The Government Officials Achieving Transparency Act

Praetor

Hoppin' Around
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This legislation will make the Security Council more accountable and transparent to the region. I believe it is a long overdue piece of legislation. In the past, concerns have been raised that Security Councillors have lied to the region and what they do behind closed doors is shrouded in secrecy, regardless of merit of these specific concerns, that these concerns themselves exist is problematic. This act will address these issues by making the Security Council subject to FOIA (currently only the Vice Delegate is covered as a member of the Executive). Obviously there does remain a need for secrecy. The existing exemptions for FOIA already cover this as information that would be harmful to the security of the region (in addition to other exemptions) is classified information as would not have to be disclosed.

The act accomplishes its goals by referring to the government for this section to also include the Security Council. I have removed references to the Delegate and designated officers of the Executive, etc. and replaced with the aforementioned defined term of “the government”. This also helps simplify the language in the affected clauses.

The Government Officials Achieving Transparency Act:
The title of Chapter 7: Executive Government shall be amended to:
Chapter 7: Government Officials
Clause 1 shall be amended to:
1. Any Law regulating government officials of The North Pacific may be listed in this chapter.
Section 7.4 shall be amended as follows:
21. For the purposes of this section, classified information is that which fits any of the below definitions:
Real life information about any NationStates player from which there is a risk of inferring that player's real life identity and which has not willingly been disclosed to the public, including, but not limited to, an individual's name, IP address, physical address or location, phone number, place of employment or education, appearance, social media accounts, and other knowledge about a player, unless the player in question provides explicit consent for this information not to be considered private.
Real life information about any NationStates player for which there exists a reasonable real life expectation of privacy or discretion, including, but not limited to, health status, both mental and physical; financial status; personal tragedies; changes in personal status such as marriage, divorce, pregnancy, birth, or death; and other similar information, unless the player in question provides explicit consent for this information not to be considered private.
Information that, upon being made public, would jeopardize any ongoing military or intelligence operations; or jeopardize the security of units and agents participating in them, or be harmful to the diplomatic interests, military interests, or security of The North Pacific.
22. Notwithstanding any process for publication, any information which meets the criteria to be classified will not be released.
23. Private government records which reach one year of age will be relocated to the appropriate Declassified Archive visible to residents.
24. At any time a resident may request the release of any private record from the appropriate government official of the Delegate and the Executive Officers, and the Security Council.
25. The government will retrieve information requested from the different departments of the government.
26. Residents who do not receive this information for any reason not specifically designated in appropriate laws or regulations may file a request for the information to the court, where the government may present evidence that addresses any claim that release of the information meets one or more of the acceptable criteria for classification.
27. Information appropriately not disclosed will be accepted as classified by a majority vote of the Court sitting as a three-member panel.
Markup:
Chapter 7: Executive GovernmentGovernment Officials

1. Any Law regulating the executive government officials of The North Pacific may be listed in this chapter.
20. For the purposes of this section "the government" refers to the Delegate and the Executive Officers, including the departments which they oversee.
21. For the purposes of this section, classified information is that which fits any of the below definitions:
Real life information about any NationStates player from which there is a risk of inferring that player's real life identity and which has not willingly been disclosed to the public, including, but not limited to, an individual's name, IP address, physical address or location, phone number, place of employment or education, appearance, social media accounts, and other knowledge about a player, unless the player in question provides explicit consent for this information not to be considered private.
Real life information about any NationStates player for which there exists a reasonable real life expectation of privacy or discretion, including, but not limited to, health status, both mental and physical; financial status; personal tragedies; changes in personal status such as marriage, divorce, pregnancy, birth, or death; and other similar information, unless the player in question provides explicit consent for this information not to be considered private.
Information that, upon being made public, would jeopardize any ongoing military or intelligence operations; or jeopardize the security of units and agents participating in them, or be harmful to the diplomatic interests, military interests, or security of The North Pacific.
22. Notwithstanding any process for publication, any information which meets the criteria to be classified will not be released.
23. Private government records which reach one year of age will be relocated to the appropriate Declassified Archive visible to residents.
24. At any time a resident may request the release of any private record from the appropriate government official of the Delegate and the Executive Officers, and the Security Councilthrough the Delegate and the designated officers of the Executive.
25. The Delegate and the designated officers of the Executivegovernment will retrieve information requested from the different departments of the government.
26. Residents who do not receive this information for any reason not specifically designated in appropriate laws or regulations may file a request for the information to the court, where the Delegate and the designated officers of the Executivegovernment may present evidence that addresses any claim that release of the information meets one or more of the acceptable criteria for classification.
27. Information appropriately not disclosed will be accepted as classified by a majority vote of the Court sitting as a three-member panel.
 
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Wonderess

"I will be true to you whatever comes."
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I can never argue with increased transparency. All officials elected or confirmed have a responsibility to their electorate, and this guarantees that this understanding is furthered in the legal code.
 

Gorundu

When in doubt, blame Bob
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Was it intentional that the abbreviation of this Act would be The SCAT Act?
 

Comfed

TNP Resident Cat
Deputy Speaker
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Was it intentional that the abbreviation of this Act would be The SCAT Act?
I would love to see the SCAT act.
I do like the idea of including the SC in freedom of information though.
 
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Regardless of the merits of this bill, I don't think it's a good idea to define the phrase "government officials" contrary to how it is defined in the Constitution, even if it is only for purposes of that chapter or section.
 

Praetor

Hoppin' Around
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Regardless of the merits of this bill, I don't think it's a good idea to define the phrase "government officials" contrary to how it is defined in the Constitution, even if it is only for purposes of that chapter or section.
I wasn't a fan of the current phrasing either. I am not opposed to changing it.

If I were to take your recommendations to changing it, would it be best to remove the definition and then where it refers to the "Delegate and the Executive Officers" replace it with "the appropriate government official of the Delegate and the Executive Officers, and the Security Council"?
 

Praetor

Hoppin' Around
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I have adopted wording which should address COE's concerns with the existing legislation.
 

St George

Speaker
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Motion to vote.
The motion to vote is recognised, and we are now in Formal Debate, which shall last for 5 days. During that period you may continue to amend the proposal, after which no further amendments may be allowed and a vote will be scheduled to begin no fewer than two days after that.

The Speaker's Office will allow you to shorten Formal Debate to 3 days if you wish.
 

Praetor

Hoppin' Around
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The motion to vote is recognised, and we are now in Formal Debate, which shall last for 5 days. During that period you may continue to amend the proposal, after which no further amendments may be allowed and a vote will be scheduled to begin no fewer than two days after that.

The Speaker's Office will allow you to shorten Formal Debate to 3 days if you wish.
Thanks but I'll wait just in case some people decide to come out of the woodwork now with concerns. :P
 

St George

Speaker
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This bill is now out of formal debate and no further amendments will be accepted. It will go to vote in two days time.
 

Pallaith

TNPer
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It has been remarked the SC is opposing this bill and that no comment has been made as to why this opposition exists. In lieu of a more expansive explanation or statement which appropriately conveys the feelings of the body as a whole, I can only speak for myself personally. The SC has been working on a disclosure process, as can be seen as it is a public thread. I would prefer to let that come to fruition and apply those procedures, as it should balance the security and privacy needs the SC has while also ensuring that older records are available.

There is no version of this bill that could win my support as a result. I don’t believe FoIA is the appropriate avenue. I can’t speak for other SC members but I would wager that is related to their votes.

I am aware this process has not been completed and it’s been some time since an update was posted. This is not something that has been forgotten, especially with this bill going to vote. I will be doing my part to advance that discussion.

From a practical standpoint I believe that a broader bill making the appplications of FoIA more uniform makes a lot of sense, and whenever that can be done consistently it should. I just wouldn’t have included the SC in the list, because I think it requires a more delicate process.
 

El Fiji Grande

Proud TNPer
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The reason I did not support the GOAT Act is something that I have discussed at length in the past. In short, I firmly believe that the privacy of our chambers allows our members to speak in earnest in ways that may not be diplomatic towards onlookers abroad. To help illustrate my point, I'll draw a comparison with the Executive Council. The Executive Council maintains secrecy for just this reason. There are frequently events, ongoing interregional incidents, or landmark internal cases that Ministers need to be able to discuss in earnest while they're working out an official stance. This is essential, because it allows the Executive Council to decide its course of action without fear of outside influence and form a cohesive internal plan. The same is true for topics the Security Council handles, from topics such as controversial citizenship checks to internal security readiness drills. In each of these cases, I think we would have legitimate arguments that these topics do not fall FOIA at all, given their impact to diplomatic and regional security. However, I had critically misinterpreted Clauses 22 and 23 of the GOAT Act, which, when correctly interpreted, will allow the Security Council to continue to withhold information that continues to "be harmful to the diplomatic interests, military interests, or security of The North Pacific." Once a year passes and the release of these topics is due, we may provide reasoning why they are classified and not subject to release.

Under this understanding, I have changed my vote to Aye. I think there are a number of threads, from NS Card to Event planning threads that should not be withheld. I have also changed my mind on SC Application threads, and believe they should be public. Personally, I believe that these threads should be made public irrespective of the passage of the GOAT Act, and should not need to be subject to FOIA requests.
 
I have multiple problems with this, and never took time to express them appropriately because I thought they were obvious, and made this unpassable. Apparently, I was wrong, so let's go through them:

First, changing the scope of chapter 7 to include all government officials instead of just the executive is sloppy. Is it the authors intent to put future regulations on the Court and the Speaker's office in this chapter? It makes no sense.

Second, this clause is not even grammatical:
24. At any time a resident may request the release of any private record from the appropriate government official of the Delegate and the Executive Officers, and the Security Council.
Third, by removing the definition of government for purposes of chapter 7, you are creating serious problems with these clauses:
25. The government will retrieve information requested from the different departments of the government.
26. Residents who do not receive this information for any reason not specifically designated in appropriate laws or regulations may file a request for the information to the court, where the government may present evidence that addresses any claim that release of the information meets one or more of the acceptable criteria for classification.
The delegate and the executive officers do not own all "government" information, in it's undefined form. Without a definition of government in this section, we have to rely on the constitutional definition, which includes the executive and the security council, as well as the Speaker's office and the Court! Under this bill, as written, I could request private court records from whichever executive official I thought was the most appropriate. And they would be required to retrieve them from the various departments of "the government" - in this case, the court. And if the delegate couldn't produce them, the request would go to court, and then things would get very messy.

Whether you want the SC to be subject to FOIA or not, this is a sloppy bill with massive holes in it. The region deserves law that is clear, understandable, and elegant. The way to do this would be to allow FOIA requests to be lodged with the Vice Delegate to retrieve information from the security council. Since the Vice Delegate is an executive government official, no change to clause 1 would be necessary, and Section 7.4 would look like this:

Section 7.4: Freedom of Information Act
20. For the purposes of this section "the government" refers to the Delegate and the Executive Officers, including the departments which they oversee.
21. For the purposes of this section, classified information is that which fits any of the below definitions:
  • Real life information about any NationStates player from which there is a risk of inferring that player's real life identity and which has not willingly been disclosed to the public, including, but not limited to, an individual's name, IP address, physical address or location, phone number, place of employment or education, appearance, social media accounts, and other knowledge about a player, unless the player in question provides explicit consent for this information not to be considered private.
  • Real life information about any NationStates player for which there exists a reasonable real life expectation of privacy or discretion, including, but not limited to, health status, both mental and physical; financial status; personal tragedies; changes in personal status such as marriage, divorce, pregnancy, birth, or death; and other similar information, unless the player in question provides explicit consent for this information not to be considered private.
  • Information that, upon being made public, would jeopardize any ongoing military or intelligence operations; or jeopardize the security of units and agents participating in them, or be harmful to the diplomatic interests, military interests, or security of The North Pacific.
22. Notwithstanding any process for publication, any information which meets the criteria to be classified will not be released.
23. Private government or Security Council records which reach one year of age will be relocated to the appropriate Declassified Archive visible to residents.
24. At any time a resident may request the release of any private record from the Government through the Delegate and the designated officers of the Executive. 25.The Delegate and the designated officers of the Executive will retrieve information requested from the different departments of the government.
25. At any time a resident may request the release of any private record from the Security Council through the Vice Delegate. The Vice Delegate will retrieve information requested from the Security Council.
26. Residents who do not receive thisinformation requested under this section for any reason not specifically designated in appropriate laws or regulations may file a request for the information to the court, where the Delegate and the designated officers of the Executive, or, if the information requested is from the Security Council, the Vice Delegate, may present evidence that addresses any claim that release of the information meets one or more of the acceptable criteria for classification.
27. Information appropriately not disclosed will be accepted as classified by a majority vote of the Court sitting as a three-member panel.
That's my "do no harm" version of this bill. I haven't even really thought about whether I support it, but at least it expands FOIA to the SC without making a mess of chapter 7, and without removing the definition of government that prevents residents from requesting any government information they want from any executive official, even if that information doesn't belong to that official. Please, everyone, vote nay.
 

St George

Speaker
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To help illustrate my point, I'll draw a comparison with the Executive Council. The Executive Council maintains secrecy for just this reason. There are frequently events, ongoing interregional incidents, or landmark internal cases that Ministers need to be able to discuss in earnest while they're working out an official stance. This is essential, because it allows the Executive Council to decide its course of action without fear of outside influence and form a cohesive internal plan.
Just as a note, the Executive Council is currently not complying with the laws of this region with regards to disclosure, so this comparison does seem to me to fall rather flat.
 

Praetor

Hoppin' Around
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Ghost:
It has been remarked the SC is opposing this bill and that no comment has been made as to why this opposition exists. In lieu of a more expansive explanation or statement which appropriately conveys the feelings of the body as a whole, I can only speak for myself personally. The SC has been working on a disclosure process, as can be seen as it is a public thread. I would prefer to let that come to fruition and apply those procedures, as it should balance the security and privacy needs the SC has while also ensuring that older records are available.

There is no version of this bill that could win my support as a result. I don’t believe FoIA is the appropriate avenue. I can’t speak for other SC members but I would wager that is related to their votes.

I am aware this process has not been completed and it’s been some time since an update was posted. This is not something that has been forgotten, especially with this bill going to vote. I will be doing my part to advance that discussion.

From a practical standpoint I believe that a broader bill making the appplications of FoIA more uniform makes a lot of sense, and whenever that can be done consistently it should. I just wouldn’t have included the SC in the list, because I think it requires a more delicate process.
I see no reason that a SC disclosure process is superior to a legislative requirement. As the region has recently seen in the Court, internal procedures are not always followed. Furthermore, you haven't demonstrated how the security and privacy needs of the Security Council aren't being met by this legislation. Lastly, I see no reason why there should be a wait for the SC to finish its discussion—of which you are clearly taking your time on—when there is a measure currently in front of us.

Your unconditional opposition is noted however.

COE:
First, changing the scope of chapter 7 to include all government officials instead of just the executive is sloppy. Is it the authors intent to put future regulations on the Court and the Speaker's office in this chapter? It makes no sense.
The name of the chapter is not of the utmost importance. Given that the section contains laws regarding government officials the title makes sense—this is also explained in the very first clause of the chapter. While I am not opposed to a different name for the Chapter, I do not find the title of the chapter to be sufficiently concerning to vote against the legislation.
Second, this clause is not even grammatical:
Mind pointing to what your specific problem here is? I don't believe you have expressed it appropriately here. The clause reads clear enough to me (obviously, I wrote it :P) as does the intent.
Third, by removing the definition of government for purposes of chapter 7, you are creating serious problems with these clauses: The delegate and the executive officers do not own all "government" information, in it's undefined form. Without a definition of government in this section, we have to rely on the constitutional definition, which includes the executive and the security council, as well as the Speaker's office and the Court! Under this bill, as written, I could request private court records from whichever executive official I thought was the most appropriate. And they would be required to retrieve them from the various departments of "the government" - in this case, the court. And if the delegate couldn't produce them, the request would go to court, and then things would get very messy.
The definition of government was removed due to your concerns about the inclusion—it is rather strange that you are now concerned that the definition was removed. When you raised the concern, I responded within the day, quoting your post (which should send a notification unless you disabled it) and directly asked a question about how to address your concerns. You did not answer my question. Over two weeks later, seeing a lack of response, I adopted the language.

Now, to address your newest concern. The changes to the legislation specifies who information can be requested from. Furthermore, it requests that the information be requested from the appropriate individual. Just as it does not make sense under current legislation to currently request Court records from the Executive, it would not work under this bill either.
 

Great Bights Mum

Grande Dame
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The ongoing issue I have had with calls for declassification of SC threads is this: People say things in private threads with the expectation of privacy. I can't go along with changing the rules after the fact. Specify an effective date for the FOIA to apply. Moving forward, individuals can then take the new rules into account.
 

Marcus Antonius

Per Ardua Ad Astra
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**Takes deep breath, sticks head above the parapet**

As your most junior SC member this is my take on this issue.

I am very disappointed, how on the preamble of this thread, the defamatory comment "Security Councillors have lied to the region and what they do behind closed doors is shrouded in secrecy,"
and yet later on it is written "Obviously there does remain a need for secrecy".
Contradictory?

I can assure the citizenry, if you have any trust in me, I am not sitting on a council of liars.

I agree in principal to FOI and transparency, but I am failing to understand what information citizens would be after, regarding the SC. Especially when reports are issued on our actions with an explanation.

IRL I had to deal with FOI requests - they were not fun and were an absolute pain in the backside. I made this view on FOI very clear when I was questioned by the RA on my SC application last year.
I am concerned that FOI requests are going to knock the fun out of this game.

As you are aware I was a Serviceman and also a Civil Servant, so security was paramount in my work, so secrecy and 'behind closed doors' was normal practice. The SC is not a secret society but it necessarily has to be a society of secrets.
I also served on many committees as a Chairman. The discussions at the meetings were always confidential, this is 'normal' practice to this day. I have put some information here on how the UK Parliament deals with these matters.
Privilege, confidentiality and FOI for select committees
Privilege

The proceedings of a committee are privileged, which means that words spoken in a public or private formal meeting are subject to the same level of protection from legal action or criminal investigation as words spoken in the Chamber. The same protection (for slightly different reasons) applies to anything formally published by a committee under an order of the House.
The protection applies equally to witnesses. This safeguard is intended to prevent select committees from being obstructed by threats of legal action. Witnesses are also protected against any other kind of threat (for example to sack them, discipline them or report them for misconduct), which may amount to a contempt of the House or, in certain circumstances, a criminal offence. But it’s important to remember that in all cases the protection is restricted to formal proceedings and includes only formal evidence and reports published under the authority of the committee. Words used outside formal meetings (for example in a media interview, even if purporting to represent what was said during proceedings, or at a press conference even if purporting to report what has been said in a report) or things said in letters, emails or other places (for example Twitter) are not subject to so extensive a protection.
Confidentiality
You might want to give access to committee papers to a member of your staff. Just as discussions in a private meeting must remain private, committee papers are confidential to the committee unless and until a decision is taken to publish them, usually as evidence to an inquiry or as part of a final report.
You are responsible for ensuring that your staff respect the confidentiality of any committee papers to which they are given access.
Disclosure of a paper that has not been formally reported to the House – particularly a draft report, or a report agreed but not yet officially made to the House – is a contempt of the House. This includes disclosing a draft report to other MPs.
As well as the contempt of the House, confidence among committee members about their ability to reach a consensus on controversial issues may be lost if draft committee reports, or other sensitive documents, are disclosed before they are due to be published.
If a paper is leaked, the committee may investigate and make a special report to the House. Any such report is automatically referred to the Committee of Privileges and could lead to action against any MP, or any other person, who had prematurely disclosed a paper. For an MP, this action could include suspension from the House.
Freedom of information
The House of Commons is a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act. In principle, this means select committees are obliged to release information they hold when duly requested. However, there are two exemptions in the Act that apply in particular to their work. These are where release would:
  • infringe the privileges of the House (generally taken to include the right of any committee to decide whether, when and how to publish information it holds, including especially information about its private deliberations and material received in connection with its inquiries)
  • inhibit the effective conduct of public business
These two exemptions depend on the Speaker certifying any exemption claimed. There is also an exemption for material intended to be published in the reasonably near future. Most material received by select committees is published anyway so would fall under this exemption.

IRL when I served on Committees there was some mistrust on our decisions being made behind closed doors. I used to release reports on the meetings with the deliberations by individuals censored out. This satisfied some but not all. In the end we allowed an observer, who could not make any input to the meeting, he or she could then inform non Committee members that everything was being carried out above board, but was bound by a confidentiality clause. However, if there were any emergency meetings or ones of a sensitive nature, this process ceased.

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

I stand by my 'Nay' vote and I would urge the citizenry to please vote 'Nay'

Thank you.

Now can I get back to card farming?
 
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Comfed

TNP Resident Cat
Deputy Speaker
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Since it seems like I opened this can of worms, I am going to write my take on this.

The SC has the critical job of securing the region against internal and external threats to the region. Obviously, this isn’t a thing that we should let every citizen look at. However, I see no reason to let the SC regulate itself. The SC is the least democratic institution we have in TNP, with good reason, but it is still the job of the RA to regulate it. It’s much less easy for the SC to lawyer around the laws that the RA imposes rather than guidelines the SC imposes. @Pallaith, what I would like to know is why are you opposed to RA regulation when you appear to support SC regulation?

TL;DR:
The SC is often a very secretive organization with little public accountability. For this reason, it is the job of the public to make it more accountable.
 

Oracle

The Goddess of Death
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The SC is often a very secretive organization with little public accountability. For this reason, it is the job of the public to make it more accountable.
Such a bad take, but go off :) The Security Council is accountable to the Regional Assembly. The method for that is through the confirmation of its members, ability to overrule a Security Council's nomination for members to join and remove members from the Security Council. To say that there is little accountability is a stretch.
 

Comfed

TNP Resident Cat
Deputy Speaker
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Such a bad take, but go off :) The Security Council is accountable to the Regional Assembly. The method for that is through the confirmation of its members, ability to overrule a Security Council's nomination for members to join and remove members from the Security Council. To say that there is little accountability is a stretch.
That’s all well and good, but aside from limited control over the admission of members, citizens have no way of knowing what goes on behind the closed doors, and what has happened, except at the SC’s discretion. The SC already does release private threads (this is the most recent one), but we can’t know if there are more.
 

Pallaith

TNPer
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@Comfed your question is nonsense. I do not oppose RA regulation. I oppose using the FoIA system for the Security Council. The Security Council is not doing the same kind of work the executive government is doing. We do not make sweeping decisions that affect the entire region, we do not have explicit powers over other players. We watch and we offer advice to encourage the security of the region. In very specific and unlikely situations, we may have to take action or serve in a capacity that touches on the office of the delegate, and in very specific situations some of us are granted BC powers gameside. We consist of long-term members of this community, most of whom have served as delegate or vice delegate at some point in the past, multiple times. We have put in the hours and the dedication, were subjected to the RA's scrutiny on numerous occasions, and showed that we could be trusted with great power and responsibility, greater power and responsibility than what we wield now. We have always taken the trust placed in us seriously, so I am not sure why some people have now decided that we shouldn't even be given the modicum of trust needed to speak our minds freely in a small group and find a workable process for disclosure without fear of having to open the books far wider than is necessary. Look to what GBM said - SC members have always been able to rely on privacy, and have never had to feel the chill of anticipating nosy future readers, thereby regulating what they say. It's one thing to seek information that informs how the government made policy affecting everyone in the region, or to be careful about disclosing sensitive discussions that could cause the region problems abroad. It's quite another to rifle through the conversations of a handful of people speaking their minds solely on internal matters that don't change public policy, don't touch on international affairs, and in some instance may only fuel gossip and petty personal grudges. This would amount to essentially people's private messages and that's basically all that would be left to dig up, considering all votes on SC matters are already public.

Aside from a framework which the RA has always had the ability to change, every area of government is empowered to regulate itself to some degree. I am not sure why this should be taken as some controversial notion. If the Security Council finds a consistent and reliable way to regularly disclose threads, something that, again, has been discussed publicly, we can avoid the aforementioned issues of privacy and also any inadvertent sharing of security matters that would be preferred kept quiet. I find the very premise of this bill to be problematic, because it taps into this view of the SC as a dark and suspicious entity and casts it as untrustworthy and sneaky. It is rather insulting to carry on like this. Just because you cannot see an area of the forum, does not mean you need to take part in casting aspersions on the people who do this work. It is thankless, it is boring, it is a major commitment, especially for people who want to be able to utilize their WA for more than just staying in one place. But it is necessary, and it takes a serious and dedicated person to do it and, more importantly, to do it well. We do this work in the best interest of the region, it isn't exactly an area where one can seek glory and fame (indeed, it's rather lacking in flash). If you do not trust me or anyone else on the Security Council to do our job, then do us the courtesy of explaining why and really think through the implications of that. Untrustworthy individuals on the SC are themselves potential security threats, and if you sincerely believe that they are there, you should give some thought to recalling such individuals. We have better things to do than "lawyer around" rules for a position that is all about how to better gather endorsements and look out for trouble. I don't know what kind of benefit you think the SC gets to have that isn't better enjoyed by almost any other area in government. I don't know what kind of power you think the SC has that doesn't pale in comparison to every other area of government. And if you aren't concerned with either of those things, then what is the big advantage of, again, viewing private messages?

This isn't something that started with this bill. It has been festering for a while now. And I will gladly accept my role in it - while I have made a point to respond whenever these accusations and rumors come around, and share my own thoughts and try to explain as best I can the thoughts of the others, I have not been very proactive or insistent in coming up with a stronger long-term response. There aren't a whole lot of us on the council, so it is just as much my responsibility as anyone else's there. I have not been blind to the need to be quicker and more responsive, and to take more seriously the desire for more consistent disclosure. And yet I have been content to let time pass without reckoning with it to a greater degree. I will do my best to change that going forward, and will encourage my fellow councilors to do the same. I hope that many of you can do likewise, by being a bit more thoughtful when engaging on this topic and encouraging each other to give us the benefit of the doubt, and not find your fun in this game by politicizing the Security Council and casting aspersions at its members.
 

Praetor

Hoppin' Around
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The ongoing issue I have had with calls for declassification of SC threads is this: People say things in private threads with the expectation of privacy. I can't go along with changing the rules after the fact. Specify an effective date for the FOIA to apply. Moving forward, individuals can then take the new rules into account.
If this has been an ongoing issue for you, why are we only hearing about it now?
I am very disappointed, how on the preamble of this thread, the defamatory comment "Security Councillors have lied to the region and what they do behind closed doors is shrouded in secrecy,"
Nice. Snipped the quote just right to change the context. Regardless of what you think or know, that does not affect the perspective that others hold.

and yet later on it is written "Obviously there does remain a need for secrecy".
Contradictory?
Nice, taking another quote out of context. There should be a balance of necessary secrecy and transparency. This bill creates that balance.
I agree in principal to FOI and transparency, but I am failing to understand what information citizens would be after, regarding the SC. Especially when reports are issued on our actions with an explanation.
This has already been covered previously.

IRL I had to deal with FOI requests - they were not fun and were an absolute pain in the backside. I made this view on FOI very clear when I was questioned by the RA on my SC application last year.
I am concerned that FOI requests are going to knock the fun out of this game.
I shouldn't have to say this but NS isn't RL... If you're not finding fun from the game, I would personally suggest trying something else. And generally speaking, legislation shouldn't be determined as according as to what is "fun" or not. Seems like a poor practice to me.

As you are aware I was a Serviceman and also a Civil Servant, so security was paramount in my work, so secrecy and 'behind closed doors' was normal practice. The SC is not a secret society but it necessarily has to be a society of secrets.
I also served on many committees as a Chairman. The discussions at the meetings were always confidential, this is 'normal' practice to this day. I have put some information here on how the UK Parliament deals with these matters.
Privilege, confidentiality and FOI for select committees
Privilege

The proceedings of a committee are privileged, which means that words spoken in a public or private formal meeting are subject to the same level of protection from legal action or criminal investigation as words spoken in the Chamber. The same protection (for slightly different reasons) applies to anything formally published by a committee under an order of the House.
The protection applies equally to witnesses. This safeguard is intended to prevent select committees from being obstructed by threats of legal action. Witnesses are also protected against any other kind of threat (for example to sack them, discipline them or report them for misconduct), which may amount to a contempt of the House or, in certain circumstances, a criminal offence. But it’s important to remember that in all cases the protection is restricted to formal proceedings and includes only formal evidence and reports published under the authority of the committee. Words used outside formal meetings (for example in a media interview, even if purporting to represent what was said during proceedings, or at a press conference even if purporting to report what has been said in a report) or things said in letters, emails or other places (for example Twitter) are not subject to so extensive a protection.
Confidentiality
You might want to give access to committee papers to a member of your staff. Just as discussions in a private meeting must remain private, committee papers are confidential to the committee unless and until a decision is taken to publish them, usually as evidence to an inquiry or as part of a final report.
You are responsible for ensuring that your staff respect the confidentiality of any committee papers to which they are given access.
Disclosure of a paper that has not been formally reported to the House – particularly a draft report, or a report agreed but not yet officially made to the House – is a contempt of the House. This includes disclosing a draft report to other MPs.
As well as the contempt of the House, confidence among committee members about their ability to reach a consensus on controversial issues may be lost if draft committee reports, or other sensitive documents, are disclosed before they are due to be published.
If a paper is leaked, the committee may investigate and make a special report to the House. Any such report is automatically referred to the Committee of Privileges and could lead to action against any MP, or any other person, who had prematurely disclosed a paper. For an MP, this action could include suspension from the House.
Freedom of information
The House of Commons is a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act. In principle, this means select committees are obliged to release information they hold when duly requested. However, there are two exemptions in the Act that apply in particular to their work. These are where release would:
  • infringe the privileges of the House (generally taken to include the right of any committee to decide whether, when and how to publish information it holds, including especially information about its private deliberations and material received in connection with its inquiries)
  • inhibit the effective conduct of public business
These two exemptions depend on the Speaker certifying any exemption claimed. There is also an exemption for material intended to be published in the reasonably near future. Most material received by select committees is published anyway so would fall under this exemption.

IRL when I served on Committees there was some mistrust on our decisions being made behind closed doors. I used to release reports on the meetings with the deliberations by individuals censored out. This satisfied some but not all. In the end we allowed an observer, who could not make any input to the meeting, he or she could then inform non Committee members that everything was being carried out above board, but was bound by a confidentiality clause. However, if there were any emergency meetings or ones of a sensitive nature, this process ceased.
I'm not sure what purpose this information has in connection to the bill at vote. Regardless, this is NationStates, not real life.
Now can I get back to card farming?
While I certainly encourage card farming, I would suggest taking a break every so often to ensure that one can check the RA for any important legislation—especially if it relates to a position they hold in the region.
Such a bad take, but go off :) The Security Council is accountable to the Regional Assembly. The method for that is through the confirmation of its members, ability to overrule a Security Council's nomination for members to join and remove members from the Security Council. To say that there is little accountability is a stretch.
Yikes. This is a bad take. Actually, the only method for accountability on current SC members of those you listed is the ability to remove members from the SC. Confirming and/or preventing a confirmation isn't holding a SCer accountable—they're not on the Council yet!
@Comfed your question is nonsense. I do not oppose RA regulation. I oppose using the FoIA system for the Security Council. The Security Council is not doing the same kind of work the executive government is doing. We do not make sweeping decisions that affect the entire region, we do not have explicit powers over other players. We watch and we offer advice to encourage the security of the region. In very specific and unlikely situations, we may have to take action or serve in a capacity that touches on the office of the delegate, and in very specific situations some of us are granted BC powers gameside. We consist of long-term members of this community, most of whom have served as delegate or vice delegate at some point in the past, multiple times. We have put in the hours and the dedication, were subjected to the RA's scrutiny on numerous occasions, and showed that we could be trusted with great power and responsibility, greater power and responsibility than what we wield now. We have always taken the trust placed in us seriously, so I am not sure why some people have now decided that we shouldn't even be given the modicum of trust needed to speak our minds freely in a small group and find a workable process for disclosure without fear of having to open the books far wider than is necessary. Look to what GBM said - SC members have always been able to rely on privacy, and have never had to feel the chill of anticipating nosy future readers, thereby regulating what they say. It's one thing to seek information that informs how the government made policy affecting everyone in the region, or to be careful about disclosing sensitive discussions that could cause the region problems abroad. It's quite another to rifle through the conversations of a handful of people speaking their minds solely on internal matters that don't change public policy, don't touch on international affairs, and in some instance may only fuel gossip and petty personal grudges. This would amount to essentially people's private messages and that's basically all that would be left to dig up, considering all votes on SC matters are already public.
Did you not read my response to your previous post? If you were concerned that the existing process which permits classified information to remain private, you had ample opportunity to speak up to suggest changes to address your concerns.
Aside from a framework which the RA has always had the ability to change, every area of government is empowered to regulate itself to some degree. I am not sure why this should be taken as some controversial notion. If the Security Council finds a consistent and reliable way to regularly disclose threads, something that, again, has been discussed publicly, we can avoid the aforementioned issues of privacy and also any inadvertent sharing of security matters that would be preferred kept quiet. I find the very premise of this bill to be problematic, because it taps into this view of the SC as a dark and suspicious entity and casts it as untrustworthy and sneaky. It is rather insulting to carry on like this. Just because you cannot see an area of the forum, does not mean you need to take part in casting aspersions on the people who do this work. It is thankless, it is boring, it is a major commitment, especially for people who want to be able to utilize their WA for more than just staying in one place. But it is necessary, and it takes a serious and dedicated person to do it and, more importantly, to do it well. We do this work in the best interest of the region, it isn't exactly an area where one can seek glory and fame (indeed, it's rather lacking in flash). If you do not trust me or anyone else on the Security Council to do our job, then do us the courtesy of explaining why and really think through the implications of that. Untrustworthy individuals on the SC are themselves potential security threats, and if you sincerely believe that they are there, you should give some thought to recalling such individuals. We have better things to do than "lawyer around" rules for a position that is all about how to better gather endorsements and look out for trouble. I don't know what kind of benefit you think the SC gets to have that isn't better enjoyed by almost any other area in government. I don't know what kind of power you think the SC has that doesn't pale in comparison to every other area of government. And if you aren't concerned with either of those things, then what is the big advantage of, again, viewing private messages?
Every area of government is empowered to regulate itself yes, however every area of government is also regulated to a certain degree by the Regional Assembly, even when those regulations could have been left to that area of government. Transparency is quite important and the RA should guarantee that there will be oversight.

If you are concerned that there are individuals in this region that view the SC suspiciously, perhaps you should consider the reasons so? This bill was drafted for over a month. Yet, not a single person, in the SC or otherwise, expressed concern with the bill. During voting, in addition to the numerous Security Councillors voting against, three have now voiced their opinion that apparently, this bill is quite problematic despite their opposition being nowhere to find during the entire drafting process! I would love to hear an explanation for this which does not result in a lack of distrust for the SC.

And let's not pretend there have not been other valid concerns about the SC.
 

Marcus Antonius

Per Ardua Ad Astra
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Nice. Snipped the quote just right to change the context. Regardless of what you think or know, that does not affect the perspective that others hold.

Nice, taking another quote out of context. There should be a balance of necessary secrecy and transparency. This bill creates that balance.
This has already been covered previously.
Thank you - I learn't from the best, friend :)

I shouldn't have to say this but NS isn't RL... If you're not finding fun from the game, I would personally suggest trying something else. And generally speaking, legislation shouldn't be determined as according as to what is "fun" or not. Seems like a poor practice to me.

I'm not sure what purpose this information has in connection to the bill at vote. Regardless, this is NationStates, not real life.
A hopping bunny called Praetor is offering Marcus Antonius the choice of the "The red pill or the blue pill?" :lol: Why try something else when you bring such much fun Prae?

Oh, I must apologise, I was under the impression that the NS Game is a simulation of RL government, I have been doing this wrong for more than two years. What references do we have or use to base our way of running our government? So all the legislation, laws and constitution are based on fantasy?
And generally speaking, legislation shouldn't be determined as according as to what is "fun" or not. Seems like a poor practice to me.

While I certainly encourage card farming, I would suggest taking a break every so often to ensure that one can check the RA for any important legislation—especially if it relates to a position they hold in the region.
Legislation, well, we can see where you get your fun from :).
Even I, a retired person, could not card farm 24/7. I do, however, spend many hours on NS everyday. Like you I hop around, I watch all, and learn the opinions of others.
I was very aware of your, now named, GOAT Bill and the quality of the discussion before vote.
Personally I was surprised it got to vote, scary isn't it how a vote can be called when there is so little discussion and so little interest.

And let's not pretend there have not been other valid concerns about the SC.
(Forgive me Prae, I snipped straight to this)
Going how far back in history?
Name them.


Prae, I have personally learn't two......maybe three, important things whilst I have been on the SC.
And I am not going to tell you what they are! :pbbt:

The sound of frenzied hopping emanates from the Cards Guild
 
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Great Bights Mum

Grande Dame
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If you are concerned that there are individuals in this region that view the SC suspiciously, perhaps you should consider the reasons so? This bill was drafted for over a month. Yet, not a single person, in the SC or otherwise, expressed concern with the bill. During voting, in addition to the numerous Security Councillors voting against, three have now voiced their opinion that apparently, this bill is quite problematic despite their opposition being nowhere to find during the entire drafting process! I would love to hear an explanation for this which does not result in a lack of distrust for the SC.

And let's not pretend there have not been other valid concerns about the SC.
I was unable to weigh in previously as I've been on LOA to deal with family health issues. Presumably, RL illnesses do not apply to NS? My bad.

As to why you are just now learning of my concern for publishing the statements made by members who may no longer be present or might not consent to private remarks being made public, I can't say. It has been a longstanding principle I hold to respect the privacy of the individual. I find it troubling that more of us do not seem to feel the same. Or perhaps they just haven't looked at the impact of this bill from that perspective.

Finally, a word about SUSPICION and MISTRUST. I think that's goofy. So off-base. The primary criteria for SC membership is trust. Most councillors have been previously elected delegate or vice-delegate, some multiple times. If we can't trust this team, I defy anyone to assemble a group that we can.
 

St George

Speaker
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Like you I hop around, I watch all, and learn the opinions of others.
I was very aware of your, now named, GOAT Bill and the quality of the discussion before vote.
Personally I was surprised it got to vote, scary isn't it how a vote can be called when there is so little discussion and so little interest.
You appear to be unaware of how the Regional Assembly works. As a legislative motion, all that was required to get it to vote was a valid motion from Praetor - who gave the RA more than ample time to add additional commentary and comment. And that's not scary in the slightest to be honest.

As it is, if you were aware of the bill and chose not to get involved during the drafting process, then you have no very little room to complain about its contents.
 

Marcus Antonius

Per Ardua Ad Astra
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You appear to be unaware of how the Regional Assembly works. As a legislative motion, all that was required to get it to vote was a valid motion from Praetor - who gave the RA more than ample time to add additional commentary and comment. And that's not scary in the slightest to be honest.

As it is, if you were aware of the bill and chose not to get involved during the drafting process, then you have no very little room to complain about its contents.
Thank you MJ :)
So in actual fact you are saying we could have had a good moan about it's contents and then it would have still gone to vote regardless?
 

St George

Speaker
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Thank you MJ :)
So in actual fact you are saying we could have had a good moan about it's contents and then it would have still gone to vote regardless?
I'm suggesting that a more productive use of your time would've been to engage with the legislation in the 35 days it was sat in this Assembly before it went to vote.

And I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation.
 

Marcus Antonius

Per Ardua Ad Astra
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I'm suggesting that a more productive use of your time would've been to engage with the legislation in the 35 days it was sat in this Assembly before it went to vote.

And I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation.
I have to agree with your expectation.

It just seems to me that to get a legislative bill passed in TNP is very streamlined.

Not like the UK at all lol
We just love bureaucracy.
 

Eluvatar

TNPer
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Whether you want the SC to be subject to FOIA or not, this is a sloppy bill with massive holes in it. The region deserves law that is clear, understandable, and elegant.
I do think there's a basis for your concerns. I would be happy to collaborate on a follow-up bill to clean things up.

When I cast my vote in favor of this bill, I considered whether I'd rather the law be as is or as amended, and decided as amended would be better overall. I agree that this bill is imperfect.
 
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