Model Legislation

We are in the early stages of developing Model Legislation intended to provide better oversight and more opportunities for public engagement.

Legislation goals include :

1. Specific new oversight of Federal agencies and Executive power:

a) National Security Abuse and Overreach Review Board
b) Freedom of Information -- Review Board for abuse of blacklining priveleges of requested public documents.

2. Improved requirements for public reporting by existing oversight bodies.

a) GAO, Auditor General and similar bodies will annually compile a detailed report and summary report on Corporate Welfare, showing how much government money went to each corporation and each industry sector or group, and whether the payment was in the form of direct subsidy, tax credit or other type of payment.

b) GAO etc. will annually compile a detailed report and summary report on which corporate entities benefit most from military spending and military action.  For example, which corporations gain new or improved access to oil reserves or mines as a result of US military action.  What was the cost to the taxpayers of the military action?  What was the financial value of the new access provided to corporations?  How many soldiers and civilians died on each side to achieve this access?

3.  New opportunities for public engagement:

a) New mechanisms for communication by the Public to officials, to identify and make explicit widespread grievances and public wishes.

b) New mechanisms for clearly displaying public wishes in each riding and comparing these to the voting records of their MPs.

4. End Government Surveillance Overreach

Since many courts conclude that current legislation offers no reasonable expectation of privacy, then legislation must be updated to explicitly enforce privacy, especially where government observation is concerned.

a) This requires explicit protections for and redefinition of "private comminucations", to include all electronic communications between two individuals, including such things with technical observability as plaintext emails.  

b) Warrantless collection, storing, or observation would be subject to fines and other punishments, even if this is done by police or other government officials.  Punishments would be even greater for using security flaws and exploits to collect communications that were encrypted or were reasonably expected to be encrypted (eg. https, Tor, VPN).  

c) The practice of scanning and storing images of all snail mail envelopes must also end.  (The U.S. currently does this.  Not sure yet what other countries do this).

d) Require ISPs and VPN data centres to purge all storage of users' web browsing activity every 48 hours or less, unless there is a specific judicial Warrant to keep it longer for a specific targeted individual.  

5. Rule of Law

a) Develop new laws with clear consequences and punishments for bureaucrats and elected officials who violate or undermine Constitutional principles.  For example, laws would punish acts that:
  • cause excessive secrecy or inadequate transparency,
  • mislead the public about surveillance and police operations,
  • mislead Parliament and Parliamentary Committees,
  • display overreach of authority,
  • impose gags on scientists,
  • violate rights of whistleblowers and potential whistleblowers,
  • facilitate bulk data collection and mass surveillance, and
  • empower "show me the man and I'll find you the crime" kind of mentality,
  • commit warrantless surveillance of anyone, but with even larger punishments for spying on people who who will fall into a new protected class under the legislation, including: journalists, judges, lawyers, activists, NGOs, MPs (Members of Congress) and their staff, opposition party members, academics, members of independent investigative bodies, and others whose societal role is to function as a check on power.
b) Guarantee sensible civil rights at border crossings and airports for both citizens and non-citizens.  This means greater restrictions on strip searches and cavity searches, requiring that border agents provide clear and compelling evidence of probable cause and have that evidence verified and signed off by a superior.  It also means ending the practice where even minor inconsistencies in a traveller's story and momentary hesitation can trigger invasive body searches and even criminal proceedings.  This is completely improper given how exhausting and disorienting long flights (and line-ups for flights!) can be.  The current power disparity between travellers and border agents only invites abuse, as so many news stories have shown.  It's time to stop turning our airports into mini Abu Graib sadistfests for sick border agents.

6. Every vote a free vote. 

Prohibit and create legal consequences for imposing the party line or a whipped vote.  Parties have too much power and are a key inroad for corrupting forces, also they create a split loyalty for MPs: party versus constituents. Constituents' express wishes ought to be able to trump the party line. (In the US, votes are technically free, but they still have a whip who places duress on members.  Any duress, including threats of removal of financial or political support, need to be outlawed. Votes for bills are not commodities to be traded.)

7. Break up media oligopolies.

No media corporation should own more than a few percent market share of ANY of the following: TV, radio, ISPs, cable infrastructure, fibre infrastructure, telephone infrastructure, and mobile phone infrastructure.   Even Adam Smith was against monopolies and oligopolies, as these distort an otherwise free market just as severely as government overreach.  Only a truly free media market, a monopoly-free media market, makes press freedom possible.  Any nation that is genuinely committed to democracy must commit also to free speech and a free press, and this isn't possible where the press is operated by and beholden to Big Money.

8. Break the chains of dependence on existing or budding monopolies

a) Fund research projects designed to develop cheap, easy and effective ways for farmers to transition from dependence on powerful chemicals and patented GMO seed to minimal chemical use and unpatentable non-GMO open-pollenated seed.

b) Fund development of Free Open-Source Software projects including Linux, BSD, LibreOffice, Mozilla and others.

More to come....

9. More comprehensive oversight of police activities.

a) New explicit protections for individuals filming police actions in public places and punishments for police who interfere with people filming their actions.

b) Fix the corrupt SIU system, so that investigations of crimes committed by police are truly independent, with more public disclosure and more opportunity for public participation.

c) New explicit rights and protections for members of the public who voice their disapproval at police officers committing excessive and unwarranted violence to other members of the public.

d) Public disclosure of all "official" and "unofficial" police recruiting and screening policies and procedures.  Require improved screening to identify and weed out bullies, sadists and sociopaths -- and instead impose new biases that favour empathy, desire to de-escalate crises, communication skills and leadership skills.  

e) Improve training for de-escalating crises, communication, mediation and negotiation.

f) Punish obvious escalation of crises by police officers (eg. reacting violently to verbal discourse, using lethal force against innocuous or superficial threats).

g) Improve whistleblower protection for police officers.  Create  special Awards and Commendations for whistleblowers who honourably disclose criminal and dishonourable behaviour by fellow officers or by other police staff.

h) Provide comprehensive PTSD treatment and more paid vacation time for police officers.

i) Eliminate and prohibit all forms of arrest quotas and fine quotas.


© 2014 The Centre for Public Oversight