|Closing the Door on AdviceIn an outright rejection of the basic concept that the federal government makes better decisions when it gets experts’ input, President Trump recently issued an executive order instructing all federal agencies to eliminate at least one-third of their advisory committees that aren’t required by law. |
This is sure to do more harm than good. In fact, it may well drive input from outside experts —on everything from public health to cybersecurity, from trade to civil rights—into the shadows, where we don’t know who agencies are hearing from or what is being said and where the public doesn’t have a voice.
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POGO in the News
| The New York TimesWhite House Directs Kellyanne Conway to Defy House Subpoena But government ethics groups condemned the White House’s refusal to comply with the subpoena. |
“No one is above the law, even if they work in the White House,” said Liz Hempowicz, the director of public policy at the Project On Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “Ms. Conway must be held to the same standard as all federal employees governed by the Hatch Act.”
|Mother JonesThe Pentagon’s Chain of Command Is—in Military Parlance—FUBAR “This is a particularly complex case,” Rebecca Jones, policy counsel at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, said in an interview with Mother Jones. “I don’t think the Vacancies Act has been challenged with this level of complexity.”|
|Politico Morning Transportation Outside groups have been weighing in on the nomination too, with several watchdog organizations pushing Senate leadership to delay a confirmation vote until Petitt’s whistleblower case against Delta is complete. The groups — the Government Accountability Project, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen and Whistleblowers for America — took issue with Dickson’s alleged involvement in retaliation against Petitt and his failure to disclose the incident to the committee.|
| Government MattersAcosta resigns: An abundance of acting officials left Liz Hempowicz, policy director at the Project on Government Oversight, discusses the growing number of acting roles in the Trump administration, and issues it could present. |
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned last week after significant controversy. The resignation makes Labor Secretary the third cabinet position to be filled in an acting capacity. Liz Hempowicz, policy director at the Project on Government Oversight, says that the number of acting roles in this administration isn’t just a problem, it’s illegal.
“You can fill this segment going through the list of positions that have actings in them or don’t even have a nominee at this point. It doesn’t instill confidence in the leadership in those roles… We could call it churn, we could also call it unconstitutional. The constitution requires that the president seek out and gain the advice and consent of the Senate. What he’s doing by relying on acting officials is ignoring Congress on this, and unfortunately, we haven’t seen Congress push back and say to him ‘You really need to make permanent appointments and we need to weigh in on them,’” said Hempowicz. “One part of it that I think doesn’t get enough attention is that it is a time for the Senators to weigh in… but it is also time for constituents to weigh in. It’s time for individuals who have personal information about those individuals to come forward and participate in this process. The president isn’t cutting out the Senate, he is cutting out the constituency of the United States when he is relying on acting officials.”
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| The HillHillicon Valley: … Warren, Jayapal question FCC over industry influence INDUSTRY COMPLEX: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) are questioning the private sector’s influence over the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decisionmaking when it comes to network security. |
Warren and Jayapal asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, about an advisory committee that is dominated by members affiliated with industry groups or companies in a letter released Monday.
“Having the FCC’s policy-making process rely on input from individuals employed by, or affiliated with, the corporations that it is tasked with overseeing is the very definition of regulatory capture,” the progressive lawmakers wrote. “The FCC should be working on behalf of American consumers, not giant telecommunications companies.”
The letter, dated last Thursday, cites reporting by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a nonpartisan watchdog group, that alleges that private interests have come to dominate the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC).
The CSRIC is made up of appointees chosen by the FCC chairman to advise the agency on cybersecurity decisions related to the nation’s communications infrastructure.
POGO charted how recent iterations of the panel have been increasingly dominated by the private sector. The current makeup of CSRIC’s 22 members consists of 15 seats held by people affiliated with private companies or industry groups, six held by government officials and just one occupied by a representative from a civil society group.
In their letter, Warren and Jayapal asked Pai to explain how the makeup of the board is consistent with its charter and the law, both of which require it to represent the public interest.
| The Washington Times‘Nobody’s smoother’: Trump defense secretary nominee fully prepared for Senate showdown Watchdog groups are eager to see how he handles the issue during his Senate testimony. Specifically, they want Mr. Esper to detail how he will head off any conflicts of interest involving Raytheon, including whether he would voluntarily extend the mandated two-year “cooling off” period to recuse himself from matters involving his former employer. |
“One of the big questions is whether he recognizes the intent of ethics laws and cooling-off periods to create a system where the public can have confidence that decisions are based on what’s best for national security, not what might financially benefit his former employer,” said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight. “Shanahan modeled how to show this commitment by voluntarily extending his cooling-off period, showing that he understood our current weak ethics laws are a floor, not a ceiling, on what limits should be put in place.”
| The FulcrumHouse passes bill to speed an end to inspector general vacancies Forcing the White House to at least explain he it hasn’t chosen new watchdogs is designed to speed the pace of nominations, if for no other reason than to avoid questions about whether preventing waste is a priority for an administration, said Rebecca Jones, policy counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, which last year released a report offering recommendations to strengthen the work of IGs and tracks current vacancies. |
“That’s not a question you want to have come up,” she said. “Hopefully this will make it so that we don’t even get to that phase because the president will prioritize nominations.”
|FuturismThe FBI is Scanning DMV Photos of Law-Abiding Americans “It’s really a surveillance-first, ask-permission-later system,” Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, told WaPo. “People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these [facial-recognition] searches are happening very frequently today. The FBI alone does 4,000 searches every month, and a lot of them go through state DMVs.”|
|SplinterThe FBI and ICE Are Using Your DMV Photos to Run Facial Recognition Searches “It’s really a surveillance-first, ask-permission-later system,” Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, told the Post. “People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these [facial-recognition] searches are happening very frequently today. The FBI alone does 4,000 searches every month, and a lot of them go through state DMVs.”|
| InquisitrFBI And ICE Using Driver’s License Photos Without Consent For Facial Recognition Searches Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, criticized the technology. |
“It’s really a surveillance-first, ask-permission-later system,” he said.
|American Military NewsFBI, ICE secretly using huge photo ID databases for unauthorized facial recognition Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight said, “It’s really a surveillance-first, ask-permission-later system. People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these (facial-recognition) searches are happening very frequently today. The FBI alone does 4,000 searches every month, and a lot of them go through state DMVs.”|
|Security TodayReport: ICE Used Facial Recognition Technology To Search Multiple State Driver’s License Databases The Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group that investigates fraud and abuse in the federal government, notes that there is little government regulation of facial recognition. Neither Congress nor most state legislatures have passed any limits on the technology, with Oregon being the only state to forbid that facial recognition be used in conjunction with police body cameras.|
|TomDispatch .comTomgram: William Astore, Drowning in Militarism As it turned out, Ike couldn’t have been more on target and the phrase stuck (as, of course, did the military-industrial complex). Almost six decades after he introduced the term, the national security apparatus, according to William Hartung and Mandy Smithberger, now gulps down a staggering $1.25 trillion of our tax money annually, while fighting endless wars, and could hardly be more powerful. In a world in which the U.S. national security state is still expanding, however, Eisenhower’s phrase may actually be too modest for our militaristic moment. As political scientist Daniel Wirls wrote recently, “That Cold War term no longer fits. ‘Industrial’ does not capture the breadth of the activities involved. And ‘military’ fails to describe the range of government policies and interests implicated… If anything, Eisenhower’s complex has become more complex and potentially influential.” Wirls suggests instead “National Security Corporate Complex,” which may prove a bit of a mouthful, but he does catch the spirit of the new world of corporations like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics in calling them, aptly indeed, “Walmarts of war.”|
| The Daily Star (Oneonta NY)In Our Opinion: Cuomo has a valid point on databases And given the extent to which this technology is already being used, it’s not just immigrants and their advocates who should be concerned. Anyone who values privacy should be urging lawmakers to restrict its use, or at the very least exercise proper oversight. |
“It’s really a surveillance-first, ask-permission-later system,” said Jake Laperruque, of the Project on Government Oversight watchdog group, in an interview with the Washington Post. “People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these (facial-recognition) searches are happening very frequently today.”
| The Tennessee StarWatchdog Groups Question Ohio Company’s Donation to Trump’s Fireworks Display Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, agreed that the donation “raises ethical concerns.” |
“The fireworks companies have reportedly lobbied against tariffs, and they could be using the Trump administration’s celebration to better their business opportunities. We have witnessed a blurring of the line between government and business with this administration and things don’t seem to be improving,” he added.
|The IndypendentImmigrant and Labor Activists Pay Bezos a Visit on Prime Day Further, emails obtained last year through a Freedom of Information Act request by advocates with the Project on Government Oversight show that Amazon executives met with ICE officials last year, pitching them facial recognition software — technology that has been widely criticized for its inability to distinguish black and brown faces.|
|The RootWhodunit? As Feds Scan DMV Records Using Facial Recognition Software and More Cities Use the Technology, Racial Bias Could Be a Problem Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, told the Post: “It’s really a surveillance-first, ask-permission-later system. People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these [facial-recognition] searches are happening very frequently today. The FBI alone does 4,000 searches every month, and a lot of them go through state DMVs.”|