other committees not only to open their markups, but also to webcast them and share the text of the legislation in advance of voting. Closure of the entire markup is unwarranted.

We hope that you will apply these principles for more openness and democracy to the markup of CISPA. We urge all committee members to support an open markup and to post the amendments to be considered online in advance of voting.


American Association of Law Libraries
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for National Security Studies
Center for Rights
The Constitution Project
Cyber Privacy Project
Daily Kos
Defending Dissent Foundation
Demand Progress, Inc.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Entertainment Consumers Association
Fight for the Future
Free Press Action Fund
Government Accountability Project
Liberty Coalition
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Coalition Against Censorship
New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute
NY Tech Meetup
Personal Democracy Media
Project on Government Oversight
Society of Professional Journalists
Sunlight Foundation
Utah Foundation for Open Government
Washington Civil Rights Council
Washington Coalition for Open Government

If you'd like to let your elected representative in Congress know that you don't like them hiding while debating CISPA, you can do so through the Entertainment Consumers Association's Advocacy campaign.

[GamePolitics is an ECA publication.]


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