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Free Expression

CDT Joins Letter Urging Senate to Remove Section 5934 from NDAA Prior to Passage

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) joined a coalition letter – led by Demand Progress – urging the U.S. Senate to remove a core provision of the Judicial Security and Privacy Act to from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That provision, Section 5934, seriously infringes upon the First Amendment and impinges upon public oversight of ethics matters concerning the federal judiciary.

From the letter:


The legislation attempts to remedy these problems through a series of carve-outs. However, the cave-out language is subject to a wide-variety of interpretations, which chills speech through uncertainty. Furthermore, the legislative text contains a canon of interpretation that effectively states that when there is ambiguity, it should be decided in favor of censoring information. Finally, federal judges ultimately will be called upon to review this legislation, and they possess an obvious conflict of interest.

The language we identified in Section 5934 has not been fully vetted by public stakeholders, who expressed their dismay with this provision even as it was voted upon by the House of Representatives. Indeed, the NDAA text considered by the House had not been previously made publicly available. Nonetheless, we ask only that Section 5934 be excised from the NDAA and not the remaining provisions of Subtitle D, the Judicial Privacy and Security Act.

As written, this legislation is a strike against the public interest, ensuring that federal judges who have conflicts of interest will remain undiscovered. Surely the right of the public to know and have faith in an uncorrupted judiciary is a principle that deserves significant respect.

We strongly urge you to vote NO on the NDAA unless it no longer contains Section 5934, as that provision undermines our right to speak freely about courts ethics, and we look forward to working with you in the coming months on a security bill that keeps judges and our speech rights safe.

Read the full letter + list of signatories here.