Feds: Even Though We've Been Ordered To Reveal Secret Interpretation Of The PATRIOT Act, We're Not Going To Do That

from the secret-laws! dept

You may recall that, back in early September, the FISA Court (FISC) agreed that its various rulings that secretly interpreted Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to mean something entirely different than any plain language reading of the law implies should be declassified. Here’s what the court said at the time:

The unauthorized disclosure in June 2013 of a Section 215 order, and government statements in response to that disclosure, have engendered considerable public interest and debate about Section 215. Publication of FISC opinions relating to this provision would contribute to an informed debate. Congressional amici emphasize the value of public information and debate in representing their constituents and discharging their legislative responsibilities. Publication would also assure citizens of the integrity of this Court’s proceedings.

In addition, publication with only limited redactions may now be feasible, given the extent of the government’s recent public disclosures about how Section 215 is implemented. Indeed, the government advises that a declassification review process is already underway.

In view of these circumstances, and as an exercise of discretion, the Court has determined that it is appropriate to take steps toward publication of any Section 215 Opinions that are not subject to the ongoing FOIA litigation, without reaching the merits of the asserted right of public access under the First Amendment.

It then instructed the DOJ to figure out what to redact, so it could be declassified and released. Except… the DOJ instead fought that order, and while it did find some documents that meet the criteria — namely a ruling from February of this year — the DOJ is now telling the FISA Court that despite the order, it would really prefer to keep that interpretation of the law a complete secret. Actually, it goes further than that. It doesn’t ask for permission to keep it secret, it just says that it cannot reveal the interpretation.

After careful review of the Opinion by senior intelligence officials and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Executive Branch has determined that the Opinion should be withheld in full and a public version of the Opinion cannot be provided.

Got that? This secret court interpretation of a law that we all live under, which the court itself has ordered to be revealed, is unlikely to be revealed because the intelligence community really, really doesn’t want it revealed. Again, this is not about so-called “sources and methods.” This is entirely about understanding how a US court interprets a US law. But that interpretation is secret, meaning that the law itself is secret, and apparently the executive branch of the federal government is going to fight to keep it that way.

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Comments on “Feds: Even Though We've Been Ordered To Reveal Secret Interpretation Of The PATRIOT Act, We're Not Going To Do That”

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kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

The NSA, The Department of Justice is working contrary to the interests of the American People.

Remind again why the NSA and the DoJ thinks that their opinion is more important than the rights of the American People? I thought it’s the role of the government to look after our interests. It’s not the job of government to take it upon themselves to ignore court orders, to spy on the American People and to violate our constitutional rights.

I think that this country is heading toward a time when the people are going to say “enough is enough” and simply overthrow the idiots who are giving our country a black eye.

Violated (profile) says:


So the US Administration really wants to be accountable to no one which basically means their interpretation is complete bullshit where they just don’t want people to laugh at how unlawfully they have acted.

Yet another example of Obama’s Secret Government where all documents, as to their true operation, must be kept top secret, where even their existence is redacted, so that the US public is blissfully unaware of how many times they break and abuse the law.

Not that Obama created this system where he is just the willing new King sitting on this throne of turds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The argument there is two fold:

1. The claim is that those being held there are not US Citizens or people in the United States and therefore are not protected by the laws (including the Constitution) of the United States.

2. That is a military detention during a time of war rather than incarceration as a result of a criminal prosecution. Military detentions during war time don’t have the due process rules that would force you to release captured enemy combatants without a trial that could easily go back to fighting against your country.

If the premise was that they were US citizens arrested for crimes against US law, due process would be required. Habeous corpus is supposed to remedy issues where due process is violated. This is not to say that I agree that should be allowed to continue as is or even that there should be accountability for much of what has happened there. There should be. However for those held there habeous corpus really doesn’t apply.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Both of those claims are extremely dubious.

Point 1: The US Constitution does not “protect” people, citizens or otherwise, directly. It restricts what the US government can do. In some cases, those restrictions are lower when it comes to behavior toward non-US people, but not in all cases. It’s easy to tell which is which because it says so outright in the Constitution.

Point 2: We are not at war, so this is not a “time of war”, so there is no part of that claim which is actually applicable.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

To expand a little on John’s comment, regarding point 1 they claim that A) the base at Guantanamo Bay is not the US, therefore US law doesn’t apply and B) it is also not in Cuba, so Cuban law does not apply. So they’re claiming a zone completely free of any nation’s laws. Clearly that’s a problem.

And for point 2, as John said we’re not at war, and even if you want to claim we are at war that’s just as problematic, because it would be a war with no clear enemy and certainly no obvious end date. It’s a war against no one in particular that could go on for generations, and that cannot be a legitimate reason to detain someone.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

And you wonder why people don’t trust the U.S. Government including it’s own citizens.

The U.S. Government just gave the FISA court justices and the court system in general the finger.

The U.S. Government is basically saying we wan’t to have blanket authority to do what we will and we will not reveal our methods or the reasons behind them, even if we are told to do so in a court of law.

The Government and it’s Justice Department along with the Intelligence agencies have run amok and seem to be beyond control of anyone and seem to answer to no one.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Liberty died...

It’s pretty clear that the secret law is not one that restricts what you & I do, but one that allows the government to do things. We aren’t the ones who are called upon to follow or not follow the law, the government is.

It’s still egregious and wrong, but not of the sort that might cause you to go to jail accidentally.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Liberty died...

you can’t… that way, The They ™ can jack you up for anything at anytime…

the whole thing is so bizarre, it makes me shake my head in open-mouthed wonder: SECRET laws ? SECRET interpretations ? ? SECRET judges ? ? ? SECRET trials ? ? ? ? SECRET prisons ? ? ? ? ?

cue gil scott heron:

And now it’s winter
Winter in America
And all of the healers done been killed or sent away
Yeah, and the people know, people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows, nobody knows
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save

Anonymous Coward says:

We need a list

After WWII it was tough for the nazi hunters to figure out who everyone was that ruined their country. I say we don’t make that mistake.

I think we need to start a centralized site that can list the pertinent information on anyone who is damaging the U.S.

Whether it lists people in power who have dumped on the citizens, to the name on a badge of a TSA agent or border guard who goes too far, we need to start accounting for who is responsible for this crap.

A central site where a photo of a bad actor could be put up and others could comment on it with name/address/etc… to supply additional information on them. The personal info could be hidden from general view till needed.

A central database of information on all those who seek to harm us could do wonders a few years down the road when the end comes for these monsters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We need a list

Because proscription always leads to great outcomes … (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proscription).

But seriously, what should we do? We can comment about decapitated heads, but does anyone really want to go that far? The historical outcomes of armed revolts aren’t that good — the odds of ending up with something better than we have no are not high. But is there any way to make real progress, to have real reform, within the current political and economic framework? Or to overthrow it without civil war?

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: We need a list

Actually, there’s an easier and far more productive way.

Simply list everyone currently holding office in the USA and then, as they each seperately, or in groups, come forward with information about their fellow politicians’ crimes, their names are removed from the list.

In the place of their names, a “smiley” should link to the disclosed information they brought to the table.

Make this list publicly known and readily available online and make sure it is heavily archived, as it will be cyber-bombed regularly by the NSA, CIA, and FBI, as well as by most of the high tech american and international corporations that currently run the USFed as a public relations and funding agency.

My thinking is that, if you’re a member of government and are not exposing the criminal activity of your fellow politicians, then you too are guilty, whether you personally have committed crimes against the american people or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

and, of course, countless people could be arrested and charged with breaking that secret law, never know what the hell they did wrong, but be imprisoned anyway!
and some people still say that there is nothing wrong with the way the USA is being run? and some still say that the President is in control of all the various levels and departments of government? you must be out of your tree!!
it also shows that, i bet, even if the funding was removed from the NSA, there would be a ‘re-arranging’ of funding so that all, including the NSA were able to carry on ,even if no one else in government knew it or approved it! is this country fucked up or just fucked? either one dont look good to me!

Seegras (profile) says:


Ah, forget it, whether this comes out or not won’t make a dent. There’s enough material already out there to try the whole executive, the uppermost NSA echelon, a lot of people in the USTR and many more as traitors — Sadly, the law not as succinct as it could be:

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

But given that the sovereign of the United States is its people, something could probably be constructed. Especially, declaring a US citizen “enemy combatant” would actually make you a traitor, since you wage war against him, and thus the US. Even if you are the government (The right way to do it would be trying him as a traitor, of course; but NOT as “enemy combatant”).

GEMont (profile) says:

Letter of the Law

“This is entirely about understanding how a US court interprets a US law. But that interpretation is secret, meaning that the law itself is secret, and apparently the executive branch of the federal government is going to fight to keep it that way.”

Well of course it is going to fight to keep it that way.

To allow the public to know how the fed uses the law to spy on the public, is in effect, aiding and abetting the enemy – of the fed.

That of course, is the fed’s new secret interpretation of “treason” – giving aid or comfort to the non-wealthy public.

Let’s face it. The only people that US law protects today, are criminals. You want to be protected by the laws of the land, you must join the ranks of the crooks, but you have to steal a bundle of cash first to prove you’re worthy.

Reminds me of the way the wealthy ran the dark ages.

They gave the peasants a choice:

Join the ranks of the castled soldiers and get fed and housed in return for looting and torturing peasants, or remain a peasant.

Araldo (profile) says:

General Alexander and his minions in the NSA, GCHQ and other secret agencies already have unfathomable more secret power and information about us citizens, than Lavrentiy Beria or Heinrich Himmler both infamous secret services chiefs during Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union or Hitler’s rule of Nazi Germany. Now, they want to destroy the freedom of the press in order to have total control. They are no different from other human beings anywhere, when given uncontrolled power they become corrupt, arrogant, paranoid and quite dangerous to us all. It is high time to stop them using any available non-violent means of resistance as our freedoms and democracies are at stake!

Here is a link to a an article by Sheldon Wolin which everyone should read it:

A Kind of Fascism Is Replacing Our Democracy


Jose_X (profile) says:

So we have a Constitutional crisis?

From the quotes above, the Court seems to have ordered only that steps be taken. Nowhere does it say to actually release the document.

SCOTUS is the final arbiter. Lower courts have their decisions overturned frequently enough. What happened with that? Is this a Constitutional crisis moment? Nothing suggests that it is anything remotely like that.

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