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That Time The US Government Sought To Secretly Delete Parts Of A Public Court Transcript About The NSA

from the literally-rewriting-history dept

The EFF has revealed a very disturbing attempt by the US government to flat out secretly delete portions of a public court transcript over the belief that its lawyers may have slipped up and revealed classified information. This came from the recent hearing in the longstanding EFF case Jewel v. NSA, regarding a challenge to NSA surveillance (which began long before the Snowden revelations). After the hearing ended, apparently things took a turn for the bizarre, in which the government quietly notified the judge that it believed one of its attorneys had accidentally revealed classified information during the (very open) hearing, and hoped to remove that information from the transcript, and pretend that it never happened. The EFF fought it, and eventually the government backed down (perhaps realizing it hadn't really revealed anything):
On June 6, the court held a long hearing in Jewel in a crowded, open courtroom, widely covered by the press. We were even on the local TV news on two stations. At the end, the Judge ordered both sides to request a transcript since he ordered us to do additional briefing. But when it was over, the government secretly, and surprisingly sought permission to “remove” classified information from the transcript, and even indicated that it wanted to do so secretly, so the public could never even know that they had done so.

We rightly considered this an outrageous request and vigorously opposed it. The public has a First Amendment right not only to attend the hearing but to have an accurate transcript of it. Moreover, the federal law governing court reporting requires that “each session of the court” be “recorded verbatim” and that the transcript be certified by the court reporter as “a correct statement of the testimony taken and the proceedings had.” 28 U.S.C. § 753(b).

The Court allowed the government a first look at the transcript and indicated that it was going to hold the government to a very high standard and would not allow the government to manufacture a misleading transcript by hiding the fact of any redactions. Ultimately, the government said that it had *not* revealed classified information at the hearing and removed its request.But the incident speaks volumes about the dangers of allowing the government free rein to claim secrecy in court proceedings and otherwise.
It's great that this ended well, but it seems immensely troubling that the government even sought to do this in the first place. Of course, I would imagine this might lead some to scour the full transcript (embedded below) to see if there's any tidbit of information that the government didn't really mean to claim.







Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    DeadBolt (profile), Aug 8th, 2014 @ 4:18am

    that it was going to hold the government to a very high standard and would not allow the government to manufacture a misleading transcript by hiding the fact of any redactions


    That is EXACTLY what they were trying to do.

    If they'd managed to remove anything, thereby changing a sworn testimony, they could go back and requestion and show that the person was lying under oath, and thereby jeopardise the entire case and try get it thrown out.

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 4:56am

    And that led to secret laws, secret courts and secret sentences served at secret prisons.

    Secret Squirrel is working overtime to make America exceptional.

     

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

  3.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 8th, 2014 @ 5:04am

    Govt: "Please we'd like to unsay some stuff."
    Judge: "Wait what?"
    Govt: "Some people must also unsee things and unlearn what was described."
    Judge: "That's unconstitutional and impossible."
    *Govt holds a neurolizer up in the air*
    Govt: If you'd just look here for a second...
    *fires neurolizer*
    Govt: Now, it's just a duck. It looks like a duck and acts like a duck so it is a duck.
    *judge and the public drool*

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 6:15am

    When walking around DC these days, do try and avoid all the bananas peels everywhere.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 6:30am

    Govt: Now, it's just a duck. It looks like a duck and acts like a duck so it is a duck.

    Except when it's time to pay statutory fees. Then it's a goose.

     

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

  6.  
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    DOlz (profile), Aug 8th, 2014 @ 6:55am

    Trial Balloon

    1) Try it in a transcript with nothing to hid

    A) refused, nothing ventured nothing gained, oh well end (for now)

    B) accepted, WIN now lets do some real damage

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 7:19am

    The thing that's most disturbing ,is how many other Judges may have gave it the go ahead , In the court of law if person who has committed a crime or conspired to commit one is in front of a jury they look back at his past offenses, this should be the case for every attempt by our Government to commit the same offenses ,how is it even possible to trust our Government or our Justice System when everything is shrouded In secrecy.

     

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

  8.  
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    techflaws (profile), Aug 8th, 2014 @ 7:27am

    We've always been at war with Eurasia.

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), Aug 8th, 2014 @ 7:27am

    Re:

    Signed,

    Minitru.

     

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

  10.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 8th, 2014 @ 8:10am

    This time it went well

    But how many times has this happened that we don't (and never will) know bout?

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 8:35am

    Ministry of Truth - we has it

    The degree to which the USG is emulating "1984" is truly disgusting.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 10:05am

    Anything to keep the people in the dark about what the spooks are doing to your rights behind closed doors.

    I'd jokingly call this a tinfoil hat comment but their actions and what's been revealed only validate the statement.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Halle Bally, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 10:28am

    Sorry, no record available.

    This is just a hint of what is to come.  Here's one for your Big Red Book of future events.  Those pesky court transcripts will be got rid of altogether.  For national security reasons, you see.  Ter'rists.  There will be no controversy over redacting this or that after the fact.  No record will have been made.  Everything is so much easier that way.

    In a sane world, a digital video camera would be trained on the witness box, it's clock ticking away the seconds down in the lower right-hand corner of the monitor, recording to multiple hard drives.  That would be the official, self-authenticating record.  A transcript could be produced therefrom.  Such systems exist & there are plenty of people who know how to make it all happen.  But that's not what we're gonna have.  It will be so blatant, there won't even be a sham "stenographer."  EXACTLY as if the whole proceeding never even happened.

    The only worse scenario I can envision would be secret courts---& we already have those.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 10:47am

    Fascism vs Freedom

    Why are Obama, Holder, Clapper, Brennan, Cuomo, NSA, FISA, IRS (bascilly the whole Federal Govt) acting like Lying Fascist Pigs?

    Because the sympathetic Lame-Stream media REFUSES to report their lying Fascism to the public.

     

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


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