EFF Gets Secret Interpretation Of FISA Spying Law... And It's Almost Entirely Redacted

from the but-not-completely dept

We've talked about the absolute ridiculousness of having a secret interpretation of a US law on surveillance such that the law actually means something different than what most people (including the politicians voting on it) think it means -- and yet the secret law remains in place for entirely secret reasons. The EFF, as part of an ongoing dispute over all of this, had submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request concerning some testimony on that secret interpretation, and it got back a "relevant" document... which as almost entirely redacted. Here's a sample page.
Much of it is blocked as "non-responsive" but the "responsive" section is basically entirely blacked out. The only text of the entire document that's available (other than the cover page) is:
The Government has provided copies of the opinions and the filings by the Government to this Committee, and the Government will continue to inform the Committee about developments in this manner.
It's ridiculous to continue arguing -- as Senator Dianne Feinstein has done repeatedly -- that there is no secret law here. She's being deliberately misleading, confusing "the law" with "the legislation." The legislation is the text as written by the legislature, but "the law" includes specific rulings by courts on the legislation. The legislation may be public, but the law is not when the rather important interpretations of the legislation remain completely redacted.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Paul Brinker, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 7:47am

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    If I am taken to court, can I please Ignorance given the law was specifically not released to the public? The old adage is Ignorance of the law is no excuse, yet if a law is secret, then the default state is ignorance, thus is the law then not a law anymore?

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 7:48am

    maybe the reason Senator Dianne Feinstein was so forceful in getting the FISA term extended is that she has her own 'secret interpretation' of the bill? that would explain a little of why she lied through her teeth over it.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 7:54am

    The only secret that they didn't kept secret is the fact that theyre keeping the secret a secret.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 7:57am

    Re:

    My brain exploded upon reading that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    WysiWyg (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:00am

    Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    Should they charge you under that specific law, then I guess so. Then again, that law only apply to the government ant it's agencies (as I have understood it), so you probably CAN'T brake it.

     

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  6.  
    icon
    Vincent Clement (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    Well done the United States of America. You have completely demolished the whole "government of the people, by the people, for the people" thing.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    These are sobering findings.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    gorehound (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    Stuff like this really pisses me off !!! For the last four decades or so I have been watching and what I see I am not liking at all.
    A Big Fuck You to the US Government !
    You Guys Truly Eat Dog Shit !!!

     

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  9.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    This could lead to a myriad of jokes but in the current state it's not even funny. When the US question shady laws or cases where the law has been misinterpreted on purpose can we please point at their faces and laugh while showing banners with FISA written all over?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    In the case of FISA, the secrecy means that congress cannot hold the they cannot control the agencies they are meant to control because they do not know what they are allowed to do. They cannot even determine if they are telling the truth when they claim the court cleared their actions as being legal. The secret court decision has given the security services a carte blanche with respect to surveillance.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Re:

    How much wood could a woodchuck chuck...

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:22am

    Re: Re:

    Woodlots!

     

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  13.  
    icon
    Pitabred (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:29am

    Secret laws

    Secret laws. For freedom!

    I'm pretty sure this is a literal example of doublethink.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:29am

    Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    If you are detained under the secret interpretation of this law, you can be assured that you won't be pleading anything. You'll be considered a terrorist and disappeared.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:35am

    Re:

    We heard you like secrets, so we secretly put a secret in your secret so you can secret while you secretly secret.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Digitari, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:39am

    Re: Police state

    "we can charge you with laws we honestly know nothing about"

     

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  17.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    I can only hope someone in the senate takes the opportunity to seriously rub this in Feinstein's face, preferably with a loud, snarky "And what was that about 'no secret interpretation' you were saying?"

     

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  18.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    Re:

    So that is a FAIL compared to the UK "superinjunction" where the fact that a secret exists is also kept secret.

    Come on - US government - you can do better than be beaten by the UK surely

    (Hang on a minute - there could be secrets like that - we just don't know about them...)

     

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  19.  
    icon
    GeneralEmergency (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:07am

    Sad, really.

    .

    Secret Laws.

    Short of Gulags and Death Camps, I cannot think of a more compelling example trait that transitions a Government from "By the People, for the People" to an outright Tyranny.

    Think about what this means for our futures, and the futures of our children.


    .

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    demgreen, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:08am

    Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    If you commit an offense, do you become part of the secret and get redacted also?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    But can any breach of this law get consequences? I am thinking, "Quis custodiet ipsos Custodes" or "Who watches the watchmen?"

    Unless you can elect politicians for the committee enforcing the law, the law basically has no meaning. Even a politically appointed committee of politicians is a problematic construction unless there is some kind of reports available for the public and that will never happen!

    Not even going to mention the insanity of letting politicians carry highly classified information. If you do, you are devaluing the information or corrupting the politician to not reason freely and thus removing even more credibility of the politicians, if they had any to begin with!

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    redrum, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:17am

    Re: Sad, really.

    You forgot Re-education Centers!

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Bengie, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:17am

    Re:

    See you in the 2013 insightful/funny end-of-year wrap-up

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:23am

    Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    You make the mistaken assumption that they actually have to tell you what you're being charged with. These days they can just hand-wave that 'inconvenience' away by uttering the magic words 'national security' or by invoking any of the other 'laws are for the peons, not the ones in charge' laws.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Paul Brinker, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 9:58am

    Re: Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    Of course, I cant even tell you your charges because of National Security, as such you are sentenced to death by vivisection, your trial will be next week.

    Got to love Kardasian law, assumed guilty till proven to be a martyr

     

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  26.  
    icon
    crashsuit (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Sad, really.

    If the government doesn't teach you about ------- -- - --------- ----- ----------, who will?

     

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  27.  
    icon
    themusicgod1 (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Sad, really.

    -------- ------- ----, clearly

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Hope, change, and transparency. Obama really is Jesus!

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    LOL That woman is an evil bitch. It's all blank after page six for fucks sake what is on the other 27 pages!! Come on...

    How in the fuck can you know if you might be breaking the law if it's a goddamn secret?

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Sad, really.

    To have re-education you have to have education first.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Lawman, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 12:55pm

    the reach of the law

    I have heard that some senators are holding secret hearings to determine who has broken the law, including investigation of other senators and senior govt figures for their involvement in this. Expect it to be the biggest indictment of US govt personnel in history.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Forge, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    "Cardassian" is the Star Trek Fascist race. "Kardashians" are the other repugnant assholes.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    The Real Michael, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 5:44am

    Re: Sad, really.

    They're putting all the steps in place. The only thing standing between them and absolute tyranny is the Second Amendment. They're trying everything they can to get rid of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    JTD (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 5:45am

    These are troubling findings.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    The Real Michael, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 5:52am

    Re: the reach of the law

    They arbitrarily decide that certain individuals are 'potential terrorists' without trial and then place them on no-fly lists, which is completely unconstitutional. Thus far there's several hundred-thousand people on it and none of these individuals know why they've been singled out. They even put war veterans on it, including one who's disabled.

    I'm thoroughly convinced that this government is evil.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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