Latest News: Democracy in the Dark

April 10, 2015

Latest News

New Book Traces the History of Government Secrecy

From George Washington hiding inadequate military supplies to the National Security Agency’s massive intelligence gathering, there has always been a tension between secrecy and American democracy. For the first time, the full range of American history is viewed through the lens of secrecy in “Democracy in the Dark: The Seduction of Government Secrecy.” Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr.’s important new book illuminates one central question: How much secrecy does good governance require? Publisher’s Weekly calls Schwarz “an exceptionally well-positioned observer and participant in the contentious history of government secrecy.” He discussed the book at an event featuring Charlie Savage, Barton Gellman, Lucy Dalglish, Carrie Cordero, and Steven Aftergood in Washington, D.C. and on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show.” Read more from Katrina vanden Huevel at The Washington Post and buy the book here.

Maryland Legislature Moves to Restore Voting Rights

The Maryland House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday to restore voting rights to nearly 40,000 people with criminal convictions. The measure, which passed the Senate last month and now heads to the governor for his signature, “is important because it gives citizens a second chance to be contributing members of their communities,” wrote Tomas Lopez. The Maryland bill comes as rights restoration continues to gain bipartisan support, with bills introduced in Congress and the states in recent months. Read more from The Huffington Post.

This Week from Brennan Center Fellows and Scholars

Close New York's Biggest Campaign Finance Loophole

Lawrence Norden says that the Board of Elections must make one simple fix to curb unlimited campaign giving and bring more disclosure to New York politics.

How a Case of Stolen Corn Seeds Shows the Problem with the FISA Court

Does a Chinese company’s plot to steal corn seed warrant the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act? Faiza Patel looks at U.S. v. Hailong and discusses the near impossibility of effectively challenging FISA warrants, even in cases that do not clearly involve national security.

Obama’s Surveillance Reform Promises, One Year Later

Although the Obama administration has made incremental reforms to NSA surveillance over the last year, Elizabeth Goitein argues that major reforms are still needed to rein in the programs that have threatened Americans’ civil liberties.

Featured Event

The State of Money in Politics

Join the Brennan Center Thursday, May 7 at 6 p.m., for an in-depth conversation on the state of money in politics. The Citizens United ruling reshaped the American political landscape, giving the wealthy more power to influence elections than at any time since Watergate and opening the faucet for dark money. The panel includes Free Speech for People Board Chair Jeff Clements, Fordham Law School Prof. Zephyr Teachout, and Federal Election Commission Commissioner Ellen Weintraub. The Brennan Center’s Daniel Weiner will moderate. CLE credit is available. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

See more events here.

Brennan Center in the News

  • Will President Obama stem the flow of dark money in elections? Bloomberg View cited the Brennan Center’s recent report urging the president to require government contractors to disclose political spending.
  • Faiza Patel joined MSNBC’s “Road Map” to discuss the use of the word “terrorism” as it pertained to the Germanwings pilot. 
  • A recent Brennan Center report on TV ad spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race was mentioned in an article in The Nation about Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to take control of the judiciary. 

Read more Brennan Center in the News here.