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NSA oversight group receives American Library Association award

ALA Immediate Past President Maureen Sullivan (left) with Eileen Cooke Award recipient Udi Ofer (of the ACLU-New Jersey).
ALA Immediate Past President Maureen Sullivan (left) with Eileen Cooke Award recipient Udi Ofer (of the ACLU-New Jersey).

Today, the American Library Association awarded President Barack Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies the 2014 James Madison Award during the 16th Annual Freedom of Information Day in Washington, D.C. The Presidential Review Group received the award for calling for dozens of urgent and practical reforms to the National Security Agency’s unlawful surveillance programs.

Calling on the government to enhance public trust, the President’s Review Group produced a thoughtful report with a blueprint showing how the government can reaffirm its commitment to privacy and civil liberties–all without compromising national security. In the report, the Review Group emphasized the need for transparency and effective oversight, and made recommendations intended to protect U.S. national security and advance foreign policy. Additionally, the Review Group asked the U.S. government to demonstrate the validity of claims that secrecy is necessary.

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The award, which is named in honor of President James Madison, honors individuals who have championed, protected and promoted public access to government information and the public’s right to know national information. The American Library Association has long been a supporter of open access policies that increase the amount of research made available to the public.

Members of the Review Group include Richard Clarke, former national security official under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; Michael Morell, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Geoffrey Stone, law professor at the University of Chicago Law School; Cass Sunstein, professor at Harvard University and Peter Swire, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“We don’t think you have to sacrifice liberty to have freedom,” Clarke said while accepting the Madison award.

Additionally, the Open Government Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey received the Eileen Cooke Award for improving citizen access to public records and meeting files. The Open Government Project has increased public awareness of government transparency by developing educational materials, offering informational seminars to community organizations, and providing free legal representation to individuals unlawfully denied access to public records or public meetings.

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Jazzy Wright

Jazzy Wright is a former press officer of the Washington Office.

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